I arrived in HCMC today. I was met by a warm cloak of air and a sweet and typically asian scent which I can never quite pinpoint but which makes me feel instantly at home. More so at home then when i am at home, ironically.
From the Equatorial i ventured into town on the Shuttle and looked around one of the shopping malls (Vincom) which as pleasant without being in any way inspiring. More evocative was the gentle flow of traffic and alluring side streets. The traffic has a strange of way of easing its way through to its destination with no real effort. The forced aggression seen on european roads in nowhere to be seen. The constant beeping of the horns doesn't imply even the lightest tone of irritation but instead seems to be a genteel reminder to other road users not to veer from their path (or occasionally, more pronounced beeps might mean 'i'm coming through!' There is something very relaxing, very buddhist inherent in the Vietnamese (and in general South Asian) road etiquette which i find very attractive.
After a light lunch in the cellar of the Vincom shopping centre (yes i was also appalled at myself for not choosing somewhere more authentically vietnamese or 'street') which included bun bo noodle soup with a variety of meats and reconstituted fish and some rice noodle wraps of beef (both tasty without being as delicious as i was hopping my first vietnamese meal to be) I headed back to the hotel. I slept for 4 hours to shake of the jet lag and then walked the streets locally to find an eatery. Although there are plenty of very simple side street eateries (it would be wrong to call them restaurants) where, i'm sure the food would have been delicious, I headed back to the hotel where the menus looked somehow more familiar.
I reviewed the seafood restaurant on the second floor which looked amazing and i'm sure i will eat there before i leave in a few days time, and then ended up opting for the buffet on the ground floor.
The deal was to eat and drink as much as you like for $44USD. that's expensive for Vietnam but I decided to make an evening of it after pacing up and down the buffet selection.
I started off with the sashimi. there was tuna, some other white fish and salmon. The tuna and whitefish were delicious. The salmon was other worldly! I have eaten in the best sushi restaurants in the UK and some good ones in LA and New York but this salmon was truly out of this world. I went back to the counter 3 times for more.
I had spotted lobster with cheese so sampled a 'tail' which was very tasty. I then moved into the bbq grill and had tiger prawn, rare cooked beef, skewers of lamb and pork. the lamb was particularly memorable and came with a sort of lime salt which massively enhanced the flavour (if you don't get it, ask for it!). The praw was delicious and beef and pork were nice. Starting to feel self conscious about the fact i was now heading up for my 4th course (and had drank 2 beers and 3 glasses of deliciously sumptuous chilean red wine which was one of the nicest wines i have had in years and was all included within the meal) I had eyed up some American style beef chuck steak. I took a nice rare slice carved off for me by the chef and washed it down with the brown coloured sauce provided and some potato wedges and it was very good. In fact it was better than that.
After another visit to the sashimi counter for more salmon and some gelatinous deep fried rice and some more lamb skewer I started to think it was time to wind down, at least as far as the main course was concerned.
I had been attentively topped up another 3 or 4 times, my beautifully roomed chilean red, never getting down below 1/4 full. They were keen for me to enjoy the meal and i must have looked like i was there to do so! I was not given a choice of wine (other than colour) but i would not have wanted anything else. It was deliciously smooth and went amazing well with the salmon and the meat (interestingly).
I was offered a coffee and having heard about Vietnamese coffee decided to take a double espresso. I added a few sachets of brown sugar and it was undoubtedly the finest espresso i have tasted (one up from Harrods). I chose a selection of desserts including bread and butter pudding with a delicious thin vanillas sauce and some banana cake and creme caramel. They were all very nice without being remarkable.
Was there any downside to the meal?
The only thing which stands out was the fact that some of the buffet food (as is always the case with buffets) can hang around for a bit and therefore not be piping hot. I actually like my food to have been piping hot, but to eat it when it has cooled a bit, so it was not a problem for me, but i know some people who would have wanted it to be served straight from the kitchen to the plate. I think that's possible if you keep an eye out on the buffet and what is being replenished when.
Anyway, i thought i would give a fairly long review because I LOVED my meal. I soaked it up and enjoyed every minute, despite dining alone.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The 5-star business hotel is centrally located between the waterfront and Cholon (Chinatown) and is only 20 minutes to the airport. 10-minute's drive from the hotel is the city's major commercial, financial centres, shopping strips, recreational parks and night spots. The newly refurbished rooms are elegantly designed and tastefully furnished, providing guests with contemporary surroundings and comforts. Facilities include 7 outlets, a business centre, meeting and function rooms and a comprehensive fitness centre and spa. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Ho Chi Minh Hotel