Guide: Our 5 favorite restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City

The extensive selection of restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the main attractions. Few cities in the world have given us so many great dining experiences – without breaking the bank. Here we have listed our 5 favourite restaurants – and one coffee bar. It is too good not to share.

Written by Mette / Photo by Martin
Translated from Danish

“First we eat. Then we do everything else.” The quote is from the famous American food writer Mary F. K. Fisher – and it pretty much sums up our stay in Ho Chi Minh City. Place two foodies in a mecca of food experiences, and the math becomes simple. We spent a large part of our time in Vietnam’s largest city eating. And what a feast it was.

From gourmet to street food

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is enriched with an exciting mishmash of food cultures that reflect its history. Several hundred years of strong influence from China and a past as a French colony are cooked together with traditional Vietnamese street food. And the combination of the three famous cuisines is just one of the reasons why the city attracts foodies from all over the world.

In addition, the prices are also one of the reasons why you should set aside time to look for dining experiences. The food is cheap, and all travellers, on an average budget, can afford to treat themselves to an extraordinary gourmet experience.

The surroundings do not need to be fancy for the food to be unforgettable. One day you find yourself surrounded by a classic restaurant milieu happily consuming French gourmet – and the next day lose yourself in a primitive street kitchen enjoying the best Vietnamese spring rolls. Therefore, the prices of our meals fluctuated from anywhere between 5 USD to 100 USD (for 2 people).

We loved the fresh spring rolls at Mountain Retreat

The traditional kitchen at the top of the city

A mix of luck and serendipity led us to Mountain Retreat. The restaurant is located on the roof of an old high-rise building and has a slightly secret entrance hidden in a small side street to the busy Le Loi Street. Look for a red sign for “Little Saigon Boutique Hotel”, walk down the small alley and through a door on the right leading to a staircase – and now the ascent begins.

The restaurant serves traditional and flavourful Vietnamese dishes up here on top of the building overlooking the city. The food is beautifully arranged on painted earthenware and tastes at least as good as it looks. The decor is rustic and kept in earthy brown colours, wood, and bamboo, giving the surroundings a rural and local feel, even though it is in the city’s heart.

Tip: The restaurant is popular with locals and expats. Therefore, remember to book a table, especially in the evening – and feel free to ask for a table on one of the open-roof terraces. There is a slightly smaller roof terrace on the same floor as the kitchen and a slightly larger one right up on the roof, where you sit among green plants.

Address: 36 Le Loi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

Ho Chi Minh City’s best sushi

Without having tried all the sushi restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, we dare to declare that Ichiba Sushi makes the best sushi. The restaurant is owned and run by a passionate Vietnamese sushi chef who may not have a flair for interior design, but on the other hand, he masters sublime sushi.

The tables are covered with mica tablecloths, lit by lamps decorated with similis, and silver cords hang from the ceiling as living wall decorations. In the bar, there are highchairs upholstered in pink imitation crocodile skin and the menu card is covered in artificial, black-lacquered snakeskin. Voila, welcome back to the disco era of the 80’s.

Tip: We recommend booking a table at the bar. It functions as an open kitchen, where you can sit and watch how the sushi chefs painstakingly prepare the ingredients, roll the sushi and pass the dishes on to the waiters. It is both an entertaining and impressive sight. Come hungry! The prices are low if you compare them with the best sushi restaurants in Denmark.

Address: 204 Lê Lai, Bến Thành, District 1

#3 – NOIR
Dining in the dark

Restaurant Noir offers a dining experience out of the ordinary. Here you eat in complete darkness. We had heard about the concept from similar restaurants in Berlin and Copenhagen, but never embarked, now was the time. And we’re so glad we did – it’s definitely an experience worth recommending if you haven’t tried it before.

Noir is a stylish and elegant restaurant that is in the pricier price range compared to the other restaurants. On arrival, you will be personally welcomed in a beautiful lounge. Here, an employee introduces you to the evening’s program while you enjoy a delicious cocktail, and then leads you to the entrance of the dining room. Here your servant welcomes you and guides you into the darkness.

The restaurant’s waiters are blind and trained to both serve and guide guests through the composition of small, tasty dishes. It’s completely impossible to see anything – not even the hint of the fork you’re about to bring up to your mouth. Your senses are challenged to a new extent, and it’s fun to experience how everything suddenly smells, tastes, and feels different when you are deprived of sight.

Address: 178 Hai Ba Trung, Da Kao, District 1

Propaganda was the restaurant we visited the most times. Here you can also taste beer from local breweries.

Kitschy Vietnamese bistro

Since we left Ho Chi Minh City, we have dreamed of being able to order a large bowl of Propaganda’s ‘Crunchy tri-colored rice’ by express post. The dish is a spicy mix of cooked and puffy-crispy rice with fried chicken and egg. It sounds simple, but oh my, how good it tasted!

The hip bistro is an atmospheric experience. Colorful murals with socialist motifs, matching diner sofas and kitschy interiors add colour to the bright rooms, which overlook the park in front of the President’s Palace. The service is welcoming, and the restaurant is often full of life.

Propaganda serves Vietnamese street-food classics – and according to the rumour, even the locals think the food tastes better here than at the very best street kitchens. On the menu you will find, among other things, fresh and fried spring rolls, Bánh Mì sandwiches, crisp salads, and traditional rice dishes. But you have to promise us that you’ll try their ‘Crunchy tri-coloured rice’ with chicken. If not, please bring a bowl home to us instead.

Address: 21 Han Thuyen, District 1

#5 – PIZZA 4 P’s
Vietnam’s best pizza

We laughed in disbelief when one of our friends told us that the world’s best pizza is in Ho Chi Minh City. Especially when he added that the italian classic is made by a Japanese living in Vietnam. However, our disbelieving laughs frowned after visiting the restaurant Pizza 4 P’s. It is a brave move to call a pizza the best in the world, but we admit that it is by far the best we have tasted in Vietnam.

“Burrata Prosciutto” was our favorite. It is baked in a stone oven and served with prosciutto, tomatoes, and salad. But what blew away all of our pizza taste buds was the homemade mozzarella. This is placed in the middle of the pizza and cut out by the waiter when the pizza is served at your table. The cheese almost crumbles apart and is distributed over the pizza. Mama Mia!

Address: 8/15 Le Thanh Ton, District 1

The best coffee in town

We love coffee. Period. That’s why good coffee shops are always one of the first things we look for when we arrive in new places. If you feel the same way, look no further: We have found the city’s best coffee bar. The Workshop is located on the 2nd floor of an old warehouse that brings to mind SoHo in New York. The spacious room looks like a polished photo studio and has a raw industrial decor with rough-plastered brick walls, large metal lamps, and factory windows.

In the middle is a large square coffee bar, where knowledgeable baristas brew coffee according to all the wildest rules of the art. Here, coffee is the new black, and they master all kinds of brewing methods. In fact, we have never seen so many ways to make coffee. All their geeky equipment is displayed on the counter, making the coffee shop look more like a classroom of physics than a classic café. But there is no doubt that they have mastered the recipe.

Address: 27 Ngô Đức Kế Street, District 1

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