The recently-opened Viêt Kitchen elevates Vietnamese cuisine to the nth level

In a city obsessed with buffets, the recently opened Việt Kitchen has decidedly raised the standard. The sleek restaurant is housed on the ground floor of the Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon (8-15 Ton Duc Thang, D1), and is a testament to good design, fresh food and talent in the kitchen.

Việt Kitchen serves a breakfast buffet (VND450,000++) from 6-10am, a lunch buffet (VND490,000++) from 12-2:30pm, and a dinner buffet (VND990,000++) from 6-10pm. An a la carte menu is served all day and features international cuisines as well as Vietnamese dishes. The buffets offer a wide range of classic local fare as well as International and Japanese cuisines.

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For our visit we chose the dinner buffet. Walking across the hotel lobby into the restaurant, we were immediately struck by its modern, chic décor—sharp geometric shapes pierced into the floor and reflected in the art and furniture, while dark wood under tones in the furniture and floor gave the space a warm, inviting ambiance. However, the most impressive display in Việt Kitchen is, without a doubt, the food. In one corner, a small mountain of fresh seafood beckons while across from it steam floats up from a hot noodle counter. Even the salad bar, a multilevel colorful affair built into a column in the middle of the room, seemed like a well-placed green garden.

Our dinner began with wine. Diners who opt for the buffet at Việt Kitchen are treated to a complimentary beverage of their choice, including beer, or free flow drinks (including beer and wine) for an additional VND350,000++. We opted for a glass of Lindeman’s Premier Selection Brut (VND150,000). A Semillon Chardonnay from Australia, the wine was fruity with a subtle hint of citrus. Given the thrilling range of foods we were planning to sample, we also ordered a glass of red wine, a Michel Lynch- JM Cazes (VND190,000). The wine was a palate pleasing blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

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The set up at Việt Kitchen is an innovative system designed to ensure everything is fresh. Distinct stations allow diners to choose ingredients, which are then prepared on the spot or in the open kitchen. We walked over to the sashimi station and chose salmon and octopus then the chef deftly sliced our selection within seconds. As for the mouthwatering seafood, your choices can be steamed, grilled or cooked in tamarind sauce. There are, of course, plenty of additional options throughout the floor: two fully-stocked salad bars, an impressive array of charcuterie options, and an extensive range of prepared hot dishes. However, the hot dishes are purposely set out one modestly-sized portion at a time, from the open kitchen, for two important reasons: nothing sits out for too long, and no dish sits empty for long. The open kitchen also means that you can speak directly to the chefs, who also carve the meat of the day according to the diner’s specifications.

For our visit we were treated to a rosemary-marinated grilled leg of lamb, which was rich in flavor and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

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Other notable highlights included a moreish duck stew and a baked eggplant with a balsamic glaze. The pasta bar was comparable to a mini trattoria, where guests choose the pasta type and ingredients for the sauce then watch as the dish is prepared on the spot.

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We had the penne pasta with a sauce made from fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic. The resulting rich sauce and al dente pasta could have come from any nonna’s kitchen.

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We then ventured over to the seafood station to ‘catch’ a juicy lobster, and asked for it to be grilled with butter and garlic. The grilled lobster arrived at our table wafting of garlic and sporting light char marks. It was tender, perfectly grilled and undeniably fresh. Aside from lobster, crabs, shrimp and oysters, there was an extensive selection of snails, which are divine when cooked in tamarind.

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Somehow we made it to the dessert bar by the end of the night. We tried the almond profiterole and coconut ice cream. The profiterole hinted of excellent dark chocolate and the ice cream was impressively smooth and rich. From the modern design to the selection of food and the superb service, Việt Kitchen had exceeded all expectations.

IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN

TEXT BY MARTIN ZORRILLA AND SONIA GREGOR