Dining Among History

Fabulous cuisine supported by superb delivery, sultry sounds and a landmark view. Review your day and those ahead at Reflections.

In a city that changes its clothes as frequently as Ho Chi Minh City, it’s refreshing to know that there are still rare places that maintain a vestige of the Saigon of times long past, where there still lingers a touch of that old-world magic and colonial charm. Reflections Fine Dining, on the third floor of the Caravelle Saigon in District 1, is one such place. The hotel was once home to the Saigon bureaus of NBC, ABC and CBS, which was located in Martini Bar during the American War. It has also been featured in both fiction and non-fiction literature set in Vietnam – for example, Danielle Steele’s Message From Nam, and Morley Safer’s memoir Flashbacks.

Caravelle Saigon-Reflections Fine Dining

We meet after work in the adjoining Martini Bar, a hidden little gem, hushed like an old train carriage, with a subtle nod to its location in the annals of Saigon history with historical photographs on the walls. I order a martini stirred straight up while my companion has hers dirty – stirred with the perfect amount of brine in the glass and garnished with four olives on the side. Both are excellent as is the presentation. We sip on sublime martinis in mahogany leather armchairs while the melodies of the evening’s musicians, Sitti and Jason, add a little soul to the ambiance. The Filipino duo have been jazzing it up in the city’s restaurants and nightlife spots for the last four years and perform at Reflections every night apart from Tuesday and Sunday.

After drinks, the maître d’ shows us to our seats – a corner table overlooking the historic Saigon Opera House. Reflections enlivens and sustains the historical significance of its location, right at the crossroads between old and new. Looking down onto the rain-slicked boulevard of Dong Khoi, I can imagine how this part of the city may once have felt in quieter times. From up here, the rush of noise and traffic are blissfully absent. With the soft lighting, elegant dining room, and jazz songs (they take requests: Sitti sings Make You Feel My Love for us) filling the air, the place evokes the nostalgia of a 1920s New York jazz bar. While the setting is all oldworld charm, the cuisine is refreshingly cutting edge.

Soul and Sound Band

The Executive Sous Chef, Darren Watson hailing from Scotland, changes up the menu every two weeks to keep things exciting. He has worked high-end restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland, even serving as Australian billionaire Richard Pratt’s personal chef. This November 18-23 will also see twostar Michelin Chef Thierry Drapeau from France unleash his creative approach to fine dining upon Ho Chi Minh City at Reflections.

For the appetizer, Chef Darren and his team create a veritable culinary safari, starting with duck liver snow with lychee Riesling jelly, caramelized pine nuts and toasted citrus brioche crumbs. Contrasting textures and flavors are equally balanced. The Riesling jelly nicely cuts into the richness of the duck liver while the tender pine nuts add softness to the crunchy brioche. A glass of Australian chardonnay rounds out the dish.

The main, sous vide cooked lobster with yellow pepper coconut veloute, roast Mediterranean vegetables and Vietnamese pesto, comes presented with a latticed crown of pastry on top like the netting on a milliner’s hat. The lobster is juicy, fresh and tastes like it’s been pulled straight from the sea, with just the right level of saltiness. The accompanying coconut veloute sauce (poured at the table) has the gratifying creaminess of a Thai curry. Throw in the roasted zucchini and bell peppers and a base made of caramelized onions and potato hash, and the table’s set for a culinary experience I’ll not soon be forgetting.

For dessert we treat ourselves to white miso cream with green tea espuma sponge and macha ice cream. The macha ice cream is silky, sweet, and sensuous, melting away on the tip of my tongue, balanced with the cheeky cheesecake tang of the miso cream. It comes presented with springs of pastry and pieces of green tea sponge that look like something to be admired in their delicacy – an abstract art installation in miniature – but their soft sponge flavor weaves in beautifully with the ice cream.

We finish up with an after dinner café latte as the city winds down for the evening, the colonial façade of the Opera House below swept by headlights. The meal has been exquisite and the staff impeccable in their professionalism. Reflections is all about dining for pleasure; it harks back to a time when you’d dine out to make an evening of it, when the atmosphere and the act of dining was as important as the meal itself. It’s not about being seen, but being a part of the scene, along with the likes of Peter Arnett, David Hume Kennerly and Michael Herr.

Caravelle Saigon-Chef Thierry Drapeau

The Culinary Art of Thierry Drapeau at Reflections Fine Dining
This November will find two-star Michelin Chef Thierry Drapeau far from the French countryside where he draws his inspiration, and near to the bustling centre of Ho Chi Minh City. From November 18 to 23, the Caravelle Hotel will be welcoming the acclaimed chef Thierry Drapeau in Saint-Sulpice-Verdon at fine-dining restaurant Reflections. Culinary enthusiasts in the city will have a rare opportunity to experience Chef Drapeau’s artistic approach to cooking, known for its unrivaled colors, aromatics and presentation, as well as its exemplary flavors.

Reflections Fine Dining – 3rd Floor.

For information, contact 090 690 0523 or email: eam-fb@caravellehotel.com.
For reservations, visit www.caravellehotel.com/fb-reservation.aspx

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