What is it? When Bao La moved to Hong Kong, it was to take up the mantle as sous chef at Ho Lee Fook under the mentorship of Chef Jowett Yu, which is now one of Hong Kong's most popular restaurants. La now opens his first solo venture under the Black Sheep Restaurants’ flag, with the help of one he considers of the most highly esteemed consultants in cookery realms – his mother, Mrs La.
What you won’t get: Do not arrive at Le Garcon Saigon looking for pho or banh mi. This is not that kind of Vietnamese restaurant – instead what you will find is something far more lively and thoughtful.
What you will get: The flavours are big and the format standardised – almost every dish comes alongside a bevvy of fresh herbs and lettuce, rice paper rolls and condiments for dipping. The tastiness that is packed into each protein –divided between skewers and larger plates under the Les Grillades section of the menu and achieved with all natural seasonings. Whether using the dehydrayted stems of herbs picked from the garden outside or time-honoured sauces coming from Mumma La, this team is delivering some seriously tasty food.
Just so you know: It is worth noting that you will be pounding water back post-dinner because the food is full of things that bring other flavours alive like salt, sugar, lime and vinegar. Dishes are large in taste in the same way the filling of a sandwich is the star of the show; to think of them any other way would be like eating the pastrami from a Reuben and claiming the preserved meat is too salty. This did not stop us from throwing back, to the point of self-induced unconsciousness, many plates of yellow chicken ($158), spiced tofu ($88), pork meatballs ($128) and hedgehog mushrooms ($78) on their own as well as in salad wraps.
This is how you do it: Get your hands dirty to fully embrace the concept; tear off shiso leaves and Vietnamese mint, stuff your roll with lettuce and some pickled carrots, and vermicelli noodles. Dip it into the nuoc mam, peanut sauce for chicken and pineapple and anchovy for beef. Play with different flavours and combinations; the formula stays the same for all grilled items so go in with the understanding that your night will be all about rice paper rolls and beer and you'll be well-equipped.
There are also some excellent stir fry dishes like the stir-fried leeks, bean sprouts, green chives and crispy garlic ($78) the banh xeo, chorizo, bean sprouts and prawns ($118) that shouldn't be missed, nor should the house-made Vietnamese charcuterie, pickles and bread ($168).
Verdict: Without overcomplicating them, the team have managed to keep flavours robust and have provided an interesting deviation from the typical Vietnamese fare. The atmosphere is guaranteed to be buzzy and with a price per head averaging under $400, we find it hard to fault Le Garcon Saigon.
Le Garcon Saigon
Website or Tel: 2455 2499
Hours: Closed on Monday, Tues - Sun 6 - 11pm