Trois Gourmands, Saigon

In the residential area of District Two, twenty minutes away from the busy center of Ho Chi Minh City, one can have a luxurious multi-course French dinner nonpareil. As with many of Southeast Asia’s fine dining gems, Trois Gourmands is a beautiful house which was remodeled into a restaurant, complete with a garden and pool. A five course meal is reasonably (dare I say, ridiculously) priced at $35 USD, and you can add additional starters for another $5 each for a six or seven course meal. This isn’t strictly a degustation, I’d say, because the servings are quite generous. I emailed ahead to make a reservation, and also to ask if they had vegetarian options available for my date. The manager, Joel, promptly responded and promised to take care of everything. They had prepared a six course vegetarian meal, all with unique, off-the-menu items especially for my date. As for me, I know I should have gone with six courses as well, but with so many interesting items on the menu, I just had to go with the full seven. They have a lengthy list of French wines personally selected by the owner, Gils, who I think was out of town on vacation when we visited (other top French restaurants were actually closed because the owners were vacationing). We decided to just order wine by the glass, as we knew that we had to save room for the food.

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The first course – not quite an amuse bouche, as this was definitely more than just one bite, was a delicate black truffle and scrambled eggs dish served in a martini glass. A lot of restaurants go crazy with their truffle oil, and it was good to see real mushroom shavings here.

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The first of my appetizers was Coquilles St. Jacques, or scallops, served on truffle mashed potatoes. This was easily one of the best scallop dishes I’ve had the pleasure of tasting: buttery, melt-in-your-mouth and succulent.

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My second appetizer was Escargots de Bourgogne au beurre persille, or snails topped with garlic parsley butter. The escargot was juicy, not chewy, and the garlic parsley butter was excellently seasoned and balanced, adding just the right touch of flavor to the snails without being too rich.

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The last of my starters was Boudin Noir (blood sausage) with apples. I love offal and nasty bits, and I try to order blood sausage whenever it’s available. I really loved the balance and restraint in all the dishes. Nothing too over the top, just enough to excite the palate.

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As for the special vegetarian menu, the first appetizer was a salad of mesclun and other micro-greens. Fresh ingredients and a citrus vinaigrette, if I remember right.

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The second vegetarian starter was a pair of these tarts. I can’t for the life of me remember what was in them, as I only had a small taste, and was enjoying my own dishes way too much. My lovely dining companion enjoyed both her starters, nevertheless.

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Our sorbet was a refreshing surprise of tomato and basil. I expected the traditional fruit, but this unique twist on the standard palate cleanser made our meal that much more interesting.

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For the entree, Trois Gourmands offers grill items such as your standard steak and lobster with a supplement to your bill, but with so many interesting choices on the menu of entrees, why order something you can also cook at home? My main course was braised beef cheeks topped with seared foie gras. The horribly taken photo does no justice to this luxurious dish. My jaws hardly did any work as the beef cheeks were oh so tender, and with the foie, I just wanted everything to rest on my taste buds for as long as possible.

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The vegetarian entree was Cepes, recently flown in from France, and aubergine, with zucchini and carrots. I’m not sure how they actually cut the vegetables on the side — they weren’t tourned, but they aren’t your standard carrot sticks either. I appreciated how the every dish on the vegetarian menu was thought out instead of hastily thrown together. I got to taste a little of each dish, and indeed, they were quite good. All that was missing were some lardons or more foie gras — just kidding!

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Perhaps the real house specialty of Trois Gourmands comes after the main course. The fromage course is a selection of housemade cheeses, which varieties included a”plain” cheese with garlic and olive oil, parmesan, truffled, green onion, rosemary, red wine, red pepper, and a “barbeque ash”. There is something for everyone, with more subtle cheeses similar to feta and parmesan, and bolder, more adventurous cheeses like the last few I mentioned. It is at this point that we started to feel really full.

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For dessert, I chose to go with creme brulee. This was, to be honest, my least favorite dish of the night. It was good, but didn’t stand out as much as the rest of my dishes. I chalk it up to palate fatigue, as well.

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My lovely date ordered a trio of Bellany ice creams. If I remember right, these were coffee with chocolate chips, coconut and salted caramel.

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The meal wasn’t over yet, as we were given complimentary digestifs of Armagnac. One could have as much as they want, but after all that sumptuous food, there really wasn’t much room left.

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Finally, for mignardises, a small macaron. I can’t recall if we capped the dinner with coffee, as well, but all in all, this was a dinner to remember. I highly recommend having a meal to Trois Gourmands to everyone who visits Saigon. The price can’t be beaten, the food is outstanding, and the service is excellent. They don’t add service charge to your bill, so be sure to tip generously. The experience is more than worth it, and definitely at a much lower price than a similar fine dining meal in the Philippines, or practically anywhere else.

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