All for all and two for all

(No.9, Vol.3, Oct 2013 Vietnam Heritage Magazine,Advertorial)

Photos: Mövenpick Hotel Saigon

Swiss’ is a byword for top quality for watches, banking and chocolate. This quality assurance extends to the hospitality industry; the Swiss being pioneers in the modern form of this industry. The brand ‘Mövenpick’ speaks of an international hotel chain, but it has its roots in top-notch food and beverage. Along with Mrs de Rouvray - alias Truong Thi Mai-I was lucky enough to be invited the other day to put this to the test by savouring the dishes on offer at the hotel's international buffet lunch at Café Saigon. Also on offer are themed buffets: Pizza and Pasta, Taste of Asia, and Seafood Wave on Wednesday, Sunday and Friday, and Saturday evenings respectively. You can expect something for everybody at a buffet, but this one seemed to have everything for everyone. Between the two of us, we determined to try as much as possible, my wife specialising in the Asian side and I to report on the Western food.
The Mövenpick Hotel Saigon is well-located in a busy commercial area two minutes from the airport and yet a mere fifteen-minute taxi drive from downtown attractions. As you enter, you are struck by the modern furnishings of the lobby in pastel shades of pink and purple. At the end of this is the hotel’s largest restaurant, the Cafe Saigon, and with its open-plan kitchen areas, you get a warm feeling of being at home. As Director of Sales Ms Luong Thanh commented, being able to talk directly to your chef also has the advantage of being able to communicate any special cooking requirements and witness they are being carried out correctly.
Ms Thanh gave us an orientation as to the layout of this buffet. There is an Asian corner with Thai and Chinese dishes, as well as the quintessentially Vietnamese pho. There is a grill station and a section of pasta and cereal dishes. There is a bread section, the pastry chef of which has distinguished himself. There is an area for Mediterranean food, one finally for kids and finally, for the sweet-toothed, a table of desserts.
From these sources, I assembled a full platter of nourishment. Piled on were fried fish, fried mixed veggies, mixed Mediterranean seafood stew, a slice of pizza, spring rolls and North African couscous substituting for my usual intake of rice. I munched merrily away and all the components were scrumptious.
My wife took a more measured scientific approach, sampling, pausing for thought and then issuing comment. She chose, for example, ‘banh loc’ which as I might translate as ‘manioc shrimp dumpling’. ‘Usually I would immediately dip it in fish sauce and then down the hatch, but I want to taste if they have used the right herbs and spices’ she said. She duly did so, and it passed her test with flying colours. Her top marks however, a perfect ten, went to the ‘goi’ a Vietnamese salad dish, the chopped and shredded ingredients of which come with vinegar and fish sauce dressing. She also tasted and enjoyed greatly the grilled pork, chicken pho soup, steamed fish and the de riguer fluffy steamed rice. A suggestion she left about the drink, she thought the green avocado juice would have tasted better if a little of the pink-fleshed variety were added. I had opted for watermelon juice, which washed things down very sweetly.
As duty had it, we also had to try the sweet dishes. Green tea cheesecake was a new one for me and was much appreciated. I could not resist going back to my English childhood as I scoffed a classic slice of lemon meringue pie. But the speciality here is the home-made ice cream. Mindful of the waistline, I only tried a tiny spoonful of the raspberry variety, but can attest it outstrips commercial ice cream in both quality and creamy taste.
Ms Thanh led us on a post prandial tour of the Hotel’s other food and beverage offerings. ‘Iki’ the informal Japanese restaurant, has all the sushi and sashimi you can imagine, as well as being very popular with local Vietnamese families for its Japanese hot pots cooked at the table. Outside, by a courtyard featuring the eponymous da trees, is the ‘Cafe Cây Đa’ a bakery and pastries shop with even more flavours of the home-made ice cream than at the buffet-a great place for a quick bite. Then it was upstairs to view the ‘Lotus Court’ a Cantonese restaurant with its famed Beijing Duck and dim sum and resplendently bedecked with dark wood screens and Chinese ceramics and pottery. We could not see ‘Slate the Bar’ as it opens only in the evening, but discerning topers will appear here for their sundowners between five and seven for the happy hour half-price drinks.
Our conclusion thus was that Swiss high standards in the hospitality industry and culinary experiences are in safe hands at the Mövenpick Hotel Saigon. Between us, my wife and I tasted as many dishes as we could and we can both affirm our expectations were surpassed. Yet still, my taste buds long for further adventures and to return to try out the other Asian food they have to offer here. Life is full of surprises. Who knows, maybe even one evening over a happy hour Martini I may even strike up a conversation with one of you dear readers at the Mövenpick Hotel Saigon bar!

The Cafe Saigon international buffet lunch is priced at VND380, 000++ per person.

Mövenpick Hotel Saigon
253 Nguyen Van Troi St, Phu Nhuan Dist., Ho Chi Minh City. Tel: (08) 3844-9222,

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