A couple of good restaurants in Saigon

Tables at the Elbow Room. Top: table at Skewers

Vietnam Heritage, February 2011 -- After having lived in Ho Chi Minh City for over three years, I have discovered many things that a standard three-day tourist doesn’t see. I eat at local restaurants serving traditional Vietnamese cuisine.
Many tourists and business travellers are wary about patronizing these places. They think that they are unsanitary and that what they eat will make them feel sick or uneasy. However, such fears are largely unfounded. These places are usually very busy. Their menu items move very quickly. One is more likely to run into problems in a Western nation than in Vietnam.
Hotel dining rooms often serve mediocre food at inflated prices. The hotels realize that many people who eat at their dining rooms are on expense accounts. The price is higher than the quality.
However, it’s sometimes comforting to retreat to a different type of restaurant which serves western-style (particularly American-style) food. I have found two really good places to recommend. Please allow me to share my discoveries with you.
1) The first place is The Elbow Room (52 Pasteur Street, District 1- Telephone: (08) 3821-4327).
This place is reminiscent of an American-style diner. It serves generous portions of high-quality, hearty American, diner fare. Their soups are almost a meal in themselves. The San Francisco Clam Chowder in a bread bowl is satisfying and delicious. This would be one of the few restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City to serve pancakes [as distinct from crepes]. One can order a stack of three. This comes with butter and syrup. The Lumberjack serving comes with eggs done to order, bacon done to order, ham and toast. After this, you’ll feel as satisfied as a lumberjack.
The place also serves delicious Salisbury steak and meat loaf. Each is a generous serving accompanied by delicious mashed potatoes and garden peas. Throw away all lunchroom conceptions about these American mainstays. Once you eat them here, you’ll return for them over and over.
The pastas and pizzas served here are as good as those in a high-quality Italian place. Their desserts are amazing. In particular, their smoothies, shakes and sundaes will cause a dilemma for you. You will want to sample them all on the same visit. However, because one can’t do, one will have to return numerous times. One will never tire of ‘The Elbow Room.’ He will only face the problem of trying to decide which delicious items to order.

Dishes at Skewers

2) The second place to recommend is ‘Skewers’ (9A Thai Van Lung Street, D.1, skewersrestaurant@yahoo.com; Telephone:(08) 3822-4798).
This is a Mediterranean-style restaurant serving generous portions of high-quality Greek, Italian and French dishes. It has a very extensive wine and liquor list. I particularly like the moussaka, a Greek eggplant casserole. I have been in Greece eight times. Take my word for it. The moussaka served here is just as good as that in a good restaurant in Greece. I also enjoy the Greek sausages served in delicious tomato-based sauce, the zucchini casseroles, the soups, the delicious fruit juices and the bread. The staff is very courteous and accommodating. If I want extra sauce with bread, I always get it quickly.
To give an idea of how good this place is: I often see people who own and operate other high-quality Mediterranean restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City dining here. If people who know about high-quality cuisine like this place, one can take it for granted that it’s worth a long look.
Thanks for your time. May you enjoy these

By William Sabino
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