Saigon, part deux, night life, restaurant review: Hoàng Yến buffet restaurant

Day 1,  SE Asia trip, Feb 2011
Saigon, Vietnam: day 1, part II

Hò ơ…………Đèn Sài Gòn ngọn xanh, ngọn đỏ,

Bé Na (my cousin) and I left the day spa after my nail polish dries up and quickly walked back home to get ready to go down to the center of SG for our first family dinner. I just found out that it is also my uncle in-law (dì Bé’s husband) birthday celebration. I told Bé Na let’s ride the motorbike instead of riding in the taxi with our family so we can stop by a store to get a card or a gift for his birthday. I guess Bé Na misunderstood me so she rode to the restaurant directly.

I was told we will be dinning at a buffet restaurant (Hoàng Yến) featuring everyday street food (món bình dân), which is perfect for us as we longed for down to earth, authentic, everyday Vietnamese food which is limited or challenging to find abroad.

The restaurant is on the 5th floor of Zen plaza

Hoàng Yến buffet restaurant

Zen Plaza, Lầu 5, 54-56 Nguyễn Trãi,

Quận 1, TP.HCM 

(08) 2210 2309

Price from poster above/dinner (Jan 2011)

M-F: $165,000 VND ~ $8.25 USD

Sat/Sun: $189,000 VND ~  $9.45 USD

There were lots of everyday, home style food and it’s sorted of overwhelmed to me. I am NOT a fan of buffet style restaurant as quantity is often compromised over quality.

Even if you don’t get greedy and sampling one piece of each food, you’ll get so full from trying and sampling each type of food that it defeated the purpose of good food/cuisine. I had a garden salad first with a Ranch like dressing. I think I spot some dirt on some of the salad’s but overall, the restaurant set up is efficient and clean but I have a different opinion on the attitude and service of a certain employee there.

Not sure whose plate this plate belong to in our group?

As usual, I did a walk through of the buffet to see what kind of food are featured. I saw some seafood, like prawn steamed in fresh coconut juice (tôm hấp nước dừa), crab over tamarind based sauce (cua rang me) which I really think is ghẹ (low grade, small crab), spaghetti (which is full of tomato seeds and tasted horrible). I am fairly good with Italian American cooking so I might be more critical comparing to someone who don’t cook as much. I don’t think they used Roma tomatoes nor tomato paste or Ragu. It was pretty runny and bland in my opinion.Again, I don’ have high expectation or near resemblance of authenticity or even good Western food in SG but it’s just way below par, with a city full of excellent chefs.

I’m a fan of wrap and roll so I was thrilled to see all the different type of rolls (finger size). I sampled the chả ram (Central Vietnam style egg roll), gỏi cuốn (spring rolls), bì cuốn (shredded pork skin rolls), lỗ tai heo cuốn (pigs ears rolls) and was so disappointed. The rice sheets were extremely dry, chewy and tasted like it’s been sitting out for so long although the restaurant was packed. They did had a variety of dipping sauces (mắm nêm, nước mắm, tương) so mom was a happy camper with all the different kinds of mắm in the house).

On a returned trip I saw the waiter took out the rolls from a plastic container so they must had made it well in advance that the rolls literally had no flavor, whatsoever. I also tried the grill beef tendon on a skewer (again, the length of the skewer was around the length of your finger) so it’s more like appetizer and to prevent the wasting of food, I guess?

This is my cousin’s plate (toward the end), Bé Na.

This is my plate, I tried bánh khọt (its made to resemble Swedish pancake ball with a touch of tumeric, pan fried), cánh gà chiên nước mắm (fried chicken wings toss in fish sauce), chả cá (fried fish cake), bánh ướt (steamed rice roll). It is definitely convenience to be able to sample everything under one roof but after my sampling of a street stall of bánh bèo, bánh bột lọc with Bé Na earlier in the day, I think the street stall delicious factor is 1 knot above this buffet restaurant.

This is from one of the little cousin’s plate (must be bé Gốm, con cậu Tuấn), there was a type of gỏi with khô or mắm (some sort of Vietnamese style salad with dried fish), 2 types of fried rice (which I’m sure nothing to run home with) fried chicken wings tossed in fish sauce

I just had to try the steamed escargot but again, got disappointed because it was so under cooked. The snail were only half cooked so it must have been unsafe to consume further. I picked here and there just for taste test and quickly put the plate aside.

I didn’t even bother with the desert bar since the main entree wasn’t to my liking. Plus, I heard my uncle said to save room for gelato/icecream so I was a happy camper. Those of you that know me well (especially Mr. J) knows that I love to munch on my ice-cream cone. Mr. L gave me a mini size ice-cream maker for Xmas and let me tell ya, I will never eat store bought ice-cream anymore. I made al naturel pomegrate ice-cream to go with the birthday cake for Beki’s bday just before we left for Vietnam and all her friends loved it.

We quickly said goodbyes to our family and head out to venture around SG ad cruising on our scooter.

Hoàng Yến buffet restaurant

Zen Plaza,
Lầu 5, 54-56 Nguyễn Trãi,
Quận 1, TP.HCM 
(08) 2210 2309

Aisa’s rating

  • Cleanest – dining area: 4/5
  • Presentation/set up: 4/5
  • Price: 3/5. Average for the food, in my opinion
  • Server’s attitude/customer service: 1/5 (This is due to the terrible waitress that told me they had no black pepper when I asked her for it. And yes, I did say “May I have”. I know I was polite. She should be fired, in my opinion. If she was the owners’ relative, she has no business being there if it wasn’t delivering the customers’ satisfaction, LOL.

Total spent: 0 (my aunt’s treat).

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