If suffering from rice overload
119-121 Bui Vien, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 3836 9220
Sitting in the middle of Saigon’s backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao, Stella, or the New Stellar depending on which sign you’re reading, is a standout restaurant serving Italian and Vietnamese cuisine on a street where there is no shortage of competition.
Like most of its neighbouring restaurants, Stella has a laidback atmosphere. Seating is split between two levels; the downstairs cafe has a little bit of 1960s diner motifgoing with bright red, booth seating. Upstairs, you’ll find a, remodelled in 2012, sports bar complete with a pool table, a few television screens, and darts. Both sections also have an outdoor seating area where, if you can brave the heat, you could spend some time watching the busy street below. It might be hard however to pull yourself away from the air-con seating inside.
Their menu offers a wide range of cuisine, raging from hearty, Western plates to local dishes. Even with the wide, appetising selection, the real reason to eat at Stella is for their Italian food, which ranks well compared to other restaurants in the city. Pasta dishes here come well recommended, if you’re a fan of puttanesca, spaghetti with capers and anchovies, the 89,000 VND offering at Stella does a solid job. If you’d rather go for their pizza, try the 109,000 VND Stella Special, which has basically every pizza ingredient you could imagine.
Self proclaimed as the home of “the best coffee in town” Stella is also sports a decent number of drinks on their menu. While being the best in town is certainly subjective, you may be surprised to learn that it is actually top shelf stuff. Their Western-styled espressos really do stack up well compared to other nearby cafes as do their prices, which start around 30,000 VND. Besides coffee they also offer plenty of juices, shakes and alcoholic beverages.
Sometimes when you’ve been on the road in a foreign country, even one with food as great as Vietnam’s, you need a solid, culinary reminder of home; if you find yourself in a similar situation, Stella is the place for you. It delivers solid dishes with admirable service in a part of town where walking into most restaurants is a gamble to find either. Because of this, Stella is popular both with backpackers passing through town and the city’s grizzled expats. Reservations aren’t really required but jotting down the phone number is a good idea, as they offer delivery to the surrounding area.
If you’re in the mood for more Western cuisine, but are looking for lower prices and more options outside of Italy, Bobby Brewers is a slightly cheaper neighbour that also happens to play full movies. You won’t find many fancier Italian spots in Pham Ngu Lao, or in the rest of the city, but a 10-minute taxi ride across District 1 could take you to Pizza 4P’s, where slightly more expensive prices buy you a more lavish setting and more presentable dishes. If you’d rather try Southeast Asian cuisine, take a short walk to Monsoon Restaurant for a menu that boasts an impressive collection of regional dishes. Or, if you’re more adventurous, visit the Thai Binh Market and take a shot on some street food.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 7th July, 2014.