For an evening of surf-and-turf dining, head no further than OGGI
One of my favorite movies is Lost in Translation. Melancholic and lonesome, but funny, beautiful, and fulfilling at the same time. It has the strange ability of making me yearn to feel alone and out of step with the rest of the world. The iconic scenes of Bob Harris drinking whiskey with the soft croons of the lounge singer in the background and the beautiful Charlotte trying to listen earnestly to the drab superficial conversations from the Hollywood types came rushing through my mind as I ate at Italian Trattoria Oggi, the Italian trattoria hidden inside the Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon (Ground Floor, 2A-4A Ton Duc Thang, D1). The hotel itself seems to be isolated from the bustle of Saigon’s District 1 center, a stone throws away. Maybe it was the lounge act from Russia singing Bee Gee tunes or the Korean tourists who had too much to drink revelling on the leather sofas, but I felt like I was in the Vietnamese version of the movie. Even though I was with beautiful company, I could picture myself basking, dining and imbibing in solitude here and be utterly content.
The surf-and-turf (VND630,000++) at Oggi will appeal to any food critic. The popularity of this dish seemed to have waned over the years to my beguile, but the decadent self-indulgent pairing of filet mignon and lobster tail still remains in a special place in my culinary heart. I love the way meat and seafood play off each other. The flavors they bring out in each other can be magical. Oggi cooks the filet perfectly while the lobster is moist and tender. They provide an accompanying mushroom sauce that subtly enhances the beautifully succulent filet mignon. Maybe a warm herb butter could have been used as well for the lobster? Sometimes less is more. Oggi adheres to this in many ways, as shown in the sparse assortment of grilled vegetables that accompanied the surf-and-turf.
The lamb chops (VND620,000++) were appreciated as well – grilled and lightly seasoned with just salt, pepper and rosemary herb. It appears as if their specialty, or signature, are with grilling red meats. The lamb was soft enough that chewing could be considered optional.
Oggi leans more towards an international menu than specifically Italian, not to say Oggi isn’t delicious. We weren’t shown a wine list, because the management carefully preselected the course and wine pairing for us. They paired our meal with a Chilean wine, Cosecha Tarapaca Cabernet Sauvignon. There are probably not that many wines that are better than that, unless you are willing to spend more than USD5++ for the bottle at retail. The night ended with desserts, a baked Alaska (VND168,000++), a scoop of strawberry and vanilla ice cream with fruit compote and meringue, and a mango flan.
Perhaps it’s not about being taken to a different place in your mind or even experiencing the familiar. Like Bob Harris and Charlotte in Lost in Translation, it’s about repression of gratification, not achieving the emotional payoff of the expected status quo, misinterpretations, misunderstandings—and the feelings it causes and as the film communicates— that’s ok.
Images Provided by Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon