With summer sizzling away, let’s cool down with some green selections at a vegetarian restaurant that is almost in downtown Saigon but is sheltered from the hustle and bustle.
Situated in a small alley off Vo Van Tan Street, the three-story Prem Bistro & Café is small but very attractive.
The menu is sophisticated, extending even to some Indian dishes, European and fusion stuff.
A set of four Vietnamese rolls, two wrapped in rice paper and two others in mustard greens, could be an ideal choice to start with. If you want to try something a bit unusual, go for the Mediterranean roll — with couscous and various garden vegetables wrapped in a thin slice of spinach-infused wheat pita bread — generously dipped in mayonnaise.
Then try the spinach soup and avocado salad. The quinoa, mango and black bean salad is amazingly colorful.
The restaurant offers a world of tofu, the staple for vegetarians, in which you could get delightfully lost. Scrambled tofu, baked tofu, fried tofu with lemongrass, soft steamed tofu dipped in light sour sauce, every one of which deserves a try. To me, the baked one was definitely the most enjoyable.
For the mains, butter paneer curry is a good selection. If you prefer something dry, try the vermicelli sautéed with mushroom and vegetables.
Wrap up your veggie lunch with a cool glass of either fresh juice or smoothie, both of which come unsweetened (honey is recommended if you like). If you have a sweet tooth, try the green tea flan or passion fruit mousse.
The restaurant is nice, minimalist in places but with bright red lamp shades and walls in others. There are lots of photos of children on the walls.
Starting her restaurant venture in 2013, Le Thanh Ha, a yoga teacher, said she wanted to set up a place with non-meat foods that were but tasty and beautiful to look at.
The restaurant also hosts some charity activities and art exhibitions, including a recent painting exhibition to raise funds for children with HIV.
Some beautiful handbags and tablecloth made from waste fabric by a group of local kids are on display for sale.
Since the restaurant can only seat a few dozen people, you’d better book in advance.
PREM BISTRO & CAFE
129/4 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3, HCMC
Tel: 08 6279 9920.