Dine fine

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Restaurants are no longer just about filling an empty stomach.

Nowadays, "fine dining" means elaborate multi-course meals and set menus for triple the price of regular five-star restaurants.

And somewhat surprisingly, Vietnam is no exception.

Featuring highly trained waiting staffs, top quality produce and the freshest, most expensive, ingredients, fine dining establishments have arrived in Vietnam, with each looking to define its own signature style incomparable to others.

Due to the steep prices, few can afford to have such "fine" meals, but the nouveaux riches in Vietnam, plus a healthy congregation of wealthy expats, are eating it up.

FINE DINING IN VIETNAM

IN HO CHI MINH CITY

"¢ Le Caprice
5B Ton Duc Thang St., Dist. 1

"¢ Olivier, Sofitel Saigon Plaza
17 Le Duan Blvd, Dist. 1

"¢ Signature, Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Tower
88 Dong Khoi St., Dist. 1
191 Hai Ba Trung St., Dist. 3

IN DA LAT

"¢ Le Rabelais, Sofitel Dalat Palace
12 Tran Phu St.

IN HANOI

"¢ Le Beaulieu, Hotel Legend Sofitel Metropole Hanoi
15 Ngo Quynh St., Hoan Kiem Dist.

"¢ Spices Garden, Hotel Legend Sofitel Metropole Hanoi
15 Ngo Quynh St., Hoan Kiem Dist.

IN HOI AN

Senses, Life Resort Hoi An
1 Pham Hong Thai St.

"Our customers can be those who want to impress very important customers or even impress their lovers," said Vincent Tan, executive chef at Equatorial Hotel.

The down low

Benjamin Attwater, a chef at Park Hyatt Saigon, explained the hefty price tags associated with fine dining: "to make a nice shape and different design fine dining dishes, the chef has to cut and waste a lot of food. Fine dining restaurants are not places one comes every day."

One of the most important aspects of a fine dining restaurant is its ambience, its ability to take you away to another world.

Le Caprice offers breathtaking views of the Saigon River and a panoramic vista of the city.

Senses restaurant at Life Resort in Hoi An was designed to remind guests of Vienna.

Less is more

Fine dining restaurants eschew the "bigger the better" philosophy, banking on the fact that wealthy people watch what they eat and are content with paying more to eat less.

The first impression food projects when it is served is very important, so presentation is key.

"Just like a photograph, or a painting, a dish should be attractive and catch the eye immediately. And like a painting, a dish should have balance," said Attwater.

Martin Bequart, executive chef at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza agreed, "Presenting a dish takes a lot of playing with ideas, colors, volumes, plate dressings, and setups."

"The food is like a beautiful woman who just woke up in the morning. She should take care of herself with some nice clothes, make-up, accessories and perfume to make her more sexy and attractive. The same with the food after being cooked," said Bequart.

"New fine dining restaurants are opening all the time in Vietnam, and more and more expat chefs want to show off their style here," said Attwater. "Many young Vietnamese chefs are also learning about fine dining restaurants, and many of them, I'm sure, will be well recognized in their own right in the near future."

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