Sometimes it’s nice to step back from the expensive and the glitzy. Sometimes it’s nice to ease into the comfortable and the quiet. Don’t get me wrong; I adore eating at expensive restaurants just as I adore haute cuisine; dressing up, lingering over multi-course meals, sparkling conversation. Yet sometimes you just need a change.
With this attitude in mind, I went out for my first dateless Mystery Diner to Le Terroir, a new little French bistro tucked back near the Opera House. Though it’s almost a year old, I had yet to try it, and I liked the idea of a good French meal without fuss or any snobbery save my own.
It’s much simpler ordering when one is by oneself; within two minutes, I’d ordered the countryside tagliatelle (VND150,000) and a medium rare flank steak (VND195,000) — vegetables be damned. To drink, I got a glass of La Vielle Ferme, the house red (VND80,000). Le Terroir is almost unbeatable in terms of price for French restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, but I wasn’t sure yet if that was a good thing.
Like a Neighbourhood Bistro in Paris
Alternating between reading my book and chatting with the waitress, I sized up the restaurant. Le Terroir is charming without being twee, walls covered with mirrors and a wide selection of interesting prints. The dining room is small, but in an intimate rather than crowded way. A gauzy red curtain blocks off the outside world. It felt somewhat like a neighborhood bistro in Paris.
The service impressed me. Granted, it wasn’t terribly busy — but my waitress took the time to talk wine with me, and to cheerfully assuage my curiosity about other dishes on the menu, who owns the place, what the weekday lunch deal is like and much more. That kind of warmth is a critical part of good service.
Rich in Flavour, Not in Price
Then the pasta arrived, and I fell to. The cream sauce was rich, but needed both salt and pepper to balance its creaminess. The dense, flavourful slivers of smoked duck breast and the salty, fatty bacon played well together, and I finished my plate (sizable, given the quite reasonable price) off tout suite.
My steak tasted good; I enjoy the extra-beefy flavour of a good bavette, and Le Terroir didn’t disappoint in that department. The inside was a perfect pink, and the outside was a warm, crunchy brown.
The house red complemented both dishes quite well, its tartness clearing out the cream sauce and enhancing the deep umami notes of the bavette.
By the time I asked about ordering dessert, the chefs had already left. I survived the disappointment, though I’d quite wanted to try the chocolate fondant (VND75,000), made with Valrhona Coeur de Guanaja chocolate.
A Quiet Date, A Relaxing Late Dinner
Honest assessment? It’s a quiet, unassuming little place with a simple, traditional French menu that’s large enough to have something for everyone, yet small enough to suggest that the chefs truly know how to prepare each dish well.
The wine list is wonderful — the owner also owns wine bar Cork and Bottle — but the drinks list is a tad rudimentary. No worries; I don’t need to drink single malt Scotch every time I go out... though they did have it.
I’d recommend it. It’s a great place for a quiet date or a relaxing late dinner, and the charming waitstaff means that even alone you won’t be lonely. And after all, you’ve got the food to keep you company.
Le Terroir is located at 30 Thai Van Lung, Q1, HCMC. Visit them online at leterroir.vn
Food, Decor 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