Forget the basics: this swish new downtown outlet is bringing innovation to the city’s dining scene. By Dana Filek-Gibson. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Five years ago, homemade pasta, house-roasted coffee or real Heinz ketchup would have moved an expat to tears, so limited was the availability of these beloved foreign staples. It’s been a long road since the first restaurateur deigned to serve an English breakfast or pizza made from scratch, but in the interim Saigon has flourished with international cuisines.
So it would follow that the next step in Saigon’s culinary evolution lies at Urban Kitchen + Bar. The industrial-chic restaurant is only a few months old, but the folks behind it are serious about injecting creativity into the Saigon dining experience with their attention to detail, from antique light fixtures and decorative cogs to a bar that consists of an impressive pile of grey stones hemmed in by heavy-duty chicken wire.
However, the food is undoubtedly the star of the show. Urban Kitchen takes a nuanced approach to Western cuisine, producing an eclectic compilation of regional North American dishes – whether it’s comfort food of the American south, Quebecois specialties or East Coast-inspired seafood – and adding its own flair.
The sumptuous sous vide steak with roasted marrow (VND 429,000), for instance, plays to carnivorous diners with a skillet of Australian striploin steak seasoned to perfection and served beside rich roasted marrow – still in the bone – and a bundle of green beans. Sauces like the shiitake brandy cream (VND 70,000) add an extra layer of complexity. Another worthy add-on is the addictive sriracha mac-and-cheese (VND 90,000), a mash-up of local nui noodles, the namesake Thai sauce and all the traditional elements of the classic American dish.
Urban Kitchen’s creativity really shines in its brand-new brunch menu, available weekends, 10am-2pm. From waffles, mangos and cream (VND 150,000) to housemade granola with yoghurt and fresh fruit (VND 100,000), options abound. Adventurous brunch-goers will like the hearty kimchi potato hash (VND 170,000), a flavourful marriage of kimchi and potatoes topped with a fried egg and bacon. For something sweet, tuck in to caramelised banana French toast (VND 170,000). Three blocks of golden-brown housemade brioche sit between a bed of granola crumble and roasted baby bananas, drizzled with maple cognac syrup, providing top-notch flavours and textures.
Finally, perhaps the best breakfast masterpiece to grace the brunch menu is the Wafflala sandwich (VND 170,000). A generous helping of honey ham and fried egg, Emmental cheese and chipotle sauce is punctuated by two fluffy buttermilk waffles, sweet potato hash and house salad.