With the increasing cosmopolitan nature of this city and diners’ willingness to dabble in the exotic, the addition of Chile House, the first Chilean restaurant in Saigon, should be regarded less as a surprise and more an inevitability.

 

Upon entering Chile House, we noticed that everyone was sipping on the red stuff, be it merlot, cabernet sauvignon or syrah, not surprising with the extensive wine list on offer — around 20 reds and whites to choose from, and ranging from VND80,000 to VND120,000 per glass and VND245,000 to VND3 million per bottle. Such a mix pleases both entry-level wine drinkers and those looking for something more sophisticated.

 

I order the Santa Rita Reserva merlot. At VND120,000 a glass it’s one of the more expensive options but worth every dong. Velvety, soothing and warm, its aroma combines ripened black fruits, plum undertones and spicy notes, lingering long after it’s been swilled back. Lovely.

 

The menu presents over 40 dishes, many of which are advertised as traditional north Chilean specialities loved by Spanish noblemen, including chicken in syrah wine, goat with chardonnay au gratin and multiple savoury corn and pastry-based cakes.
We start with the Chile soup. Presented in a large, white porcelain tureen, it consists of ground beef, onions, white beans and stewed tomatoes. The soup has a lucid consistency and possesses an orangey-brown tinge similar to oxtail or minestrone soup. It’s hot, but not in the spicy sense, which I find disappointing. Though a sprinkling of black pepper adequately remedies the problem.

 

Out next is the Pinera sandwich that was created by Chilean president Sebastian Pinera upon his visit last month. Made up of smoked salmon, rocket and cream cheese wedged between two slices of brown bread, it’s a modest snack that benefits from lashings of what appears to be parsley oil. Though tasty, a lack of sides and the VND120,000 price tag could leave some dissatisfied, especially when other eateries downtown offer more for less.

 

We order a house favourite for our main course — beef tenderloin with merlot glazing. The beef is difficult to cut through, though we attribute this to the knife rather than quality of the meat, which itself is good considering it’s locally reared. The merlot glaze is excellent. Rich, sweet and tangy, this dish is truly mouth-watering, though some potatoes on the side would have topped it off.
With a rather limited dessert section (either flan or fruit) we opt for a Chilean adaptation of a South American regional favourite, the empanada de pino. This baked delicacy comes filled with beef, onions, black olives and a hard-boiled egg. Though savoury, the waitress insists it’s a dessert. And much like the restaurant’s idiosyncratic interior décor, we find the ‘cake’ a little odd before eventually warming to it.

 

We’re not blown away by the food, but the wine was superb. We’d be willing to return to Chile House for more of both.

 

The Prices

Chile Soup VND140,000

Pinera sandwich VND120,000

Beef tenderloin VND195,000

Empanada de pino VND89,000

 

The Verdict

Food: 8.5

Service: 11

Interior: 7.5

 

Food, Interior and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15

13 – 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 – 12.5 very good to excellent
8 – 9.5 good to very good
5 – 7.5 fair to good
0 – 4.5 poor to fair

The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals

Mystery Diner

The Mystery Diner is a person hailing from a country that may or may not be Vietnam. S/he can be seen frequently in the restaurants and cafes of Hanoi and HCMC, searching for the most delicious meals each city has to offer. Look for the masked figure in a cape, lurking in the darkest corners of your neighbourhood com tam or pho joint.

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