As someone who really enjoys fine dining, I was spending a lot of time looking into options at the higher end in Ho Chi Minh City. Unfortunately there seems to be a dearth of fine dining options when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, and I certainly wasn't gonna waste precious stomach space and money to have French food in Vietnam. Most people who write about their food experiences in HCMC seem to focus on the cheap and cheerful stuff, which was a little disappointing for me.
Very few people who write about food seem to have been to Xu Restaurant and Lounge. It looked interesting and the menus seemed to have been well thought out, presenting traditional Vietnamese flavors with modern ingredients - the kind of stuff that I really dig. I was having trouble finding meaningful reviews of this place - especially since I can't read Vietnamese - until Hello Kitty pointed me to TripAdvisor. Normally I stay away from crowd-sourced review sites when it comes to restaurants, but in this case TripAdvisor gave me enough info, both positive and negative. Fearing the experience to be a disappointment, I asked our hotel concierge to book us for lunch instead of dinner.
We should have come for dinner.
We got ourselves a table in the lounge downstairs, which was almost empty. Cigar smoke lingered in the room, which was just as well since it covered some of the unpleasant smell of the space.
We asked for the password to the restaurant's wifi network, and we were told that it was "porkbelly". This was obviously cheeky, and instantly earned brownie points with us.
We decided to order one set lunch plus a couple of dishes à la carte and share everything. This worked out reasonably well for us. I had asked the staff if we could have the dinner tasting menus at lunch, but unfortunately this was not possible.
this morning's experience, Hello Kitty wanted some more bún bò Huế... and couldn't resist when there's an upscale version with ribeye. The thoughtful staff at the restaurant even took time to split it into two bowls for us...