For our first evening in Ho Chi Minh, we booked the best table in the house at La Villa, a lovely French restaurant in an equally picture-pretty mansion in an upscale expatriate neighborhood in the suburbs of the city.
It's an area called District 2.
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A VERY NICE DRIVE
It was about a 20-minute ride out to District 2.
However, the drive was very nice as it took us via the river, the waterfront and many neighborhoods tourists would ordinarily not see.
FRIENDS ON THE SAME PLANE, IN THE SAME CITY,
AND IN THE SAME RESTAURANT.
Interestingly, at the home of the French ambassador in Manila on Thursday night -- which was the night before I flew to Vietnam -- I happened to be standing next to a European ambassador during the concert of the famous chanteuse Mouron.
He asked me, almost matter-of-factedly, as I am forever on a plane: "So -- where are you headed for next?"
I replied: "I'm flying to Ho Chi Minh tomorrow, just for the weekend. Food. Shopping. Art."
|Lunch on the Philippine Airlines flight|
from Manila to Ho Chi Minh yesterday.
The ambassador then said: "You wouldn't happen to be on the 1240 PM PAL flight, would you?"
There's really only one direct daytime flight to HCM from Manila, and that's exactly the one.
Well, it turned out we were on the same flight and we were both spending the weekend in HCM with friends.
ONE OF THE NICEST RESTAURANTS IN HO CHI MINH
|Restaurant manager Tina Trang Pham|
gives us some brioche toast for our pate de foie gras
So I suggested to him: "If you're looking for a nice restaurant in Ho Chi Minh, I suggest La Villa. It's a bit of a drive out, but it's supposed to be the best restaurant in Saigon right now."
|We had a very nice wine pairing to go with our degustation last night.|
Later that night, I texted him the details of the restaurant.
And the very next morning, he'd emailed them to reserve a table for that very night of his -- and our -- arrival. He'd decided to have dinner at La Villa on Friday night.
Well, so had we.
|That's Chef Thierry Mounon of La Villa in Ho Chi Minh|
I texted the ambassador from the airport: "I'll be seeing you thrice in 36 hours then. See you on the plane or in the restaurant tonight."
WOW. IT'S LIKE MANILA.
|That's the view of the garden from our table.|
My ambassador friend was seated just outside.
So what fun it was to arrive at La Villa at around 730 PM, and to have the ambassador and his friend as our welcoming committee. It was just like being back in Manila.
* * *
Watch out for our recommendations
for the best of arts, food and shopping
in Ho Chi Minh
April-May 2013 issue
of TRAVELIFE Magazine
On sale everywhere from April 15
* * *
The ambassador was seated in the garden while we had a table inside.
La Villa was completely full of locals and expatriate residents. I think the four of us were the only foreigners.
|Here's a portrait of restaurant manager Tina Trang Pham in action,|
attending to the needs of diners at La Villa
We all enjoyed our respective meals.
In fact, as he was leaving, the ambassador said to me: "Thank you for recommending La Villa. What a nice meal it was. And how special the experience was, including the drive out."
We ourselves had a four-hour dinner and we were the last to leave.
|Chef Thierry and his wife Tina, who runs La Villa operations,|
saw us out and into a cab, and on our way back to town.
They're one of the nicest couples in HCM.
The seven-course dinner was excellent, especially considering where in the world we were; and the cheese trolley alone was so extensive we could've been in a restaurant in France. I had a wonderful reblochon and a camembert that was left to mature in Calvados.
More on the actual meal tomorrow. And on our pretty enjoyable adventures for the weekend in Ho Chi Minh, living a never-ending and never-endingly eventful Travelife.
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