The Mandarine is an upscale Vietnamese restaurant located down a small alley at 11A Ngo Van Nam Street in District 1. I had dinner there for the first time yesterday. Brett Martin was on his last night in Saigon for Bon Appetit Magazine and he wanted to compare the streetfood scene, which I think he’s become quite a fan of, with the pricier end of the Vietnamese spectrum. He very kindly invited noodlegirl and myself along for a nibble. The Mandarine won the local Best Fine Dining Award in 2001 from The
Guide (popular local English language adsheet). It describes itself as
‘Fine Vietnamese dining in traditional style’. Actually I’m not sure if it’s called Mandarin or Mandarine, but I’m going with the sign above, not the back of the business card or the local press.
$200 bought us the biggest load of bollocks I’ve yet to see on a table in Vietnam. Let me rephrase that – The good people at Bon Appetit Magazine spent $200 on a crock of shit that masqueraded itself as ‘fine dining’ last night. It was bad. It was very bad. The tamarind crab was the only vaguely acceptable dish, but there’s better, much better of that ilk elsewhere in this town. I’m not gonna go into the details of every dish and wotnot, but in over a year of blogging at noodlepie I’ve yet to totally slam a restaurant, a dish or a street hawker. This is the first time. Please take your wallet elsewhere. Any one of the places listed below is a far, far better choice.
Have you tried the Mandarine? What did you think? Comments please. I really am shocked that they can get away with such amateur food and slapdash service at the prices they charge. And the restaurant was full. On a positive note, it’s potentially great for Brett’s story. If not for the Mandarine. This blog gets the odd few thousand readers, but Bon Appetit gets around 2 million plus.
Food aside, we had a good time. I told Brett to swing by Pieman Towers at 8:30am the following morning to make up for the shoddy dinner. I took him down the street to the stall you can see above for a little bowl of Saigon magic. As a result, Brett’s last food experience in Vietnam was also one of his best. Here’s the Mandarine business card and directions. Avoid.