Everything-seafood, barbecue, desserts-seems to taste so much better when eaten outside

Nestled in an alley, unassuming at first glance, is The Patio Bar-Restaurant (52 Ngo Quang Huy, D2). Walking up the path I couldn’t help but feel as if I was entering someone’s backyard. And this is exactly what the owners had intended. They wanted the place to feel intimate and welcoming—the restaurant as an extension of their home. For those who enjoy the warm Saigon weather, the Patio is completely outdoors, basically no walls, with a large brick fire pit on one end and a large window showcasing the chefs in the kitchen working their delicious magic.

The main focus, or rather the main event, at Patio is their barbecue. The brick fire pit uses real wood, not charcoal, which allows them to change the smoke and flavor of the meat simply by changing out the wood. On my visit, several local free-range chickens were slowly turning above crackling flames.

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We started our dinner off with a couple of appetizers. The Spanish chorizo bruschetta (VND185,000) was a delicious mix of spicy chorizo, red pepper, stewed tomato and ground beef—perfect on the slices of toasted baguette that came with the dish. They were addictive, and I made a mental note to order it again for a future evening with friends over wine. The next dish was a large serving of clams in melted butter (VND135,000) with delicately diced garlic and parsley.

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The clams were tender and soft. This is a-must try dish and I’ll admit if it didn’t appear uncouth in this rather upscale place I might’ve just licked the plate and each shell dry.

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We ordered two Patio signature dishes for our main courses. The first was the chicken kebab with cous cous and garden salad (VND235,000), and here is where the barbecue aspect of the restaurant really shined. The tiny char marks were delicious and didn’t taste burnt but instead they gave depth to slightly sweet chicken. The meat was tender and burst almost apologetically with juice, a testament to the proper rotisserie. A quick dip in the cous cous was not unrewarded, as the fluffy, slightly buttery grains soaked up the juices of the chicken, adding to yet another mouthful of flavor.

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The second pièce de résistance was definitely a sea salt encrusted sea bass for two (VND595,000). The white crystal mound of salt broke off when the chef lifted the entire fish from the saucer. The salt works to seal in moisture and gently steam the food in its own juices, seasoning it slightly in the meantime. The finished product is invariably moist, succulent and bursting with flavor. Sides included a clay pot of baby potatoes sautéed in butter and generously topped with chopped parsley. The potatoes yielded soft flesh, and were light and creamy.

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The evening and dinner, which were both lovely, ended with two decadent desserts: an apple tarte tatin (VND125,000) with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce; and a chocolate mousse (VND125,000) served in a cocktail glass topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Both were cool and sweet, perfect for a night out.

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IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN