Set lunches are a great opportunity to get a top-quality meal for an even better price. Peter Cornish and Barbara Adam check out some of the best deals in town. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
Weekdays 11am to 1.30pm
Located on the sixth floor, Chanh Bistro offers a quiet respite from the busy streets below with a pleasant rooftop terrace overlooking the Sky Deck entrance of the Bitexco Financial Tower.
The restaurant is small and intimate attracting a mixed clientele of ladies who lunch, local office workers and tourists visiting the nearby sites. Simple seating options are comfortable and there’s a bar serving up smoothies or cocktails if you fancy something a little extra for lunch.
Lunch is served in generous portions with a two-course option coming in at VND149,000 or three courses at VND179,000. Lemongrass iced tea is served for free and the set menu includes vegetarian options. Each course offers a choice of dishes with starters including baked oysters with sautéed creamy spinach, grilled tiger prawn salad or a vegetarian soup of the day.
Main dishes are hearty with choices including home-made beef meatloaf with grilled pumpkin, sautéed green beans and mushroom sauce or pan-fried marinated pork tenderloin with apple puree and buttery vegetables. The vegetarian choice is spaghetti with a rich home-made pesto. If you have room for dessert, there’s a pick of creamy lemon meringue tart, tiramisu or espresso coffee.
6th Floor 43-45 Ho Tung Mau, Ben Nghe, District 1
Weekdays 11am to 3pm
La Fiesta is a favourite on the set lunch circuit attracting a mix of locals and tourist looking for a hearty feed at a reasonable price. Owned and run by Scott Marquis and his better half, Le Thi Duc, La Fiesta has earned itself a well deserved reputation for serving up consistently tasty food with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
The lunch set is priced from VND150,000 to VND170,000 depending on the main dish you opt for. Each lunch selection is served with a choice of traditional TexMex taco salad or a fresh and tangy mango salad and a chocolate brownie for dessert. Chips and salsa come for free.
At the cheaper price end, you can take your pick from a selection of soft flour tortillas, served with Fiesta rice and refried beans on the side. Fillings include chicken, ground beef, pork carnitas, shrimp or chorizo, and a vegetarian tofu or spinach and mushrooms. Also coming in at VND150,000 are the burritos with the same choice of filings, lavished with sour cream, guacamole and covered in cheddar cheese.
Deep fried Chimichangas are ever so slightly more expensive at VND155,000 and also served with refried beans, delicious Fiesta rice, and plenty of sour cream and guacamole. Filling choice remains the same.
Enchiladas come in at VND170,000 with a choice of black bean, beef and bean or chipotle chicken fillings, baked with your choice of home-made red sauce or salsa verde.
33 Dang Thi Nhu, Nguyen Thai Binh, District 1
Weekdays 11.30am – 2pm
Hidden down a leafy narrow alley in Thao Dien, Patio is an open-air garden oasis that seems a million miles away from the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City.
South African chef Marc Coxon focuses on using the freshest ingredient to create Mediterranean-style dishes. His set lunch menu changes weekly, and always includes a vegetarian option and one of Patio’s famous fish dishes. The set menu is VND250,000 for two courses and VND300,000 for three courses.
Owner Olivier Lemaire says the staff aim to serve the set lunch within 45 minutes of guests arriving, perfect for a decadent weekday lunch break.
Those with more time don’t have to rush off. They can while away several hours in the shade of a breadfruit tree or in the thatched patio area, enjoying the serenity with a few glasses of wine, beer, cider or a cocktail.
When the AsiaLIFE team sampled the set lunch, the starter choices were all delicious: a salad of roasted cherry tomatoes, grilled eggplant and zucchini; frogs legs; and a flat bread with olive tapenade and slivers of parmesan.
The choices for mains were sensational: perfectly cooked red snapper, served with baby potatoes, shimeji mushrooms and a red pepper puree; a tender 200 gram oyster blade steak with aioli, fries and vegetables; and an earthy and creamy wild mushroom linguine.
The desserts were as sublime as well: a creamy crackly creme brulee; and a fruit salad with coconut ice cream.
52 Ngo Quang Huy, Thao Dien, District 2
Stoker Woodfired Grill and Bar
Weekdays 11.30am to 2.30pm
Stoker’s weekday set lunch menu has one of, if not the best, steak deals in town.
But steak-ophiles should not overlook the other options on the set lunch menu that showcases the Stoker style, which has a heavy focus on smoked and wood-fired ingredients. The set lunch deal is VND200,000++ for a starter and a main, and VND250,00++ for starter, main and dessert.
Stoker Chef George Bloomfield, formerly of Two Rooms Bar and Grill in Tokyo and Rockpool Bar and Grill in Melbourne, draws on his fine dining background to create the set lunch menu, which changes weekly. The set lunch deal always includes two appetiser options, three main course options (always including steak) and dessert.
The AsiaLIFE team tried everything on the set lunch menu and we struggled to find a favourite when it came to the mains. The 120g grilled grain-fed Australian steak was tender, moist and well-seasoned, the smoked pork shoulder was fall-apart-soft and the mackerel leek burgers on a spicy grain salad was a delicious medley of flavours and textures.
The appetisers were a creamy carrot soup, topped with a drizzle of olive tapenade, and a moreish wood-fired potato brie flatbread.
The dessert we shared, caramelised pineapple custard tart, was creamy and pineapple-y with a surprising kick of anise. We agreed it was unusual, but incredibly tasty, and it went perfectly with the Lavazza coffee that’s part of the set lunch deal.
44 Mac Thi Buoi, District 1
Dtwo Sports Pub
Weekdays 11am to 2pm – 145,000VND (includes draft beer or soft drink)
Thao Dien mainstay Dtwo Sports Pub has only recently joined the set lunch contingent with an offer that’s sure to attract many. Living up to their reputation for providing fairly-priced pub grub, their set lunch menu is certainly value for money.
Coming in at just under VND150,000 for three courses, the price also includes a soft drink or small draft Tiger. Starters give a choice of the chef’s salad (lettuce, greens and their secret D2 dressing) or a soup of the day, which was a creamy pumpkin and carrot blend the day we visited, served up with a couple of slices of fresh bread.
Moving on to the mains we have a choice of their much-loved beef pie or peri peri chicken, hot ‘n’ spicy grilled chicken fillets accompanied by mild mushroom and onions and served with some extra-fat chips and a mixed house salad. The third option is chicken tikka masala, their version of the classic dish of roasted marinated chicken in garlic, ginger and yoghurt in a rich, Indian spiced curry sauce and served up with rice and chutneys. Tender and spicy.
If you’ve room for dessert there’s a choice of a traditional home-made cheesecake served with blueberries and a delicious biscuit crust, or coffee.