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Best New Restaurants of 2010

By: Nick Ross Posted: January-22-2011 in
New York Steakhouse
Nick Ross

An American-style steakhouse run by a couple of French foodies was always a mouthwatering prospect and so it has proved. Nick Ross pays homage to our newcomer of the year. New York Steakhouse. Photos by Quinn Ryan Mattingly and Khoa Tran.

Earlier in the year we ran a feature on New York Steakhouse. Here was a new 1940s-style Hollywood themed bistro and diner selling arguably some of the best steaks in Saigon and yet it was both set up and run by two French guys. It was an anomaly but it seemed to work.

Nine months on and this venue sits up there with some of the best. The steaks here continue to draw in the crowds. They are far from the greasy and cheap hunks of meat purveyed at places such as Diem Hoa Son or Beefsteak Nam Son. The New York sirloin, for example, weighs in at around US$20. Buy the equivalent in a similar restaurant in New York and you’ll be paying double. It’s American quality at Vietnamese prices.

Having not eaten here for a few months, I decided to return unannounced to see if the steaks were still up to scratch. Most of the comments I heard in between time had been great, but one little horror story made me wonder. Every restaurant runs the risk of a bad day or turning a difficult customer into an impossible one. But, knowing the man behind the scenes here, Herve Beal, the story I heard was a surprise as he is the consummate professional.

It was lunchtime when I arrived and although the set lunch menus looked tempting I passed them by and went straight for the steaks. The dual-language fold-out menu gives information (unfortunately only in English) on the different cuts of meat you can order and also explains cooking styles. I went for the slightly fatty but perfectly seasoned 250gm New York sirloin.

The final product came out rare as I had ordered it. On the side of the plate was the restaurant’s trademark roasted garlic and the potato gratin which I ordered as extra was a sublime addition. Crispy, but soft, creamy but not heavy. As in the past, three sauces were on offer to go with the meat. And what a piece of meat it was! Yielding, tender and tasty, it was every bit as delicious as I remembered it from first time around.

Nothing’s perfect and I’m not overly keen on the fake grass on the outside terrace. The slightly out-of-the-way location also means you’ve really got to want to go there. But besides that, New York Steakhouse more than deserves its status as the best newcomer of the year.

Prior to the arrival of Shri, almost every bar and restaurant that located itself up high (unless it was part of a five-star hotel) had failed. Not dramatically. A couple are still limping along. But no-one had properly managed to take advantage of a great view, cooler air and the feeling you can create in customers of being on top of the world.

For us, the fact that Shri has managed to establish itself so smoothly as the most upwardly mobile address in town is one large reason for our ardour. Even in the rain this contemporary European-style restobar has been drawing in the customers, averaging well over 100 covers a day and more than 200 at weekends.

Then of course there’s the cuisine and the service. The aim here is to keep the menu simple. Think grills, salads, European-style starters, mains and desserts. There is also a reasonable selection of sushi, sashimi and a small range of Japanese dishes on offer, too.

For me, though, consistency is the key to the success of any restaurant or bar, and the dishes I tried on this visit were as good as they were the first time round. The beef cheek was beautifully tender and the sea bass was to die for. The fact that manager Ashley Nichols still found fault in them, in particular in the lack of crispiness of the skin on the sea bass, to me says a lot. No one at this place is resting on their laurels.

Flow Saigon
In the grand scheme of things there’s nothing revolutionary about Flow. But when it comes to Saigon, a city that at least on a culinary scale is plagued by the curse of mediocrity, this place is a little bit special.

First is the décor. Set in one of the Chinese artisan-style shophouses that were once ubiquitous in this city, contemporary design sits next to the glamour and façade of the past. Then there is the space. Don’t be fooled by the relatively small bar downstairs. Come up the stairs and the place is huge.

Key, though, is food and of course service. Run by a team of food and beverage professionals from Holland, and with main courses costing a very reasonable US$10 to US$15, the product pretty much matches up to what you would expect in northern Europe. The white-plated, well presented fare is classic European with a contemporary twist. It’s not rocket science but it works and even more refreshing, it’s not quite perfect yet — I’ve eaten here twice and would have added a touch more seasoning to my main course chicken on my second visit.

So, Flow Restaurant, we’re not going to write gushing reports about you, because that would put you on a pedestal that would be hard to emulate. But so far, you’re doing great and are a welcome addition to the Saigon restaurant scene. One thing this writer knows for certain is that he will be back here again and again and again.

Republished with the kind permission of The Word HCMC


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