Nho Saigon, or the ‘Memories of Saigon’ manages to evoke an authentic Vietnamese spirit with its food and service
Given the carnage wrecked by COVID-19 in past years, the food industry seems to be retaliating with all its might. Joining the culinary landscape of BKC, Mumbai is Nho Saigon, an earnest ode to Vietnam.
During our visit, the ambience was completely cognizant of and catered towards Valentine’s Day. From walls adorned with heart shaped decorations to a kissing booth and a special menu, there’s love everywhere you look. The same translates in a warm and friendly service, with the servers more than up to assist you with recommendations. So if wariness of the unfamiliar is an obstacle, Nho Saigon has you covered.
Origin’s first eatery, Nho Saigon doubles up as the first mead taproom in Mumbai. The magnificent bar counter smack in the middle of the restaurant is befitting the title, replete with Origin’s radical craft meads. Decked in hues of teal, there’s a noodle shaped installation as a nod to Vietnam’s signature ‘pho’.
The restaurant itself is inspired by the local bars and colonial eateries of Ho Chi Minh city. The space features a blend of old and new elements, attempting to recreate the bustling streets of Vietnam in a fine-dining space. The bistro style high and low tables are perfect for an intimate meal with loved ones, but also allow room for friendly across the table banter. Dotting the walls are framed images of the food of Vietnam shot by one of their clients and a video on loop that takes you through the villages and streets of the land of the ascending dragon.
Nho Saigon features Vietnamese classics along with sub-cuisines that were formed after the French War. Helmed by Mumbai-based chef Nikhil Abhyankar, a Gordon Ramsay alumnus, the menu is every bit intriguing and inviting.
Here’s where we must warn you, you’ll be tempted to sample a lot off the menu. Nho Saigon makes sure to include an English translation besides the traditionally named dishes, with a description that’s sure to avoid alienation among diners.
We started off with the Truffle Dumplings, one of the Valentine’s specials. In three words, they were light, flavourful, and warm, pairing exceptionally well with the assorted dipping sauces. The Prawn and Avocado Vietnamese rice rolls at Nho Saigon come with a tart peanut and fish vinegar sauce. While the rice sheets were a little too glutinous, they overall made for a nice gateway to the rest of the meal. The Crispy Pork salad is simply excellent, with the crispy pork and pomegranate complementing each other well, and the hondashi-jaggery vinaigrette making for a delightful dressing.
On the drinks front, Geisha, a basil honey mead, provided a harmonious balance of sweet and savoury in every sip. You won’t be able to stop at just one, and that’s a guarantee. There’s also a bunch of special viet cocktails and mocktails at Nho Saigon, and the servers are always happy to help with recommendations. If this is your first time exploring the cuisine, it’s always advisable to check in with a knowledgeable staff to avoid disappointment.
The Banh Xeoh or Crispy viet crepes come in options of egg, chicken, and prawn. It’s a traditional ‘Hue’s style Vietnamese pancake, definitely filling but a good portion to share between two. While it certainly made for an interesting bite, the flavours didn’t seem as punchy as everything else on the menu. Perhaps staying true to its authentic nature, but running the risk of coming across almost bland to an Indian palate.
What came in as an absolute banger of a surprise was the Vietnamese pizza. A Hanoi classic, the rice paper based pizza is grilled over charcoal, making for a crunchy texture with delicious toppings of your preference. We tried the Grilled chicken and egg on the server’s insistence, and we definitely weren’t disappointed. The star of the evening at Nho Saigon, however, was easily the Pho. The restaurant does complete justice to the traditional five-spice broth, and is available in veg, chicken, and fishball options. The broth itself is very mild but provides a warm comfort right down to your bones, while the noodles and added condiments make for a unique bite each time.
Wrapping up a rather filling meal were some decadent, authentic Vietnamese desserts. The Che bap, or Sweet corn pudding was an interesting juxtaposition of sweet and savoury notes. It’s juicy, creamy, and indulgent all at once, and definitely a Nho Saigon signature experience. However, it was the Chua cay, or the Chocolate and coffee tart served with a black sesame ice-cream plus tuile that won it for me. The earthy tones of the ice-cream and the rich but not too sweet flavours of the tart marry together seamlessly, making this dessert perfect for those not too keen on a sugarfest.
Of the excellent mead, carefully curated menu, enticing (and just a little bit chilly!) ambience, it’s the hospitality of Nho Saigon that stands out. An evening can quickly be ruined by inattentive servers, but the ones here are trained to ensure diners have a delightful time. Now you know where one can be guaranteed a cosy peep into the culinary and aesthetic charm of Vietnam in Mumbai.