Amongst the booming restaurant scene in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is French restaurant, La Cuisine.
This season I stopped by to meet the owner and head chef of La Cuisine and try their menu to give you real feedback on the food and overall experience.
Designed with vintage posters, director’s chairs and wooden tables, and brick walls, La Cuisine provides an open kitchen setting that makes you want to stay for hours.
The unique menu provides a twist on traditional French dishes, using high quality produce and meats.
La Cuisine's dish aesthetic focuses on a minimalist approach, with well executed plating. The portions initially seemed small - which is what I expected dining at a French restaurant - so I looked forward to the robust flavors accompanying the meals, instead.
Tuna Tartar and Tomato Espuma
I chose Tuna Tartar for my appetizer paired with a Tomato Espuma. Tuna tartar is one of my favorite dishes EVER and I was excited to see that it was made with avocado, citrus, and fresh cheese (my favorite ingredients) but the experience fell flat for me. I hated the Espuma and felt disappointed by the Tuna Tartar because I prefer a spicier version. I love my guacamole / avocado spicy. I love my tuna spicy. I love my tartar-anything spicy. And now I know that I definitely don't like whipped tomato foam.
The tuna, however, was extremely fresh, and the portion was more than enough! I immediately saw I was wrong about how full I'd end up by the end of the evening. You can expect a hearty portion of fresh tuna, inviting array of seasoning and light dressing, and extremely mild spice.
My partner, Alex, ordered the seared scallops which he devoured rapidly. The well-plated pan-seared scallops over Kombu open ravioli were fresh and light. The tomatoes and olive oil topping was key.
While we dined, the small staff was quite attentive: watching us from a distance and serving us without request. I appreciated that. Water was continuously refilled and the wine was provided at the right time (which seems silly to have to even notice but for some reason many Vietnamese restaurants just do not remember to give you your drink!)
Truffle Mushroom Risotto
I then ordered the Truffle Mushroom Risotto -- which WAS. TO. DIE. FOR. This small mound of risotto literally left me a happy woman.
First, I actually hate truffles. Well, I think the flavor is too strong and overpowers anything it touches. Not at La Cuisine. The kitchen knows exactly how to incorporate the magic of truffles into a dish.
Be warned though: don't be fooled by the size. You might want to split this dish if you are looking to have room for an entree or dessert. As a Latina and full-time rice eater, I thought I could handle it. And I did, with much struggle.
Oven-roasted Sea Bass
Could anything top that risotto?
Yes. The sea bass fillet and sautéed vegetables I enjoyed next (after a breather, of course).
Oven-roasted and drizzled in pepper butter sauce, the massive cut was just what I'd been missing while dining in Ho Chi Minh, searching for fish with the perfect butter sauce.
Dessert consisted of a Crème brulée trilogy and a simple lemon sherbet, which we definitely didn't need but thoroughly enjoyed.
My Recommendation: GO! But take it easy.
La Cuisine is definitely a winner in the kitchen, but it is easy to be enticed by everything there. Order one or two dishes first, and see where your taste buds take you. I'd also recommend you skip the Tuna Tartar if you are looking for a kick.
I went for dinner but also hear great things about their special lunch menus, so if you don't have time to evening dine, definitely stop by during the afternoon and take advantage of a great deal.