HCMC Part I: This slick, stylish restaurant was our first stop for nourishment on a recent weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh City.
Xu serves Vietnamese fusion cuisine, but that shouldn't be dismissed as a mere gimmick. The menu is playfully inventive, though it has both hits and misses.
Crab soup with quail egg, peanuts & chilli. A protein-packed broth, bursting with brilliant flavors; can't imagine a better start to the meal.
Caesar salad in rice paper. Tasted like regular Caesar salad. Despite being well-presented, the rice paper served little purpose except to hold the fresh, crunchy leaves together, making them easy to gobble in dainty mouthfuls.
Phu Huu wild boar ravioli with spiced tomato sauce. Light, delicate ravioli skin, stuffed with tender, flavorsome meat. The tangy sauce wasn't the best match for the ravioli, but at least it wasn't tart or artificial-tasting like supermarket versions.
Vietnamese herb-infused risotto with mushrooms & sugar snap peas. Had the creamy texture of traditional Italian risotto, but with a subtly vegetarian, strangely mild flavor.
Goat curry with mashed potatoes, carrots & pickled shallots. A quintessential meat-&-potatoes dish. Not spicy, thankfully. Like all the offerings here, there's still a distinct Vietnamese element in it _ something about how it tastes.
Pork belly in coconut juice with red cabbage & caramelized daikon. Meaty and fatty enough, but we've had more memorably melt-in-the-mouth pork belly elsewhere.
Pan-roasted Ba Ria sea bass with green beans & chorizo cream. The fish was hearty, but bland and dry, with no real help from any of the accompaniments.
Tamarind-braised beef cheeks with pumpkin mash, bok choy & pumpkin flower. We enjoyed the comfort-foodish mash, but the beef was a disaster _ chewy enough to exhaust our jaws.
Villa Garrel 2008 Cotes De Provence, France.
Xu Restaurant & Lounge,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.