This is La Fourchette restaurant at 9 Ngo Duc Ke Street, District 1. Let’s start by saying it’s not the very best French restaurant in Saigon – Le Bordeaux takes that accolade – but it does harbour very special memories. Last Christmas Eve, noodlegirl and I were treating ourselves to a romantic pig out on snails, fish soup and roast lamb in this comfortably pokey bistro. Not long after our digestifs, the toad decided it was about time he began his journey into this world in earnest. I don’t think it’s anything they put in the food, but if you’re a heavily pregnant diner, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Many a newcomer finds the service slightly surly in that disdainful Parisienne kinda way, although it is very efficient. Become a regular and you’ll get more smiles and less snarls. What La Fourchette absolutely excels at is in recreating an authentic, tres calme down-home bistro. The food is rarely a let down.
Restaurateur Marc has a board of daily specials which are always worth dipping into. The Confit de Canard des Landes, pictured above, for 150,000VD is a fave and is featured on the main menu. It’s served with green beans, frites and sauteed oyster mushrooms. The duck crumbles from the bone, the skin is crispy firm and you won’t find one chewy moment on this fat plate.
The Steak Tartare, 100,000VD is also on the main menu and comes with a simple lettuce salad with dressing and a handful of chips. You can prepare your tartare yourself or have the chef do it for you in the kitchen. It’s quite heavy, and the raw beef, capers, egg yolk, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce slab isn’t for everyone, but I’m a huge fan and this is a fave follow up to the dish below.
On that memorable Christmas Eve one year ago, I noticed a table of twelve getting stuck into stacks of these chaps, but on numerous subsequent visits to La Fourchette they never appeared on the specials board. So, a couple of months ago I mentioned the missing shellfish to manager Marc. "Was the festive spread a one-off or what?’ ‘Non’ came the reply. Oysters appear on the specials board once every two months or so, I’d just been unlucky and missed them. He asked for my card and promised to give me a call whenever they next arrived. I didn’t really think he would remember, but six weeks later I got a call and a table (and toadsitter) were reserved immediately. Now that’s the kinda service I like. I’m told at this time of the year oysters from northern France are often pregnant and so can be a bit plump. However, this lot were so good, and slim, we ordered another plate. At 180,000VD for six pieces, they’re not cheap. But if you’re an oyster addict like me, you won’t mind stumping up once in a while and chowing down with a shallot vinaigrette
The only dish I’ve ever found lacklustre at La Fouchette were the snails from the starters section of the menu. There’s a decent wine selection (not cheap either) and any special drink deals are listed behind the bar and on a tabletop card. There are a few pichet possibilities which helps keep a check on your wallet. La Fourchette opened in 1994 and is still a popular choice with the long term French expat set. Dinner for two is in the 400-600,000VD region. With wine it’s closer to 1,000,000VD. Due to its popularity and small size, there are only around 30 seats, reservations are recommended. Tel: (08) 8298143. View the business card and directions.