Garden Of The Senses

From Montpellier to Saigon, the three-Michelin starred Pourcel brothers have recreated their famed fine dining experience at Jardin Des Sens Saigon

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Within a 100-year-old French colonial villa, on the corner of Dien Bien Phu and Le Quy Don, is the latest gastronomic venture of twin brothers Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, bringing Vietnam its first fine dining experience by 3-star Michelin chefs. Having already established themselves in Asia with restaurants in Bangkok, Shanghai, Tokyo and Colombo, the Pourcel brothers have come full circle by bringing their flagship restaurant to Ho Chi Minh City.

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Opened in January, walking into Jardin Des Sens (251 Dien Bien Phu, D3) you enter the lounge, with large windows and modern chandeliers around comfortable soft seating. There’s a bar near the door and next to a double staircase, which leads to the dining room, is a newly built wine cellar in glass panes containing 100 different kinds of excellent French wine. The Pourcel brothers, sons of a winemaker, are renowned for pairing wines with the dishes they prepare for guests, so there’s no need to bring in a sommelier. The Sales and Marketing Manager, Constantin Huby, showed us their highest priced bottle, a rare vintage Richebourg Annee 2009, which if you’d like to uncork will set you back VND140 million. Not to worry though, they do have a range of more reasonably priced bottles—all imported from France. The dining area upstairs is a large open space with seating for 38 patrons, including a private dining area with seating for 12. Even the crockery is unique, having been handcrafted by an artisan in Monte Carlo. We were at Jardin Des Sens for lunch, which offers a set menu for VND630,000 that includes an appetizer, main, dessert, wine and coffee. There are two choices for each course to choose from and the lunch menu changes weekly.

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Once we were seated, the waiter brought over a selection of house-made breads, a mixture of sweet and savory, which were served with house-made butter. For the best, softest baguette in Saigon, look no further. The first appetizer that came was confit duck foie gras with smoked cobia fish, caramelized onions and a dollop of house-made jam. The flavors of the dish were complex, with the richness of the foie gras shining through. The second appetizer was a chickpea salad with confit salmon and smoked cobia fish. The fish was subtle and drizzled with a distinctive, tangy sauce.

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Next came the main courses. First was roasted chicken from Bresse with potato confit and green lentils. The chicken was moist and soft, perfectly prepared, with the essence of this dish understated, yet balanced. The second was a traditional bouillabaisse, a fish stew originating from Marseille. This had a base with hints of garlic, onion, fennel, saffron, thyme and bay leaf, with chunks of mild fish and fresh clams stewed in it—this is not to be missed.

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After a few minutes to digest and enjoy our wine, the desserts arrived. The lemon tart, with a sweet sauce drizzle, a dollop of lime sorbet and house-made cream, was heavenly, while the sharpness of the sorbet was an astounding partner. This was followed by a honey panna cotta with pistachio and apricot that was exquisite.

If you have the luxury of a two-hour lunch (12pm-2pm), this is a wonderful culinary journey. And dinner is even more exquisite with an expanded menu, with dishes such as pan seared scallops with caviar and potato mousseline in a creamy broth, or the Ninh Thuan’s farm slow-cooked young goat with homemade gnocchi, Kalamata olives and green curry. Through the Pourcel brothers, Saigon’s fine dining scene has garnered star power.

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Images Provided by Jardin Des Sens

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