Sunday, June 13, 2010

Le Toit Gourmand - Saigon, Vietnam

"The traveller who is tired of tired of life".

This is something I read in a magazine recently on my trip back to Melbourne from Vietnam. And whilst I personally often long for Europe and America, claiming as much as I do enjoy Asia, I want something different, I think I generally agree with this comment.

As I said in a previous comment, there are many hidden faces of countries in Asia other than the obvious. Friends are always surprised when I say for example that most people in the Philippines can speak English and that they so do desire to be American.

What do you think of when someone mentions Vietnam? Communism? Ha Long Bay?

Exquisite French food? Well that's exactly what I had on one of my nights in Saigon.

It's always handy having friends who are locals in countries, they find you the hidden gems that haven't quite been dusted off and put out in the display window. My lovely friend was incredibly excited to take myself and two other of our friends, both Filipino's who work in Malaysia and have incredible palettes for food. She promised 7 courses, for 40 US dollars? I was down.

So our cab takes us down this tiny little alleyway, where I could have been convinced I was going to be pushed out into a van with a sliding door and spirited away as a kidnap victim.

But instead, we pass through a doorway where a small lit sign hung and into a warm, inviting house, converted into a very small intimate dining area; there were no more than 5 or 6 tables. All enclosed by walls of wine bottles, to make you feel as if you have been invited in to inspect a french man's wine collection. I absolutely adored the space.

The story of this restaurant is that it is owned by a french man named Gil who married a Vietnamese woman. They run the place together, he comes out to every table and always takes the food order himself. He has his own vanilla farm somewhere in Saigon, which he incorporates into his dishes, as well as makes his own cheese, which is included as a course, which you shall see later!

The vat in the restaurant where Gil matures his hard cheeses...

After being seated, we were presented with the menu. Oh the agony of choices! One whole A4 page of entrees, in which we could only choose 3 and another whole page of mains, in which we had to choose one! After much deliberation, Gil came out to take our order and also helped us pick out a bottle or two of very reasonably priced French wine.

We were presented with an amuse bouche of truffled scrambled eggs. The richness of the truffle and the delicious buttery eggs were the perfect prelude to what we would expect for the rest of the night.

Initially, my friend wasn't keen to share dishes, but at the end of the day, we couldn't help but pick and try everything, as it just looked all too delectable to pass up. Whilst I didn't get around to getting pictures of everything, I will still go through everything!

My first entree was black pudding with apples (Sorry I really really can't remember all the french names and details that were in the menu as I did down two bottles of wine...). It was the first entree I decided I must have as I have had recent cravings for it, but just no avenue to eat it! It was served two ways, cold on the left and warm on the right. Oh just divine, especially the warm half which was disgustingly rich, but pared down nicely when eaten with just a slice of apple.

Mr E ordered the duck wrapped in cabbage, very tasty, although compared to my black pudding and what I'm going to mention next not overly exciting. Duck was beautiful though.

Now this. This is a foei gras spring roll. Strange in concept, deathly orgasmic in the mouth. The savoury nature and the crunch of the crispy skin just mixed amazingly with the soft rich, luscious flavour of the foie gras. The two contrasts just melted together amazingly! This was possibly the most favoured of the entrees we had that night.

Our second round of entrees included what is best described as a scallop cerviche with citrus and...vanilla. Yes vanilla, I decided I had to try this since the vanilla is homegrown. The scallop was done beautifully and the vanilla added a very strange modern twist. The vanilla was strong and fragrant, it was almost like eating a seafood dessert, which sounds disgusting, but came out surprisingly well.

Another scallop dish was scallop with truffle mash, again quite rich and salmon wrapped around cream cheese. The combination just melted in your mouth! Escargot were also had, in the traditional way with butter and herbs, the escargot were fat, plump and juicy and buttered beautifully. There seems to be a trend going on here...

My third entree was lobster with artichoke, I've had a bit of a thing for artichokes since they came back into season in Melbourne, whilst I don't know if this applies to Saigon, I still had a craving for it. The portion was small, but certainly not lacking, the lobster was cooked perfectly.

Also to be had was lobster risotto, the small little portion was extremely tasty and texture of the rice quite interesting. I felt like the rice grains were smaller than usual...or I might have just had quite a lot of wine by then!

Also had, but not pictured was rabbit leg...or something along those lines. Again I plead two bottles of wine guilty.

The meal was slow paced, with a fair bit of time in between each course to allow socializing, drinking and digesting! So by the time our mains came out, I was more than keen to attack them!

One of the boys and I both opted to get the beef cheek with foie gras. Oh gosh, if I could remember the sauce it was in I would tell you and then go find a recipe for it and learn how to make it. This dish would've been the perfect thing in a cold place like Melbourne, it felt like comfort food in it's warmth and the thickness of the sauce, giving it almost a stew like composition, but it was again sickeningly and disgustingly, beautifully rich. The beef cheek just fell apart and melted in your mouth. Mmmmmmm. I get many happy thoughts thinking of this dish.

The other boy got the lamb shank, (didn't get to take a picture) which just overwhelmed us all with how delicious it smelt, the rosemary, the gamey just fell off the bone and into your mouth.

This was the grouper and next to the two meat dishes was a bit hard to compare, but the fish was cooked just right and the flavours were fresh.

4 amazing courses down, but it was time to bring out the sweet stuff.

Or well cheeses first. Home made cheese even! We were spoiled with an amazing selection of hard and soft cream cheeses with various flavourings.

The cream cheese flavours or seasoning I suppose included olive...which was nice.

But then you had the green onion which was amazing!

BUT THEN! You got the cream cheese with truffles and truffle oil. Oh my. Oh my. We demolished this plate, the truffle oil and the richness of the cream cheese were just irresistible. We all figured we wouldn't be eating it for a while again either. So why not?!

Now time for sweet stuff. We were given yet another menu with a selection of about 10 desserts to choose from. Why is this always so difficult? Or well actually, it wasn't too hard really.

I saw tarte tartin. I'm in a French restaurant, I'm jumping on that and I certainly am glad I did! The apples were cooked perfectly, melting in your mouth as a fruity sugary goodness. Mmmmm. Although it was a bit let down by it's biscuit base, which was literally a hard biscuit all it's own, but I just scraped off the apple and enjoyed myself very much still.

Also consumed was a lovely raspberry mille feuille (although it totally said strawberry in the menu...), whilst not really like the mille feuille's I had in Paris once, the pasty was still light and crisp and overall very tasty.

Our boys had the coffee mousse, very light airy texture and very strong coffee flavour. This ain't for the weak, but it certainly was still delightful.

To finish off, whilst not really a 'course' per say, we had armagnac, really cleared your palette from all the rich decadence. Although the boys slightly embarrassed our friend by deciding to shoot it down instead of sipping at it...

After a week of noodles and wraps (which don't get me wrong I absolutely love), this was certainly a treat and probably one of the most indulgent meals I've had in some time. I'm surprised I haven't grown into a bowling ball yet....

A definite recommendation should you ever just pop into Saigon one of these days!

Le Toit Gourmand
31/4 Hoang Viet - P4 - Q Tan Binh
84 8 38117003

1 comment:

  1. I’m sorry to interfear but i ate 3 times in this restaurant and felt sick 3 times after. Every time i saw rats running in the restaurant, and it doesn’t seem to bother anybody there…The food is really expensive, and Gils forced me to get a very expensive wine, i drank one glass, and he made me pay the bottle !!
    I won’t go back there anytime anymore !!