Best of Vietnam, Restaurants

Vietnamese cuisine is a heady mix of cultural influences, combining the flavors of Southeast Asia with French elements that come courtesy of nearly a century of French rule. Here is our guide to where to sample some of the country’s best dishes, in settings from elegant colonial-era houses to humble banh mi carts.

Highlights
98 Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
One of the most beloved Vietnamese eateries in Saigon, SH Garden has lovely views of a pretty part of the city, but it has earned its following with dishes that celebrate the flavors of all the country’s regions, from north to south. Situated on the rooftop of an old colonial edifice at the intersection of Nguyen Hue and Le Loi streets, around the corner from the Opera House, it surveys a pretty part of the city with plenty of other colonial buildings nearby. Named for its owners Son and Ha, the restaurant doesn’t compete with the higher-price-point options in the city and instead serves good old mom-style cooking.
10 Đặng Tất, Tân Định, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Recalling Saigon’s past, Cuc Gach Quan offers fine Vietnamese fare in a cozy setting that re-creates the home of the owner’s grandmother—a French-colonial house with worn, wood-plank floors; retro furnishings; warm lighting; and a floating staircase to connect the two levels. It’s grown in popularity ever since Brad and Angelina ate here in 2011, but the menu continues to focus on Vietnamese dishes while following the approach summarized in its motto: “Eat green, live healthy.” Expect menu items such as fresh spring rolls with shrimp, crispy sea bass, and fantastic homemade tofu fried with chili and lemongrass.
32 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Though vegetarian restaurants aren’t uncommon in Vietnam, they aren’t always easy to track down, and many vegetarian and vegan visitors end up settling for nonmeat options at normal eateries. (A traveler tip: The word chay means “meatless” or “vegetarian.”) Hum Vegetarian Café & Restaurant is a reliably satisfying, MSG-free spot that prides itself on its eco-friendly practices and alluring flavors. Its inviting interiors include a tiled floor and hanging potted plants that create a calm, relaxed ambience. Warm, knowledgeable staff members serve dishes that regularly lure carnivores who are open to the principles of conscious consumption—at least for one meal.
39 Trần Ngọc Diện, Thảo Điền, Quận 2, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Housed inside a District Two whitewashed colonial villa with a pool out back just a few hundred feet from the Saigon River, 3G Trois Gourmands prepares fine French cuisine. The menu is largely old-school classic French, with dishes like venison fillet and lobster with butter sauce, and pages devoted to desserts and ice creams. The country-style decor includes plenty of flowers and basic wooden shelves stocked with bottles of wine. There’s also a bar situated under a conservatory-style glass roof. The selection of cheeses, many of them made in-house, is impressive.
8/15 Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
A Japanese man making Neapolitan pizza in Vietnam’s business hub might seem like an unlikely scenario, but it perfectly describes Pizza 4P’s. The restaurant now has multiple outlets, including one in Hanoi, but the original spot discreetly tucked away in an alley just off Le Thanh Ton Street is still the most atmospheric. The name is a nod to the owner’s wish in life—for peace—and informs his drive to deliver a pleasurable experience to diners. The pies, as popular with tourists as they are with Saigon residents and the Japanese expat wives who frequent the place on weekday afternoons, are ideal: charred, chewy, pliable crusts; tart tomato sauce; and creamy, homemade mozzarella, crafted by hand outside the city of Da Lat (for an unforgettable meal, order a pizza topped with a whole, unsliced burrata).
144 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 70000, Vietnam
In the burgeoning craft-beer scene in Ho Chi Minh City, Pasteur Street is undoubtedly the front-runner. Opened in 2015 by a pair of Americans—one involved in hospitality in Vietnam, another who worked at a brewery in Colorado—the outfit concocts classic craft brews with Vietnamese ingredients. The comfortable space, with a long wooden bar, warm lighting, and a deliberate absence of TV screens, fosters a congenial atmosphere, one focused on beer and conversation. While the menu includes bar bites like Nashville Hot Chicken, black-eyed-pea hummus, and fried pickles, the beers are what keep tipplers coming back, including those that utilize local ingredients like jasmine, pomelo, passion fruit, and cinnamon.
38 Nguyễn Ư Dĩ, Thảo Điền, Quận 2, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Arriving at the Deck Saigon, a restaurant in District Two on the Saigon River, is often one of the highlights of an evening here—many customers come by boat directly from District One to dock right at the restaurant’s waterside steps. Drawing a mix of expats, locals, and tourists, this restaurant is partially set on a riverfront deck (hence the name); it’s been open since 2008. The menu is pan-Asian, while the breezy interiors include solid wooden chairs, creative lighting, and plenty of fresh flowers. Vietnamese ingredients are used in dishes like Phu Quoc prawn rolls and regional soft-shell-crab tempura—but foods sourced globally include French foie gras and New Zealand lamb.
