May 01 2012
Saigon has street food on every corner and restaurants down every street and tight dark alley; some alleys have seemingly nothing but restaurants, not just local hole-in-the-wall spots but pleasant new restaurants. One such alley, filled with higher end eats, is 71 Mac Thi Buoi.
Also known as Hem 71, the alley in the middle of downtown District 1 is packed with a wide variety of restaurants — some of the better in the city — and covers Vietnamese and Western cuisine. The anchor of the alley is the Warda, a Mediterranean restaurant where the decor is perfectly matched with its location in the back of the alley. At Warda you have the option to either partake in the delicious food, from kebabs to shwarmas, or you can sit back and enjoy a selection of flavoured tobacco. The tobacco, smoked from either a shisha or hookah, makes Warda a place where you can hang out late into the night.
For a proper Vietnamese meal you can try Quan An Am Vietnamese Bistro. The restaurant has a fun atmosphere, with red lanterns lighting the dining area and pictures plus hundreds of hand fans decorating the walls. The food is also quite good — not the best you’ll find in Saigon but not nearly the worst. For a Vietnamese restaurant that caters more to tourists than locals it’s a decent place to experience the country’s culinary exploits and really, it’s worth a visit for the interesting decor.
The alley is also home to Lac Thai Restaurant. In general, Thai food is hard to find in Saigon and here they do a solid job filling the Thai food gap. Like the other spots in the alley, the restaurant is clean and atmospheric, and has a rustic wooden styling that fits the space. Food here is a little pricey compared to other Thai spots in HCMC but the portions are on the larger side. In fact, most of the places in Hem 71 will price out on the higher side in Saigon terms, probably setting you back around 400,000 VND for a dinner for two.
These are just the highlights of Hem 71; there is more to be found. The alley’s central location makes it easy to reach. From Pham Ngu Lao, it is reachable with a 20-minute walk by foot or a much quicker taxi or motorbike ride. Don’t let the dark alley spook you; it’s filled with some great eats.
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