Sao Mai, at 35 Dong Du Street in District 1, is deep in budget end Gallic territory. This place is heavily patronized by the French expat community. I’m not sure why that is, maybe the fact you can buy wine by the carafe and there’s a vaguely French influenced menu? Sao Mai is still clinging (just) to a reputation built up over the years for the best sandwiches in Saigon. Although that received a killer blow with the arrival of the hyper-popular expat hang, Au Parc Deli & Cafe and its voluminous sandwich delivery menu. Heavy same street competition from Cafe Latin, Al Fresco’s and Java Cafe add three more heavy duty nails to Sao Mai’s coffin. However, it’s quiet, child friendly and the service is pretty good.
There’s an extensive menu; fish, beef, pork, chicken, lamb, salads, soups, charcuterie, crepes and… sixteen different pizzas. Those ‘famous’ sandwiches go for between 32,000VD and 69,000VD. On this visit, it’s pizza-testing time and I plump for a Pepperoni and Bell pepper strewn ‘Pizza New York’ for 70,000VD. This makes it a more expensive option than Cappuccino. It’s also far smaller and light, too light. Occasionally, I like a pizza that challenges me. One that says, "Have a go if you think you’re hard enough." But, Sao Mai’s a pussy. There’s no danger of a hundredweight of cheese clogging my pipes or of hitting dough-fatigue. That’s no bad thing, just nice to have the option. This is adequate and airy, nothing more.
Sao Mai’s pizzas are fired in an off premises oven and delivered by motorbike. It’s the only restaurant I know of that has to call in for its own delivery pizza. The manager told me the restaurant oven isn’t large enough. Well, the pizza wasn’t that big, so their oven must be weany. However, unlike the local competition, Sao Mai doesn’t boast blaring television
boxes, mini-skirted waitresses or rock ‘n’ roll vibes. The food might
not be way-fab, but if it’s peace and quiet you’re after, this could be
your spot. View the business card and reverse side info.