Every weekend spend-happy Saigoners descend on this seaside town to indulge in as-fresh-as-it-gets seafood, but being a tourist town, the prices here are high and the food can be hit and miss with restaurants more interested in hauling in business and churning out dishes to feed the masses than quality. Also don’t assume that the flopping fish in front of you is from the sea, as Vung Tau hosts large fish farms.
One Vietnamese seafood restaurant that was recommended to us over and over again was Ganh Hao. Located on the water at 9 Ha Long Street, the restaurant is something of an institution. We weren’t able to try it but it’s the type of place you’ll want to dine with a few friends as the seafood dishes are large and best shared family style. The price of coveted creatures like lobster and crab will be very dear. Also expect limited English. The restaurant will be packed with Saigoners who can probably help you order, or look around at what everyone is having and it will be delicious. There’s a second location at 3 Tran Phu Street.
For a cheap and tasty eat, Pho Hung (directly across from We Taste Fresh Restaurant) does brisk business with its 35,000 dong bowls of pho which come with all the fixings.
Garden Bakery at 128 Hoang Hoa Tham Street, at corner with A Chau St and across from Kim Huong Motel, is the place to pick up some baked goodies. It’s Vietnamese-style which means sweet bread and buns with sweet or savoury fillings. You can also get a coffee or other refreshment and WiFi, enjoyed with air-con inside or in their garden patio.
Vung Tau has a few delicious international restaurants and if you have a craving for Italian, David Pizzeria is a must. The intoxicating aroma of tomato and cheese wafts through the air of the two-storey restaurant, which is absolutely jam-packed on the weekend and the hurried servers can barely keep up. A quiet trattoria this is not. But it’s all well worth it for the pasta – including ravioli and pappardelle – pizza and risotto that start at 125,000 dong. Portions are hearty. There’s a menu board of daily specials featuring a lot of seafood.
It’s worth venturing out of the tourist area for Sushi Tokyo. The menu covers the favourites, and there are generous servings of sushi and sashimi delivered in a wooden boat. A filling a la carte dinner (soup, sushi, side dish and drink) will set you back 200,000 dong. The lunch sets, available between 11:00 and 14:00, come with soup, rice and salad, hover around 100,000 dong and are excellent value. There’s dining upstairs and downstairs, the latter being more noisy and cramped. Find the restaurant at 201 Thong Nhat Street, at the corner with Le Hong Phong.
The name is gimmicky but WTF – We Taste Fresh — is where to get your Aussie fare fix. This casual eatery with comfortable tables and chairs serves up Aussie burgers (egg, bacon, cheese, grilled pineapple) for 125,000 dong, as well as chicken parmie, fish and chips, steak pies and a flat white. If you’re self-catering, you can also pick up slices of cold cuts and cheese.
By the beach, Vung Tau Beach Club is the only western bar located right on Back Beach. Here you can enjoy a beer (or vodka – the bartenders are Russian) in the sand. It’s a kiteboarder and windsurfer hangout and they usually fire up the barbecue at sunset. Find it at 8 Thuy Van Street. The sign on the road is barely visible — it’s opposite Sammy Hotel, just south of it.
In terms of nightlife, Vung Tau has a seedy reputation, and once you’ve wandered around for a while, you’ll see why. There are sex worker bars/clubs masquerading as regular bars and ‘discotheques’. For the majority not interested in this kind of activity, it’s easily avoided – you can tell at a glance – but otherwise for fun, your options are limited.
North of David Pizzeria on coastal road Ha Long is a row of bars close to Front Beach. Lucy’s Sports Bar stands out from the bunch with its upstairs outdoor terrace overlooking the water and hydrofoil pier. Inside reeks of old cigarettes, but outside you can catch a seabreeze and amazing sunset with a beer – they have a decent list. We didn’t try the food; the menu has the usual pub grub fare. Catch the game, shoot some pool or wait for your ferry to Ho Chi Minh City over some breakfast. We also heard good things about Matilda’s Pub, a block east of Front Beach. This recently renovated Aussie-owned joint doesn’t have the sea view but you are guaranteed Western comfort foods, live games on the TV and cold ones.
Otherwise, make your own entertainment. Vung Tau has miles of wind swept promenade to stroll and deckchair seating to chug a beer and enjoy the sound of the ocean.
David Pizzeria: 92 Ha Long St (close to Front Beach), T: (064) 3521 012.
Garden Bakery: 128 Hoang Hoa Tham St, at corner with A Chau St & across from Kim Huong Motel; T: (064) 383 5288.
Ganh Hao: 9 Ha Long St, Ward 2; T: (064) 357 7777; www.ganhhao.com.vn; open daily 09:00-22:00.
Lucy’s Spots Bar & Hotel: T: (064) 385 8896; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.lucyssportsbar.com; open daily 08:00-22:00.
Pho Hung: 24 Hoang Hoa Tham.
Matilda’s Pub: 6 Nguyen Du; T: (093) 3216 425; email@example.com; vtmatildas.com; open daily 08:00-01:00.
Sushi Tokyo: 201 Thong Nhat St, at the corner with Le Hong Phong St; T: (064) 3807 066; firstname.lastname@example.org; sushitokyo.vn; open daily 11:00-14:00, 17:00-22:00.
Vung Tau Beach Club: 8 Thuy Van St; email@example.com;
We Taste Fresh: 11 Hoang Hoa Tham St; T: (093) 3595 245; facebook.com/wtfvungtau; open daily 07:00-23:00.