Chợ, Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
Started by a food writer and a food photographer who regularly took their friends to their favorite eateries, Street Foodies Saigon now shepherds groups on walking tours of those same spots. It’s a great way to get a handle on the delights of roadside dining in Ho Chi Minh City, though the organizers are adamant about avoiding the typical tourist fare—hence, neither pho (the Vietnamese noodle soup) nor banh mi (a baguette sandwich that’s a street-food staple) are sampled. Customers will get to try con ngheu hap sa (clams steamed in lemongrass broth), bot chien (fried rice cakes with egg and grated papaya), and kem xoi dua (sliced coconut, peanuts, sticky rice, and coconut ice cream served in a young-coconut shell), with vegetarian options available.
In an alley off Le Thanh Ton not far from Ben Thanh Market, this no-fuss, homestyle-cooking joint is a huge hit with locals as well as expats living in Saigon. The evocative decor on the two floors includes murals of Vietnamese street scenes and even a full tuk-tuk-style food truck used as a counter, while the upstairs feels more like a home. The restaurant, which promotes itself as “Mama’s kitchen with a twist” and uses clay pots, bamboo baskets, and coconut shells to serve some dishes, offers items such as peppercorn pork and sour-fish soup on its wide-ranging menu.
17 Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Close to the Opera House and the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, Club Opera Novel is in a former private residence with high ceilings, a handsomely stocked bar, and pretty, stained-wood front doors. The restaurant presents modern Vietnamese food in a space that evokes the heyday of French-colonial rule. Staff members exude the formality one would expect given the surroundings and decor, and are quietly polished and professional; the ambience is suited to customers who come here for special occasions as well as those visiting from out of town. The menu combines seasonings like lemongrass, chili, and orange with ingredients like beef, prawns, and duck, while the wine list leans heavily toward French options.
19 Ngô Văn Sở, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
La Verticale, run by Didier Corlou, a Frenchman who is a well-known figure in the local dining scene, is a feast for the senses. Corlou creates what he describes as contemporary-Indochinese cuisine—but which could also be described as Vietnamese-accented French fare. Presentation is a key part of the experience here: Jars of spices displayed on high wooden shelves give the space the feeling of an old apothecary, while the dark-leather banquettes and framed mirrors on the walls provide a sophisticated touch. Dishes are artfully plated—sometimes on china, sometimes on slate—showcasing the food to wonderful effect. Menus are seasonal, but typically include a section labeled “Ha Long to Nha Trang” that makes the most of the country’s marine bounty, with ingredients like red tuna, lobster, and mackerel.
20 Tạ Hiện
As informal as it gets, an evening at this street-corner bar in the Old Quarter of Hanoi is a rite of passage for any visitor to the Vietnamese capital. Every night, from sundown to the wee hours, the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets bursts to life as locals and tourists take up the sidewalk (and much of the road) to drink dirt-cheap Vietnamese draft beers and shoot the breeze. The beer is decent—and only about 20 cents for a tall glass—but it’s the people-watching (young Hanoi residents and baggy-panted travelers tightly crammed together atop plastic stools) that makes a trip here a memorable occasion.
45 Nguyễn Phúc Chu, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
Part of a family of three restaurants, Mango Mango has a prime location in Hoi An, on the Thu Bon River close to the Japanese Covered Bridge. Its bright interior—sunny walls; high, wood-beamed ceilings; a colorful replica fishing boat that doubles as a countertop—sets the stage for the modern Asian food. While many of the dishes have witty, pun-inspired names, like Lust in Translation (tuna rolls with seaweed) or Chasing the Chick (grilled chicken breast with house-made Asian pesto), the combinations of spice and texture are spot-on. In addition to the chow, expect delicious cocktails, Pasteur Street brews, and live music.
119 Trần Cao Vân, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
The fine contemporary-Asian cuisine at the Sea Shell, a sister restaurant to Nu Eatery (also in Hoi An), has been a hit ever since it opened in 2015. Set in a lovingly restored fisherman’s home on An Bang Beach, north of the main part of the town, the building has a soothing sky-blue exterior, hefty wooden tables, eclectically mismatched chairs and benches, potted plants, both indoor and alfresco garden dining, and a relaxed, homey atmosphere. The simple menu includes tempura prawn rolls, a handful of salads and soups, and entrées like the signature banh mi. The desserts are not to be missed.
115 Trần Cao Vân, Phường Minh An, tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
The flavors and textures of a banh mi—crispy, chewy, spicy, sweet, tangy with ingredients of mayonnaise, pâté, pork (or sometimes chicken or tofu), pickled vegetables, cilantro, and chili, all piled into a crusty baguette—help to explain the allure of this iconic Vietnamese sandwich, and why it’s been successfully replicated at restaurants around the world, from New York to Sydney. Hoi An has many fine banh mi sellers, but among the top two are undoubtedly the holes-in-the-wall Madam Khanh (or Madam Queen) on Tran Cao Van Street and the always-busy Banh Mi Phuong on Phan Chu Trinh, popularized by Anthony Bourdain in his program No Reservations.
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