Hoi An, Saigon is regarded as the best restaurant for Vietnamese food in Ho Chi Minh City, & one of the best restaurants in Asia, and so that is where I went for lunch after seeing the Park Hyatt, Saigon.
HoI An, Saigon is built in the traditional Vietnamese style with high teak ceilings and was more spacious, and grander, than I expected.
It is named after the village in central Vietnam, which is a UNESCO protected world heritage site, that we will be visiting next week.
Staff spoke perfect English. Once I sat down I was brought the drinks list and al a carte menu. I asked about the set business lunch and another menu was brought.
The al a carte menu started with whole shark's fin and bird's nest soup. I, obviously, avoided the former but thought about trying the latter, until the knowledge that they are made of bird's saliva put me off.
I picked the set business lunch but also asked for noddles Hoi An style. The waiter told me this was too much food but I said I had to try their famous cao lau.
The first was spinach & scallop soup containing whole scallops. I found the soup bland, gelatinous and not to my taste.
Next came my selection of 'Imperial style' appetisers. A deep-fried flour roll filled with pork - a form of spring roll like none I have eaten before -; banana blossom salad; and a BBQed shrimp paste.
It was all food from another world and made me even more worried about identifying food at Noir: Dining in the Dark that evening.
My cao lau also came with a spiced mussels dish with rice. Both dishes were good but it was the mussels one that blew my mind. The flavours and textures (with the crumpled pieces of sesame cake) were incredible and the Vietnamese fish sauce that came with it was like liquid Patum Peperium (Gentleman's Relish) and so moreish.
The mussels dish was one of the most interesting, and delicious, I have eaten for some time.
This came in the form of fresh sliced fruit and the fragrance from all this was intoxicating.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻 (5 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - the mussels dish at Hoi An, Saigon made me fall in love with Vietnamese food. This is a restaurant that anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City must try to visit. My tip: if you visit at lunchtime, make sure they give you the very reasonably priced set business lunch menu.