Keith Hancock dives into the a la carte menu at Saigon Social Space, with lip-smacking results. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
Saigon Social Space, which opened with much fanfare last month, is as good a restaurant as any I’ve sampled in Ho Chi Minh City over the past four and a half years.
General Manager Blair Mathieson, who oversees the vast 15,000 square-metre venue as well as its 17 chefs, has created an extraordinary menu of Asian and Western dishes.
For me, this is fine dining at a glorious location with exceptional value.
I believe Saigon Social Space is going to have a big impact of the culinary scene of the city. Here are my picks from the menu:
Jamon Serrano VND220,000 – This starter comes with an attractive and perfectly-balanced array of pickled anchovies, smokey Serrano ham, goats cheese and small cubes of watermelon.
Grilled Beef with Betel Leaf, 6 for VND180,000 – I was reliably informed by my associates that this was very good, although it is not to my personal taste. As with everything else on the menu it was beautifully presented.
I adored this, a super blend of mozzarella and cream served on mini tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar dressing.
Pho VND110,000 – This classic Vietnamese dish pho is Westernised using the most amazing Angus beef. The clean-tasting pho flavours are heightened by the exceptional meat. At this price, this dish is a bargain and easily the best I’ve ever had, and I eat pho several times each week.
Charred Octopus VND380,000 – For lovers of surf and turf, Saigon Social Space offers a gorgeous mix of fatty pork belly and beautifully-seared octopus. The pork has that lovely mix of fat, meat and crispy crackling, while the octopus is quickly blackened leaving it succulent and very tasty. It comes with a delicious daikon-apple slaw and red pepper jam.
Twice Cooked Pigeon VND350,000 – Pigeon is not often seen on many menus but here the dish is very good indeed. The whole bird is presented in a very decorative way and tasted wonderful. I think this is a much underrated bird and, although does not present a huge meal, what meat there is, especially when cooked as well as this, is very appealing.
Slow Cooked Beef Short Rib VND 450,000 – Probably the highlight of my tasting meal was the short rib. A stunning piece of 21-day dry cured meat, slow-cooked for four hours and served with a delightfully fresh papaya salad. This meat was simply falling off the bone, I didn’t even need a knife.
Smashed Pavlova VND190,000 – A glorious passion fruit pavlova, served with ginger custard and cream. The New Zealand favourite was a perfect combination of crispy and gooey meringue with fabulous fruit.
Coconut Ice Cream Sundae VND160,000 – This was a modern Western take on a Thai favourite: mango with sticky rice. Here they use black rice, the sweetest of fresh mangoes, peanut candy and a delicious coconut ice cream.
It was pure heaven.