Restaurant Review: Quan Bui Garden

Quan Bui Garden recently opened in District 2 and has become a neighborhood favorite

Long before we entered the charming, foliage-wrapped Quan Bui Garden (55 Ngo Quang Huy, Thao Dien, D2) we smelled enticing aromas wafting down the street. Quan Bui Garden is a culinary and green oasis amidst the high rises and fast food franchises that are slowing taking over District 2. Through a garden gate and around a coconut tree lie an outdoor terrace lined with mosaic tables and matching cast iron chairs and an attached restaurant with floor to ceiling glass windows. Service is laid-back yet efficient and welcoming, and the authentic Vietnamese food quite superb, with an emphasis on southern Vietnam’s finest ingredients and sauces.

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We sat on the patio under an overhanging sake (breadfruit) tree and started with drinks. Intrigued by the obscure ingredients listed, we tried a pleasantly tart West Indian cherry and hog plum juice (VND69,000). It had a wine-like astringency that paired perfectly with the rich sauces throughout our meal. From the cocktail menu we sampled the jasmine (VND100,000), a gin, Cointreau, Campari and lime juice creation that was herbal and floral in flavors.

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With four restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, the Quan Bui brand is rapidly becoming a trusted name in the local dining scene. Each restaurant features a unique menu and distinctive ambiance. While their original Tan Dinh location is cozy and serves northern Vietnamese cuisine, the Quan Bui Garden serves a range of Southern dishes and creates welcoming open spaces.

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Although distracted by our pleasant surroundings, we did focus on the menu long enough to choose starters. The set of fresh spring rolls (VND69,000) featured thinly sliced shrimp and pork backed up by a perfectly formed core of perilla and basil. They were served with two kinds of dipping sauce—one sweet and spicy, the other a rich peanut sauce.

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Our Quan Bui salad (VND149,000) was an instant favorite. Tender strips of squid were tossed with crunchy coconut shoots, bell peppers and lotus stems. The salad was topped with peanuts and crispy fried shallots and served with crispy shrimp rice crackers.

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Our first main was a bubbling clay pot of braised pork meat with coconut (VND89,000). The coconut meat had just enough bite to balance the tender pork, all of it swimming in a rich caramelized sauce. We mopped up the sauce with spoonfuls of steamed white rice.

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Next up, the sautéed prawns with onions and bell peppers (VND139,000) hit the spot with a just-spicy- enough satay sauce. The menu offered enough prawn dishes to keep any seafood enthusiast happy, and it is easy to see why they are a specialty here. The prawns in our dish were sizably large and cooked to juicy perfection.

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Dining in a garden made every bite taste that much more fresh, although we did miss the poetic chance to try the tiger prawn wrapped in breadfruit (VND119,000) while dining under a breadfruit tree.

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Quan Bui Garden struck us as a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. It offers an impressive range of dishes representing regions from central to southern Vietnam, with a special focus on southern-style banh xeo, or Vietnamese savory pancake. The restaurant also has an extensive array of vegetarian dishes, ensuring that no one goes home hungry. Brunch enthusiasts must try the sets offered from 8am to 3pm. Just seeing the brunch options (banh xeo and iced coffee anyone?) ensured our return one lazy Sunday in the future.

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We finished our dinner with one of Quan Bui’s signature desserts—cream passionfruit—served inside the beautiful fruit itself. They hit the spot, with a smooth consistency and the pure taste of fresh passionfruit. We lingered long after finishing the light dessert. Enjoying the cool breezy night and the precious stillness of our surroundings.

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With plenty of space at their disposal, and several local bands on-call, Quan Bui Garden often host events. They have already hosted popular wine tastings nights, in addition to smaller celebrations like birthday parties and anniversaries.

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IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN

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