Let’s do lunch. But where? The eternal question.
The options are growing in Ho Chi Minh City for casual lunches with friends or family.
But what about when you’re working on inking that business deal and want to discuss it over some lunch?
Somewhere cozy out of sight and out of earshot? Or somewhere raucous where whatever you say gets lost in the white noise?
Then, of course, there’s choosing what to eat. Forget end of financial year reports and Friday afternoon meeting requests, this question has the potential to send the calmest of business execs right off the deep end.
For wealth manager and long-term Ho Chi Minh City resident, Paul McLardie, it depends on the client and what sort of meeting it is.
“There are loads of places I go,” he says, “but the main thing is to make the client happy in the surroundings. Yes, it is about privacy, but it’s also not about making them feel out of place.”
Mr McLardie has advice for anyone planning a meeting with someone who has children: “You don’t want a four-hour lunch with a family guy however impressive it may be — he still needs to get home and see the kids.”
“The days of turning up at the office at 10am and leaving at 11.30am and getting away with it are well and truly over”
And, he says, the old fashioned approach of taking someone to lunch to impress them with your choice of restaurant is dying. People just don’t have the time now to do this, they need to get back to work.
“The days of turning up at the office at 10am and leaving at 11.30am and getting away with it are well and truly over.”
So with that, I went straight to the top. No being put on-hold by wide-eyed office assistants and out-of-office replies. I hit up a number of leading businessmen directly and asked them where the best places are in Ho Chi Minh City to seal the deal over lunch.
Here are the first five:
Stoker Woodfired Grill & Bar
This perennial best-of list maker has a set lunch menu that rivals any other around town. Menu items include herb-crusted basa with charred leeks, 12-hour smoked beef brisket with house-made pickles and BBQ sauce, grain-fed Australian steak with mash and wood oven roasted vegetables with a chimichurri or bearnaise sauce to lather it in — all in an atmosphere that doffs the hat to British hunt clubs of yore but adapted to fit the idiosyncratic nooks and crannies of Ho Chi Minh City’s narrow confines. One of our execs says:
“Very good if you like steak, great value for money and private”
Stoker is at 44 Mac Thi Buoi, District 1, HCMC and is open daily from 11.30am. For more information, go here
Quan Bui has transformed from having a reputation as a quaint Vietnamese bistro in a quiet back street in the Japanese area of town into a tour de force in Vietnamese cuisine with four locations and counting in prominent locations around Ho Chi Minh City. Quan Bui has become known for its quality and price but what also makes it attractive to businesspeople are its four locations dotted around the city centre. And its menu? At last count it was 24-pages long making it highly likely fussy eaters from all corners of the globe will find something to keep them happy. One of our execs says:
“If regional visitors come and want Vietnamese food, Quan Bui is the place. It’s central and easy to find”
Quan Bui’s original location is at 17A Ngo Van Nam, District 1, HCMC and is open daily from 8am. For more information, go here
This Japanese restaurant in the Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon comes with big raps from our execs. Japanese cuisine is well-loved in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City has plenty of sushiya-sans and izakayas in which raw fish aficionados can indulge. Here there are four Japanese-style tatami rooms, including one Western-style private room to broker deals with a kampai! Choose from a traditional omakase set lunch or from the a la carte menu. Much of what is on offer is flown in weekly from Japan. One of our execs says:
“The food is very good at Yoshino and it’s a quiet, peaceful place”
Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon is at 2A-4A Ton Duc Thang, District 1, HCMC. For more information, go here
This isn’t the first time Q.itchen Factory has popped up on the radar. Unlike the other entrants on this list, it’s located in District 7. But before you moan — “Too far!” — it is actually only about 15 minutes from the centre of town. Q.itchen Factory is a tapas bar and restaurant like no other in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s owned by Q.industries which has been supplying the F&B industry in Vietnam for a couple of decades and allows the kitchen — headed by vibrant young chef Adrian Chong Yen — to be experimental and innovative with local produce farmed by local farmers. The design is industrial and spacious and is an excellent place to get down to business. One of our execs says:
“A little out of town, but in a way, it’s a bonus because you can talk business over a quality lunch with very few distractions”
Q.itchen Factory is at Lot 9, Road 7, Tan Thuan Dong, District 7, HCMC. For more information, go here
Shri Restaurant & Lounge
Shri provided Ho Chi Minh City with its first ever rooftop dining experience — that was over eight years ago. Situated on the 23rd floor of an office and apartment tower in the centre of the city, Shri is always innovative with its food and drink menus. It’s classy without being pretentious, the city views are exceptional and the staff are well-trained. Lunch options include soups, focaccia, steak and fish, but it changes regularly. Chef Javier Gomez specialises in Spanish fare with his tapas up there alongside the best the city has on offer. One of our execs says:
“The lunch menu is very good value and there are plenty of options for seating that suit business meetings”
Shri Restaurant & Lounge is at Level 23, Centec Tower, 72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 3, HCMC. For more information, go here