Although the French officially lost their political clout in Vietnam in 1954, come dinnertime their culinary traditions remain highly influential. Slick restaurants touting high-end Gallic-inspired cuisine are mushrooming in the booming, increasingly sophisticated southern hub of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). But there is one venue that stands out if you like it hearty rather than haute. With a name that loosely translates as "house of gluttons," Le Toit Gourmand is just that: an out-of-town villa where those in the know go for a fix of cuisine bourgeoise.
The homespun setting is a long way from the spotlit, beech-wood minimalism of chic contemporary dining. Le Toit Gourmand's handful of tables are scattered between a tropical garden (complete with haphazard lanterns, a lion-head fountain and family swimming pool) and an intimate dining room lined with wine racks and family snapshots but that's all part of the appeal. For charismatic owner, chef, sommelier and host Gils Brault and his impassioned following, Le Toit Gourmand is all about the eating. The pages of his extensive menu groan beneath the weight of dishes guaranteed to delight traditionalists and sound neural alarms in the minds of the weight-conscious: coquilles Saint Jacques are served drizzled with rare lemon-vanilla olive oil; lobster comes dressed with anything from homemade ravioli to bunches of raw fennel, mint and basil; and tender joues de boeuf are ostentatiously topped with a slab of pan-roasted foie gras.
You can opt for à la carte, but Brault prefers to flamboyantly introduce his current specialities bushy moustache bristling with enthusiasm then propose a seven-course menu tailored to your tastes. Expect truffles and foie gras to feature prominently (over the past six years he has recruited a small army of suppliers, friends and regulars to bring him such things on a daily basis). You might also be treated to some homemade locust-wood-smoked salmon and sumptuous cheeses. But with Brault matching your every menu selection with a carefully chosen glass or bottle from one of the 180 or so French labels kept in his cellar, you'd best begin a trip to Le Toit Gourmand by clearing your afternoon or evening of all other engagements.
For reservations, call (84-8) 3811 7003 or (84) 908 225 884.
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