WMC Group Helping to Raise Saigon to World-Class City Status

(No.10, Vol.4,Nov-Dec 2014 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

R & J Restaurant. Photos: WMC Group

Back in 2001, I recall there was an area of land between the fashionable downtown Saigon streets of Dong Khoi and Nguyen Hue Boulevard. It housed a number of low-rise buildings. There were alley ways of shops selling all manner of clothes, electrical goods and souvenirs. There was also a Vietnamese restaurant built in a traditional style around an artificial lake with a charming arched bridge spanning it.
All this was razed and it has taken an extraordinary thirteen years to complete the rather dull forty-seven storey building that replaces it. Only the name-Times Square-remains the same. But let us not judge a book by its cover. Inside, all managed by the Windsor Group, there are wonders to behold.
Firstly, imagine the views there are to be had from the last in word luxury, ‘The Reverie Saigon’. It is the highest hotel in Saigon and occupies the twenty-seventh to the thirty-ninth floors. When it opens next year, it will have its own heliport and a fleet of Rolls Royce, Bentley, and Mercedes S class transports. There will also be luxury furnished apartments. For food and beverage, already in operation, there is ‘The Royal Pavilion’ Cantonese restaurant, ‘The Deli’ which is as much a coffee shop as a delicatessen and Cafe Cardinal, which is a buffet restaurant. But the two F and B outlets I was lucky enough to get direct experience of at a Press Media event are at ground level.
They left off the word ‘bar’ in the name. That might remind one of the Singapore ‘Raffles Hotel’ long bar. This place, though, is likely to be just as renowned and just as much a ‘must do’ tourist attraction. Actually, there a bit of a pun on the word, as ‘Long’ in Vietnamese means dragon. But long it is, indeed. The bar in six separate segments with its sparking glasses, full array of bottles and high cocktail tables, stretches forty eight metres. Whilst it has the atmosphere of a Parisian pavement café, it is all-weather, with an overhead arched glass ceiling channelling in the natural light. The fare is Italian and Vietnamese. You have to try the exquisite innovation which is the ‘Lobster Pho’ (rice noodle soup).
Down some steps, just at the side of ‘The Long’, in a glitzy cavern-like atmosphere is ‘The R and J Italian Restaurant’. That stands for Romeo and Juliet, and for Act One we were greeted with their own creation - strawberry juice based cocktail. We were served a Table d'Hote five course meal. This was upper class haute cuisine, or dare I say in Italian, alta cucina style.
The appetiser was octopus wrapped in organic leaves with salmon roe and green beans all in a hazelnut dressing. Wow! This act was followed by a mouth-watering seafood soup with garlic croutons. Then it was curtains up for a risotto. The arrival of familiar rice came as a great relief to my Vietnamese colleagues. It was cooked with strawberry-roasted quail and decorated with a squiggle of aged balsamic reduction. The next scene was a sliced prime American beef dish with rocket salad and cherry tomatoes. What better a dessert for a grand finale could there be than the king of all gateaux-Italian tiramisu. Fabrizio the chef even gave a brief demonstration of how he prepares it.
The R and J certainly garnered great applause from the party with whom I enjoyed my meal there. Open only at night, it now has to be the prime Saigon location for a romantic evening in a dramatic setting. Why not give it your own premiere?
Times Square, managed by the WMC Group, has brought long-awaited European style and elegance to the heart of the city once known as ‘The Pearl of the Orient’. It enriches this quintessentially Asian city, which rises from the swampy Mekong, a branch of which it affords spectacular views of from its upper echelons. It is helping to raise this city to the truly world status that the likes of London, Paris and New York have achieved.
Times Square 23-26 Nguyen Hue Blvd and 57-69F Dong Khoi St, Dist.1, HCMC

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