A rustic riverside restaurant that majors in delicious Vietnamese barbecue.

Perched conveniently on the northeastern shore of the Thao Dien peninsula, The River Restaurant (199 Nguyen Van Huong, D2) is District 2’s newest Vietnamese riverside eatery. With a fully-stocked bar and an expansive menu of Vietnamese classics (along with some new favorites), The River Restaurant is a beautiful place to catch the sunset while sharing a cold drink and delicious food with friends, or take a date to for a romantic evening.

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What sets The River apart from other Vietnamese restaurants are the special details and charming bits of character scattered throughout. Upon arrival, guests are welcomed into a grass-roofed tiki bar and dining room. Greeted by friendly staff and festive music, they are then led out to the deck, which more closely resembles a lake wide wharf, complete with wooden floor and a picket fence right next to the water. Also available are a few open-air tables and a separate dining room for private events. The facilities are clean and well-appointed, and (for our visit) Christmas decorations were sprinkled throughout. One’s first impression is that of a lively local bar frequented by expats, where you’re likely to find a famous old writer and be treated to delightful stories of his adventures in the countryside.

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Our dinner began with a glass of the Berri Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (VND80,000), a full-bodied Australian wine nicely chilled and promptly delivered. The rich fruity smell of the wine mixed with the fresh river air and caught the light of the newest An Phu developments, just within view but blissfully silent. Boats and birds meandered past as we took a moment to enjoy the calm atmosphere and look at the menu. The fare is mainly Vietnamese classics specializing in grilled meats and seafood. Our first dish was the Grilled Shrimp in Chili Salt (VND180,000), which was grilled to perfection, amply seasoned and delivered steaming hot with chili salt and lime on the side.

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At the chef’s suggestion, we were next treated to the Grilled Bacon Hanoi Style (VND180,000). Hanoi style means thick slices of crispy-edged bacon are served steaming hot with a spicy green dipping-sauce and a portion of green veggies.

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Our last dish, also a house favorite, was the Grilled Chicken in Green Chili Salt (VND180,000). The Vietnamese have a special name – ga ta – for chicken that is raised locally, rather than in a factory. Literally “backyard chicken,” it’s served in small bits and the meat is lean and sticks closely to the bone. While they are likely to include more traditional chicken in the future to accommodate Western customers, we appreciated the genuine Vietnamese dish and the story that goes with it.

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At the end of the night, The River Restaurant offers a beautiful and peaceful setting. With a unique and inviting atmosphere, specialty dishes and a convenient location, it’s sure to be a favorite place for introducing newcomers to Vietnamese cuisine, meeting friends for an after-work dinner, or even spending a peaceful hour alone next to the gentle burble of the Saigon River. If you’re fed up with the traffic and movement of the city, The River Restaurant is a delightful escape. γ