Beef looms large in Saigon’s food scene. A common preconception (I had it myself) is that fragrant herbs and subtle taste combinations dominate Vietnamese cuisine. To a certain extent that is true, but you don’t have to look very hard to encounter a more direct approach. That is especially true when it comes to steak. One of the most popular breakfast dishes in Saigon is bo ne (basically steak and eggs) while bo bit tet (steak with chips and usually a thick slice of pate, some onions and plentiful oil) is hugely popular despite being fully deserving of its reputation as the Asian equivalent of a British fry up.
While the Vietnamese take on steak is pretty damn decent, not to mention cheap, there are a host of other venues in Saigon where it is possible to demolish a juicy cut in a slightly more rarefied fashion.
First up, however, I must pay homage to my favourite Vietnamese steakhouse. Located on Nguyen Trai, near to the backpacker ghetto of Pham Ngu Lao, Pho 99 offers juicy cuts of tenderloin, sourced not from Australia or the US but from a farm near Cu Chi, for VND70, 000 ($3.50). Served with fries, salad and a banh mi (Vietnamese baguette), it’s possibly the best bargain steak on the planet.
In the higher end of the bracket (i.e.: the steaks are bigger and the surroundings more palatial) there are a few great options. The most illustrious venues in town are probably New York Steakhouse and Square One at the Park Hyatt. The former is, in this writer’s opinion, a bit overpriced, but there’s no doubting the veracity of the USDA certified meat. Square One, meanwhile, applies its all-round ethos of excellence to its steaks with various cuts, including melt in the mouth Wagyu, available.
There’s a host of slightly less pricey venues where a craving for meat can be serviced. Au Lac Do Brasil offers Brazilian-style churrascaria while other decent mid-range options include Al Frescos and Jaspas.