Countryside dining meets urban ambiance atop one of District 1’s gracefully aging colonial buildings at SH Garden. By Dana Filek-Gibson. Photos by Brett Davis.
Dwarfed by a colossal Saigon Tourist office, SH Garden is easy to miss. Even its antique elevator, a charming relic of the old colonial building, seems to be just another novelty item at first. But once you arrive on the breezy open-air rooftop overlooking the roundabout where Nguyen Hue and Le Loi collide, you’ll wonder how it took so long to learn of its existence. With sensational food, top-notch service, stellar panoramas of downtown Saigon and beautiful décor, SH Garden is a sound refresher on the merits of well-executed upmarket Vietnamese dining.
Outfitted in low stone tables and weathered wooden chairs, the restaurant’s subtle green-and-blue interior pays homage to countryside dining. High ceilings allow for a nice breeze to roll through the dining area, which is surrounded by lush greenery and covered to provide shade and protection from rain.
Even more noteworthy than its ambiance is the food. Start off your meal with the Viet 3 Mien (VND 195,000), an array of fresh and fried spring rolls. Each variety uses different ingredients, from sweet potato and mushrooms to fresh green veggies to tender grilled beef with mint leaves. For a bit more of a bang, the pomelo salad (VND 215,000) is a well-assembled collection of flavours and textures, from citrusy-sweet pomelo to tangy chilli salt, dried shrimp, peanuts and crunchy prawn crackers.
For mains, SH Garden pulls out all the stops, boasting over 200 dishes on its massive menu. Though all meals are expertly-prepared, the restaurant prides itself on its barbecue dishes. The beef on an earthen tile (VND 235,000) is perhaps the best example of this, a succulent, mouthwatering spread of grilled beef topped with sesame seeds and cheese. A side serving of bread, grilled onions and eggplant round out the meal. Another favourite is the pan-fried softshell crab with garlic (VND 295,000), featuring lightly-battered crab that is both crispy on the outside and delightfully tender on the inside. Add to any of these a helping of lotus rice (VND 185,000), steamed with veggies, meat and lotus seeds to add an extra layer of depth.
For dessert, the restaurant prepares a handful of Vietnamese treats but one of the more colourful options is its four seasons fruit platter (VND 105,000), a vivid display of seasonal fruits that includes everything from bananas and pineapple to mangosteen, rambutans, lychees and dragonfruit depending on the time of year.