Located in the heart of Phu My Hung, Pham Thach Thao’s first restaurant, S’Cottage, opened its doors in October 2010. It derives its name from combining Thao’s nickname, Sandy, with the word cottage. The small eatery boasts international cuisine and its décor is inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. It may sound a bit kitsch but it works — the restaurant is bathed in bright green, pink, blue and red pastels that emit an aura reminiscent of the European countryside blended with an Asian cottage. Music from the café is piped into the downstairs and outside dining areas.

 

The chef, Tran Quang Tu, was trained in Vietnam and worked previously at the Sofitel. He has assembled an extensive menu spanning 15 pages inclusive of beverages. In addition to a healthy selection of starters, soups and salads, the mains include beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, duck, crabs and prawns. Almost all dietary preferences are catered to here and any worries that might arise from such an all-encompassing menu were allayed shortly after the food arrived.

 

The crab and asparagus soup was a solid choice and was noteworthy for the intact stalks of asparagus instead of having them shredded up, as most places seem to serve it. French onion soup is also a favourite of many diners and should be ordered at S’Cottage if only for the presentation. It’s served in a wide bowl with a crouton covered in cheddar cheese that resembles a tiny island. Presentation is a craft at which Chef Tran excels.

 

The grilled sea bass with basil mashed potatoes and vegetables in fennel sauce was a gorgeous sight. Much like the décor on the walls, the plates incorporated bright colours, in this case yellows and greens, to whet your appetite. There was enough fennel to please, but not overpower. The sea bass was a touch overdone, but the mashed potatoes had an appealing consistency that was blocky and very different from the typical version found in Vietnam.

 

The Australian lamb rack with candy sweet potato in red wine sauce was nothing short of exquisite. Accompanied by a baby green salad and some steamed vegetables, and bathed in reds and lavenders, the lamb was rare and willingly departed from the bone. Tender and juicy, it was as delightful in taste and texture as any fillet. The secret of the lamb lies on the bone, however. Those bits of meat offer up a piquant taste that will keep you gnawing away and wanting more.

 

The dishes all came in modest portions and the desserts were no different. The tiramisu sparkled on the plate as well as on the palate, but was not enough to share. The banana crepes were sweet and saucy, and a bit more generous in size, but it’s safer to plan on everyone who wants a dessert to order their own.

 

The cocktails here are reasonably priced from VND79,000 to VND99,000. At VND129,000 for a glass of house wine it’s better value to order a bottle that ranges from VND559,000 to VND1.9 million. Drinks are served with a plate of toasted bread sticks that come with three dipping options: oil and garlic, and two types of balsamic vinegar — sweet and tangy, with olive oil.

 

With a wide selection of dishes, S’Cottage should be able to keep its customers coming back for more. It’s the kind of place where the cuisine can be enjoyed twice; once with your eyes and then again with your mouth.

 

The Prices

Crab & asparagus soup VND59,000

French onion soup VND49,000

Grilled sea bass VND190,000

Lamb rack VND260,000

Tiramisu VND39,000

Banana crepes VND69,000

 

Rating

Food: 11

Atmosphere : 12

Service: 9

 

Rating System

 

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

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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