Sit-down quality, international cuisine in a relaxed bar setting. By Lien Hoang. Photos by Lee Starnes.
PLEASE NOTE ZANZBAR IS NOW CLOSED
As a rule of thumb, I prefer to have coffee at cafes, wine at bars, and food at restaurants. The more compartmentalised, the better. No overlap, please.
But ZanZBar is somewhat of an exception. Walk in from Dong Khoi Street, where ZanZBar recently moved from its spot on Dong Du Street, and you’ll find the trappings of a bar. High chairs at high tables, dim lighting, world music, and of course, a bar jammed with bottles and glasses. It aims to be both bar and restaurant; I’d hang out here for the look of a bar but the fare of a restaurant.
The street level café and bar is perfect for drinks and people watching while the restaurant’s mezzanine on the second floor is designed as a dedicated dining space. There is also a third-level private room that comfortably seats 30.
Bar food tends to be appetisers for the social. But here there’s more craft and thought put into the international entrees. The New Zealand tenderloin (VND 440,000) sits on top of a very thick and uncommon pea puree (I thought it was guacamole), on top of a breadboard. The idea isn’t novel, but I don’t know why more chefs don’t present steak on cutting boards, which satisfy both form and function.
The honey mustard chicken bacon salad (VND 190,000) has to be one of the most eclectic out there. I happen to like salads with a little of everything, and have never seen so many ingredients piled onto a slab of bread. Cheddar, pine nuts, boiled quail eggs, snow peas and plenty of others form a mountain of a salad.
Like the chicken salad, the tuna tartare (VND 195,000) doesn’t have very strong flavours. The fish eggs help, but you might need more of the ginger-soy-lemon vinaigrette. For a better choice, the sirumi crispy roll (VND 130,000) turns a simple artificial crab into a tasty snack. It comes with a sweet-and-sour dip that’s uniquely spicy.
Tiramisu (VND 130,000) is generally too soft for me, but unlike other menu items, this makes up for it with bold flavours.
In general don’t expect discounts and large portions from the menu. Sitting near the river on one of the city’s most-travelled streets, you’re paying for location.
The daily happy hour, however, offers discounts on imported European beer, wine and creative house cocktails that are popular with the early-evening crowd.