Qui Lounge (22 – 22bis Le Thanh Ton, D1) is not a bar, nor is it a lounge or restaurant—it’s a perfect balance of all three in one space. The industrial copper-plated lighting fixtures above the bar set the scene, the elegantly lit shelf of top brand whiskeys in the back beckoned us while the DJ spinning house music created the mood, and the divine food completed our evening. One comes to Qui to see and be seen; a clientele of young business people, expats and locals alike pervades the establishment with energy, lively chatter and occasional flirting.
As we relaxed into our seats and perused their fusion menu, we were looking forward to sampling creative combinations of Japanese, Vietnamese and Western cuisines. To start we ordered the Jamón ibérico Bellota (60gram for VND550,000 and 100gram for VND850,000). Jamón ibérico is one of the finest cured meats and Qui not only has it, they have the best version—the bellota. For those of you who don’t know, bellota in Spain means “acorn” and the black Spanish pig spends its entire life basking in green pastures eating acorns. A pig that eats acorns produces the best possible leg of ham which, after the long curing process, is the perfect mix of salty sweet nuttiness. The dark red meat coupled with the golden strips of fat is nothing short of heaven, the perfect complement to the amazing ambiance. But I can’t stop here, the fantastic combination of gourmet platters that came to our table were all fusion concepts that hit its mark, fusion food being a dangerous rope to walk on.
Another standout appetizer was the Wagyu beef gyoza (dumplings) with foie gras, truffle and kabayaku sauce (VND180,000). Matching Japan’s world-renown wagyu beef with coveted ingredients—truffle and foie gras—and it’s a tour de force to be reckoned with. The intense flavors from two distinctly different cuisines were absolutely mind blowing. To further enhance our dining experience we ordered a glass of Montgras Estate Caubernet Savignon from Chile (VND150,000 per glass and VND690,000 a bottle). A further complement to the wine was Qui’s flank steak of the day, which was Australian Black Angus Beef (VND320,000), tender doesn’t come close to defining this melt-in-your-mouth masterpiece. It was juicy, cooked medium rare and plated beautifully.
The second entrée was an elevated twist on a simple local dish—the spring roll. The King prawn with grilled pork roll (VND110,000), served with Vietnamese herbs and a pineapple fish sauce for dipping, was a sensational ride through textures and tastes. The pineapple fish sauce added the perfect amount of sweet, coupled with the crunch of the Vietnamese herbs, the tender meat, possibly the best fresh spring rolls we’d ever had. Speaking of fresh, I must mention the simple, yet fantastic, fresh medley of their Signature Salad (VND160,000), a combination of at least three different greens, asparagus, avocado and yuza dressing from Japan. The dishes so far were a testament to Qui’s dedication to bringing in only the finest ingredients from around the world as well as locally.
Rumor had it that Qui had a certain flair for producing some of Saigon’s most exotic cocktails, so naturally we had to indulge. My companion had the Sakura Sour (VND200,000), a drink that can easily star in Mad Men or The Great Gatsby with its understated class and refined taste. I, on the other hand, indulged in the more tropical Sea Freeze (VND240,000) served in a seashell. As I sipped I imagined the sand around my toes and the waves crashing against the rocks. Both drinks were strong enough to send us into a light buzz. The guys behind the bar were clearly just as talented as those in the kitchen.
Our decadent evening finished with a decadent Black sesame crème brûlée with pink grapefruit (VND120,000), and it was as strange looking as it was delicious. The torched upper layer was just the right amount of crunch while underneath was creamy indulgence, then combined with flecks of buoi made it a sweet winner. Qui’s drink list is extraordinarily diverse, the creativity behind the globally-inspired fusion menu is matched by its selection of spirits, wine, cocktails and both Scottish and Japanese whiskeys.
IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN