Last week I went back to Square One at the Park Hyatt Saigon to try out the restaurant's new Saturday Brunch.
Square One is popular for its varied menu of contemporary Vietnamese (mainly Southern dishes), French and other food.
It's dining in luxury amid a décor of cultural fusion. In true Asian style, dark carved wooden screens are arranged to create private spaces, the interior reddish lighting is warm, and there is plenty of natural light supplemented from the balcony.
In the late afternoon, Square One is the perfect place for getting together with friends over drinks, sitting on the spacious balcony overlooking the opera house, and looking at the birds as the sun sinks behind the coconut trees. The city seems far away.
From our table between two open kitchen areas, we could watch the cooks rolling gỏi (spring rolls) and trimming fat to prepare foie gras.
Square One is a lively place full of interesting objects, colors, lights and cooking smells, and the countryside and mountain-style bamboo and rattan baskets add that special touch.
There are displays of fresh fruit and desserts, as well as the many spices that are vital in Vietnamese cooking such as star flower, cinnamon, chili and pepper.
The young chef responsible for the innovative southern Vietnamese style dishes is Benjamin Attwater from Sydney.
Besides spring rolls, fish in a clay pot, mango salad, stirred thiên lý (tonkin jasmine) flowers and such, Benjamin likes to add something new to his menu, like sashimi with dill, sesame and lime.
Park Hyatt Saigon
2 Lam Son Square,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: (08) 3 824 1234
He is inspired by Vietnamese art and culture, and it was paintings by famous Vietnamese wartime artists that gave him ideas for a special menu he created in April 2010.
Square One's Saturday Brunch is something new and different. There are 40 dishes to choose from, and each is cooked after an order has been placed, so the food is always warm and fresh from the kitchen.
We ordered grilled tiger prawns for starters. For the main course, our selections were scallops with cashew nuts and green peppercorns, charcoal-grilled chicken, and salmon for me, and beef with foie gras and stirred thiên lý flowers for my companion.
For dessert, we took up the suggestion of the hotel's executive chef, Asif Mehrudeen, and had chocolate soufflé, banana tarte tatin and warm coconut crumble. They were the ideal finishers for two people with a sweet tooth like us.
The basic package for a meal without champagne costs VND1,050,000, but for an extra VND600,000 they throw in Moet Chandon Brut, Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot and Cape Mentelle Semillon Blanc Sauvignon.
The Saturday Brunch is available at the usual lunchtime hours of 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.