Claudia Davaar Lambie samples some high-end fare and cocktails in a new enclave in the heart of the city. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Over the last year, Nguyen Hue has undergone a transformation. The pedestrianised thoroughfare has been a welcome change in a city with more motorbikes than people. With these developments comes Saigon Garden, a new trendy shopping precinct complete with an Asian food court, boutiques and the Society Bar and Grill restaurant.
A wooden walkway flanked by greenery and fairy lights leads to the Society. Bar stools and tables are dotted around the outside area which is cleverly designed so that customers are sitting in the open-air but with not a motorbike in sight. The restaurant is split into two opulent dining areas decorated in shades of blue, green and turquoise with sparkles of crystals from the vintage chandeliers and glass ceilings. There are two VIP dining areas, a sea bar with a selection of the freshest oysters, crab and lobster, and a whiskey and cigar lounge to relax in afterwards.
Sitting at the cocktail bar, I sampled one of the ‘Seven Seductive Sins’ cocktails. Madams Touch (VND 180,000) was presented in a bento box with fresh strawberries and petals. Grey Goose Vodka, strawberry liqueur, house infused chili and lemongrass syrup with dry ice magic was a winner. Happy hour is from 4.30pm until 8pm every day.
The fusion between eastern and western ingredients was refreshing. Operations director Jay Moir devised the cocktail menu. “I wanted to create some excitement where cocktails have a story behind them and show Vietnam something different,” says Moir.
From the open plan kitchen, the chefs were busy at work. Set lunch is available from VND 199,000 from 11.30am – 2pm on weekdays.
I tried the cauliflower soup (VND 240,000) with scallop, hazelnut and mascarpone. The seasoning was balanced well by the bursts of salty caviar jewels. The appetizer of the Maryland Style crab cake (VND 220,000) came with hints of fennel, dill and horseradish in perfect quantities. The main dish stole the show: a 250g grass fed fillet steak (VND 780,000) with sides of sweet mashed potato (VND 70,000), mac and cheese sprinkled with truffle oil (VND 120,000) and bone marrow as an accompaniment to the dish.
Business partners Hannah Dang and Olaf Mueller both have a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry. After the successes of Koh Thai and Saigon Lookout, they wanted to bring something a little different to Saigon. “We wanted to combine a New York grill-house with a Hong Kong alley way bar,” says Dang. The Society is reminiscent of the trendy restaurant bar scene, which brings the outside atmosphere, inside, and vice versa. With the DJ about to play, it was time to sample another cocktail, this time with a dash of tequila.