Burger-culture is alive in Saigon, but is it well? Are the flame grilled cow carcass slabs coming out of the burger barn above up to the Las Vegas benchmark? They’re certainly well travelled; out of the US, via Korea to Saigon. It’s an exotic, lengthy journey for a lump of meat, cow ‘parts’, preservatives and a bun. The Koreans have brought their brand of burger to town in force. There are seven branches of Lotteria dotted around town. And they’re very popular. Especially with the hip MTV watchin’ Saigonese youth looking for the cultural equivalent on a plate. This joint is an annex to the Coop supermarket at 168 Nguyen Dinh Chieu in District 3. You’ve got eight ‘Combo Set’s and four ‘Value Set’s to choose from. Prices range from 26,000VD for a Cheeseburger set (Burger, Pepsi, fries) to a 44,000VD Double Cheeseburger Value set (Double Cheeseburger, Pepsi, fries and a leg of fried chicken). Interestingly, for burger buffs, it’s not only Korean soap operas heading up the cultural invasion of Vietnam, but the Korean signature Bulgogi Burger has also joined the coalition of crap here. It’ll set you back 20,000VD.
OK – in we go. Regulation burger counter, cheap plastic, garish menus plastered above the kitchen. Staff kitted out in the standard, fast food fashions complete with hats and name badges. If you zip along to this branch of Lotteria at the moment and order a ‘Combo Set’ you’ll also get a FREE ‘Detective Conan’ notebook. Whoopee. I’m sold. I order ‘Combo Set 5’ (Double Cheeseburger, Pepsi, fries) for 36,000VD. This is the first time I’ve ever had a double cheeseburger, but it is US Election Day and time for a change, not only for the yanks, but for this limey too.
Not sure how common the word ‘French’ is in fast food joints across the States these days, but you’ll still find it plastered across your pack of fries here in Saigon. Fries are fine, no need for extra salt. Pepsi is Pepsi – I’m a Coke man myself – but the burger, actually burgers with this particular order, are second-rate stodge monsters. There’s way too much Mayo, fat gherkins and thick onions, but the biggest burger blunder of all – someone slipped half a head of lettuce in there . If I wanted rabbit food I would have hit the salad bar. Leave the shrubbery out and bring on the meat. All in all, this was unsatisfying and messy. Head to KFC if you’re looking for junk. There must be better burgers than this in town, but where? Comments please. Now back to the election. More junk later.