Saturday, November 25 2017

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Celebrating a hidden French gem

Update: November, 12/2017 - 09:00
No fuss: Simple yet cosy and classy atmosphere. VNS Photo Nomad Quynh
Viet Nam News

French food is one of the most popular Western cuisines in HCM City, which had much longer exposure to the Gallic nation. Among the many French restaurants, Atelier des Rêves is a favourite because of its great food, reasonable prices and exceptional service. Nomad Quynh reports.

 

Last weekend, my partner and I were looking for a special place to celebrate. Somewhere with great food that’s a bit different. The venue had to be nice but not pretentious or overwhelming - nor too mainstream. We were looking for a hidden gem to spend our budget of about VNĐ2 million for two people.

Atelier des Rêves – meaning the Workshop of Dreams – seemed to meet all these criteria. This place has been around for some time, run by a passionate couple who lived in France for 10 years. It’s the kind of place I’d like to support.

The restaurant is located in a fairly big but quiet lane on Kỳ Đồng Street, District 3, where cars can easily enter. There are a couple of tables in a small garden on the patio, plus about 10 tables inside. The interior design is simple, yet classy.

We immediately liked the menu. Apart from many choices for à la carte, there were three set menus at reasonable prices. There was fish for VNĐ495,000, meat for VNĐ655,000 and a Discovery menu for VNĐ855,000, VAT included. We decided on several starters, a main course, cheese of the day and dessert.

I rarely follow set menus unless there are no other options, as they are often too much for me, not to mention there are always a lot more choices with à la carte. However, the set menus here looked so good and seemed like better value, so we decided to go for them – one Discover menu and one Fish menu.

Delicious: Medium-rare tenderloin steak with morel cream sauce. VNS Photo Nomad Quynh
Yum: Pan-seared American scallops in butternut mousseline and cauliflower tempura. VNS Photo Nomad Quynh
Hmmm: House-made terrine foie gras served with bread and jam. VNS Photo Nomad Quynh

Staff asked if we wanted to share, so they could arrange to bring out the dishes in the best order, allowing both of us to try the different items in each set. I was impressed with this professionalism.

The first item was a complementary two sets of cream-corn soup with toasted tuna bread. The bread was nice, and if you like corn, for sure you will like this soup. Next came another complementary item — a bread basket with butter, which is common practice in most French restaurants. It was a good start.

The first appetisers in our two menus were quite similar — soft boiled eggs and poached quail eggs in green vegetable emulsion and croutons. It was nice and perfectly seasoned although not really special.

Then came two next items from the Discover menu — house-made terrine foie gras - which I was really looking forward to as I’m a big fan of foie gras, and pan-seared US scallops in butternut mousseline and cauliflower tempura. I loved them both. They were so fresh and flavourful, as perfect as one could expect.

Next were the main courses. For the fish set there were two choices — pan-fried fish of the day with clams and chorizo butter, or clam risotto with saffron cream. We went with the fish. For the Discover menu - Tenderloin steak medium rare with morel cream sauce, plus an extra portion of macaroni and cheese with mushroom. Again, everything was delicious, especially the mac and cheese. A pleasant surprise.

The next item close was cheese of the day — brie, camembert and goat cheese. I’m a big fan of cheese, however at this point I was already too full, so my partner had to finish most. Again, the staff showed their professionalism by replacing our bread basket (still mostly untouched) with new, hot bread.

For dessert, among many options, we went for tiramisu and mango sweet soup with vanilla ice cream and walnut crumble. Tiramisu is my all-time favourite cake, and here while it was quite good, it was not the best one I’ve had. However, the mango soup was definitely a winner, a light and perfect ending after a heavy meal.

Our total bill came to VNĐ1,850,000, including the two sets and a small Chateau Bouteilley bottle for VNĐ500,000.

We had a perfect evening and were satisfied with everything – the food, the service and the venue. Service was exceptional. All dishes were brought out with perfect timing, and staff were lovely and attentive. Furthermore, the restaurant was quiet and relaxing with minimum music, ideal for couples or groups who don’t like noisy places.

At the end of the meal, we got a chance to talk to the owners. I was surprised to see such young talent so dedicated about what they do. The husband manages the restaurant and waits on customers himself, while the wife is the main chef.

The couple lived in France for 10 years, attended the culinary school École Superieure Hoteliere de Paris, and worked in the Park Hyatt Paris for a while as sous-chef. They returned two years ago and opened Atelier des Rêves.

I asked them why there is so little information about their restaurant in the media, and was told instead of marketing, they preferred to focus on the quality of food and service.

If you decide to give this place a try, I would highly recommend the Discover menu. It’s the most expensive one, but really worth it, though I’m also curious about the meat menu. On the other hand, they change menus about once every four months, so next time it will be different. Do make reservations before going so they can serve you best. — VNS

 

Atelier des Rêves

Address: 20/5 Kỳ Đồng, District 3, HCM City

Tel: 028 3526 1518

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 11.30am – 1pm; 6.30pm – 9pm

                            (Monday closed)

Comment: Lovely French restaurant in HCM City with great food, nice venue and exceptional service at reasonable prices. Set menus are also available. Reservation in advance is recommended.

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