The best French restaurant by Tripadvisor, which is a challenge in a gastronomic city where fine dining restaurants are plentiful, this prosperous pool-villa in the heart of high-end District 2 saves the gourmet the cost of a plane ticket to Paris. A 15 minutes la villa best french restaurants in saigon ho chi minh city hcmc vietnamtaxi drive from the touristic District 1 makes you feel like in France, indeed.
Thierry Mounon’s international experience in five-star restaurants, from Avignon to Bora Bora, then from Mui Ne to Saigon, could have produced one more technical chef, marketing a fusion or neo-French cuisine in one of those trendy lounge-restaurants flourishing in New York, Barcelona, London or Sidney. By humility or cleverness, he preferred to keep on with tradition: transforming himself into the ambassador of “French Cuisine Bourgeoise” in Saigon.
From the so classic and authentically romantic dining room, featuring heavy curtains, prosperous furniture, and one of the finest cutlery in town, till the specialties available a la carte or by the amazingly affordable lunch menu “De la Petite Villa” (USD 33), we were so excited to invite our Vietnamese host to virtually cross the oceans and the mountains, sitting like in a posh, deliciously old-school “auberge” in Lyon, Roanne, Avignon or one of those sleepy cities from our French provinces were eating well is part of the culture. If many restaurants in Saigon serve a premium cuisine, no one can beat the authenticity provided by La Villa. No marketing, no trick was used to produce this divine and refined impression: Chef Thierry just forgot he is a chef, and rather behaves like a host. Assisted by Tina, his charming wife, acting like a most attentive “Maîtresse de Maison”.
His cuisine is generous, mixing skill and heart, and making much impression from the very beginning of the dinner which started, of course, with a glass of refreshing “Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, Brut Réserve” (USD 19 by the glass), presented in style with refined canapés. Produced in Chouilly co-operative vineyard, this best seller Champagne nicely paired our “Beef Consommé with Madeira & Japanese Scallops”. A light and elegant “amuse-bouche”, it prepared our palate to the best yet to come.
The starter couldn’t be anything but Foie Gras: our guest was Vietnamese, and the first question she asked was: “-Is there goose liver on the menu? ”. We got it pan-fried, in Escoffier’s tradition: with fig poached in Muscat wine, and salted honey caramel (USD 25). Bernard Loiseau cooked it almost the same way at La Côte d’Or, in Saulieu: simple and elegant. It was sweetly paired with “Moscato d’Asti, Cascinetta Vietti, Piemonte, 2012” (USD 14 / glass). Very aromatic.
The sea was aristocratically represented by a freshly imported “French Lobster from Brittany”: exquisitely, carefully, lovingly roasted by Thierry with olive oil, orange, and anis butter. We like lobster with aniseed or a pinch of vanilla. This is a luxurious delicacy for Vietnamese; but such an amazing dish is well worth USD 76. Great dish pairs with great wine: we had it with “Chablis, Joseph Drouhin, Réserve de Vaudon, 2014” (USD 75, by bottle only), a favorite Burgundy in France and around the world, it comes from family vineyards situated in the Valley of Vauvillien, not far from the Grand Crus.
Unexpected in Asia, but a tradition in France on a multi-dishes banquet, we got an “Interlude”: actually, a refreshing “Trou Normand” (Green Apple Sorbet with Calvados”) timely set to stabilize both our palate and stomach in the middle of the dinner.
Ready for the meat, we experienced a super tender and juicy “New Zealand Venison” (from the recommended Discovery Menu at 95 USD per person), which came presented in two thick, medium rare pieces of tenderloin, accompanied with a well-balanced green pepper sauce, and mashed potatoes. One of the best meat which we had in Saigon, it had this so-French “je ne sais quoi”, and tasted different from what we got from further fantastic steakhouses like El Gaucho. Paired with an exceptional “Chateauneuf du Pape, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, 2012” (included only in wine pairing menu during our visit), one of French gourmets’ favorite wines, this was so reminiscent of the rich Sunday lunch best cuts from the butcher, cooked by our mother after the mass. Traveling back in time is one more bonus at La Villa.
One of the best staff in town, mainly feminine the evening of our visit, pampered us between each dish, inquiring about our opinion on the cuisine and wines. The restaurant was full, like always, but Tina and her team didn’t seem much impressed, always ready to give ad hoc suggestions with that authentic kindness characteristic of La Villa. Few restaurants in France could employ so many staff nowadays, and this is sometimes little painful to see that it takes a ten hours flight to find in Saigon what you hardly find nowadays in Paris for a much higher bill.We have been presented a nice selection of the best French farm cheese, traditionally by the trolley. For USD 21, we could enjoy whatever we liked: Livarot, Camembert… Or a rare “Fourme d’Ambert Espuma”, alternating just for the pleasure one glass of balanced, with elegant tones “Bordeaux Sauvignon, Jean Guillot, 2013” (only on wine pairing menu) and fragrant “Sauterne, Mouton Cadet, 2011” (USD 18 / glass).
We ended sweetly this … let’s call it a banquet, with a yummy “Fruit Gratin” (USD 11) (it takes 15 minutes to prepare it), and a glass of “Porto Ramos Pinto” (USD 18 / glass).
Saigon has more than 2500 restaurants. We would surely like to come back to ten of them: La Villa is on the top. It has its regular patrons, and surprisingly lots of them are locals. We have also seen a couple of tables occupied by honeymooners. Tina takes great care of them all year long, and Valentine Day is always celebrated lovingly in this embassy of the French good taste.