Hot on the heels of the Michelin Guide-recommended Quince in Bangkok, the same team have just expanded their operation to Saigon. In a quiet area of District 1, you’d be unlikely to stumble across Quince by accident – quite the diamond in the rough – but it would be well worth your time to seek out.
Although there were still a couple of decorative touches unfinished at the time of visiting, (it was the first service of soft opening after all) the atmosphere though sophisticated with its grey and gold decor was welcoming. It truly feels as though you are stepping out of Saigon and into a much more developed and cosmopolitan scene. Service is friendly and efficient, and seeing the chefs at work in the open kitchen provides a fascinating backdrop.
The team has clearly done its homework on sourcing the best suppliers, and their passion for ingredients really shines. As much as possible – but only if the quality is top-notch – their food is local. Trout from Sapa, fruits, vegetables and coffee from Da Lat, even feta cheese from a Greek kitchen in Saigon.
The menu is simple, a single page, but each dish is complex and detailed. Seemingly simple assemblies are well thought out with each ingredient so carefully prepared that the total dish is much more than the sum of its parts. I could rave about the cooking here all day. Seeing the chefs experimenting with some more unusual ingredients (sorrel! in Vietnam!) gave me high hopes for a frequently changing menu in the future.
There were two white and two red wines by the glass, of which both the chardonnay and tempranillo were outstanding.
To start, the fish crudo, which was lightly cured red snapper, was served with a salad of apple, fennel, avocado and pink pepper. It was a fresh and interesting combination. The beautiful texture of the snapper was somewhere between sashimi and cured or smoked fish.
Next, the Beetroot salad – roasted, pickled and raw, with jammy mulberries, pickled onion, baby leaves, crumbled feta and cashew granola (with some hazelnut in there somewhere, I think). This was a huge plate of salad and the textures were amazing. There was just enough richness from the nuts and cheese to get through the sourness of the pickled elements.
The stand-out dish was the lamb rump, spiced with Israeli flavours and served with burnt broccolini, pickled chilli and tahini sauce. The lamb was perfectly cooked medium, pink in the centre without a trace of toughness. The pickle from the chilli and freshness of the broccolini complemented the richness, and I could not get enough of the creamy tahini sauce.
Crispy triple fried potatoes, dipped in preserved black bean aïoli and sprinkled with crunchy fried garlic, were addictive and disappeared rather too quickly.
Portion sizes are surprisingly large – One appetizer, one main and two vegetable dishes was more than enough for two people sharing, but I wasn’t about to leave without trying a dessert.
The Baba au Rhum sounded great but we went for the lighter dessert of coffee and cherries – a cherry sorbet with halved macerated cherries, coffee jelly, coffee crema, and an oat cookie crumble. It was the perfect mix of rich, sweet, tart and refreshing to end the meal.
With a few finishing touches still to be added, I cannot wait to return to Quince and find out what the chef comes up with next.
Meal for 2, 1.8 million VND including wine