District 3’s sumptuous Vui Vui introduces Saigon to the world of Japanese barbecue. By Dana Filek-Gibson, Photos by Brett Davis.
As far as most outsiders are concerned, Japanese cuisine is a mystery beyond sushi and soba. But while few are familiar with the country’s mouthwatering barbecue, Vui Vui restaurant brings this phenomenal facet of Japanese fare to the public’s attention.
Approaching its one-year anniversary, the shiny red, white and black behemoth draws a sizable lunchtime crowd to its open-plan dining room in District 3. Plush, partitioned booths occupy the ground floor and each table is outfitted with a built-in stovetop. Vui Vui, the most recent addition to Saigon’s Uraetei restaurant chain, may not be as upscale as its predecessors, but it holds its own with a range of self-cook barbecue and hotpot dishes.
While the menu affords diners plenty of variety, Vui Vui’s signature offering is its combo meal (VND 120,000–200,000), a mix-and-match array of dishes that features sumptuous barbecue accompanied by sides like edamame, taro, gyoza or spring rolls. Choose from several different cuts, including beef tongue, short ribs and pork, which you’ll barbecue at your table and enjoy alongside Japanese-style kimchi – less spicy than its Korean counterpart – and salad. Combos also come with a soup or a hotpot of savoury Japanese steamed egg known as keran chim.
When it comes to barbecue, the harami beef (VND 170,000) is top notch. A thicker, rectangular cut, this meat comes off the grill juicy, tender and exceptionally flavourful. Add in Vui Vui’s own homemade tare, a combination of soy sauce and a few other secret ingredients, and the meal is a hit.
For individual diners, Vui Vui’s standout lunchset option is undoubtedly the sukiyaki set (VND 150,000). Served in a miniature clay pot, this dish combines an array of thinly-sliced beef, mushrooms, tofu and veggies in its light, slightly sweet broth. Stir up the accompanying raw egg to use as a dipping sauce and enjoy. The heat from the already-cooked meat and vegetables creates a thin layer of egg around each morsel, bringing the flavour to the next level. The restaurant also does a larger version of the same dish (VND 580,000) for three to four diners, and prepares the meat and vegetables on the table stovetop.