Pretty hip with great food.
Inconspicuously tucked behind an average exterior on the busy street of Hai Ba Trung, just around the corner from the Saigon Opera House, the stylish Xu Restaurant is among the finer restaurants of the city.
Xu is divided into two sections: the upstairs is a proper, mood-lit restaurant, while downstairs you’ll find a lounge with a large bar complete with plush couches and chairs. Both floors give off a sleek, stylish vibe that can make you feel under-dressed, which may be why Xu is one of the few places in town to enforce a dress code. Walls are decorated with trendy modern art portraits of various historic figures, like Ho Chi Minh and Richard Nixon, and metal balls hang from the ceiling. The staff are professional, providing top-notch service. Sitting down at Xu you’ll be given a big glass of iced water — more luxurious than the standard tra da — and the staff will ensure that it almost never empties.
Although a visit might have you feeling pretty hip, the real reason to come to Xu is for their food. Xu’s menu consists of a mix of traditional and contemporary Vietnamese cuisine sprinkled with a few Asian and Western dishes. Prices at Xu are a little steeper compared to other spots in Saigon, with mains starting at around 100,000 VND, but the quality of the food matches the price. Their Vietnamese food is especially well put together — the bun bo hue (110,000 VND), for instance, may be one of the better bowls you’ll ever have. If you’d rather try something more Western, the Philly cheesesteak sandwich, which at 220,000 VND may seem a bit high, is worth every last dong.
While the restaurant closes at a sensible time, the lounge downstairs plays host to a trendy party scene where DJs spin until late in the evening. Drinks here are more expensive than what you may find in Pham Ngu Lao, but compared to other fancy spots in Saigon they are actually pretty reasonable, starting at around 50,000 VND for a beer and 100,000 VND for a cocktail.
Xu is not going to be a restaurant for everybody; if you’re a backpacker looking to eat on the cheap, you’re better off going to a different spot. However, if you’re in the market for a fine dining experience you can’t do much better.
If you find things at Xu to be too fancy, you’re only a short taxi ride to Cuc Gach Quan, another spot to serve high-quality local food; Barbecue Garden is also just a few blocks away, where you can cook your own food; or head to Ben Thanh Market and get your street food on. You’re also only a 10-minute walk from Bobby Chinn’s on Le Duan, another stylish joint.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 11th November, 2014.