Top presentation: Loup de mer (seabass fillet, fennel and spinach with Chardonnay sauce) is among the best made-to-order main courses at Café Cardinal. VNS Photo Minh Phi
Viet Nam News
by Mỹ Duyên
If you dine during the day at Cafe Cardinal, a stylish restaurant known for its impeccable service and unbeatable location in downtown HCM City, you’ll first be impressed by its atrium flooded with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows.
Located on the sixth floor of the Times Square Building on Nguyễn Huệ Pedestrian Street, the fine-dining space features leather furnishings by Visionnaire paired with Italian marble, set against palatial, hand-laid mosaic art installations.
Decorative masterworks include distinctive chandeliers and light installations with a colourful trio designed for Venini by Brazil’s famed Campana Brothers, made of an eclectic array of repurposed glass fragments and copper wires.
The open kitchen, which is also artfully designed, presents an extensive menu of decidedly French choices with detours into complementary Western and Asian cuisines.
Headed by Italian chef de cuisine Tonino Giglio, Café Cardinal serves breakfast and lunch, buffet or à la carte, with made-to-order main courses such as buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, black cod with chorizo, and wok-fried lobster with black peppercorns.
For dinner, you can order à la carte or from a prix-fixe menu featuring French dishes, and choose from a dessert buffet and an array of imported cheeses. A la carte items start at VNĐ288,000 for starters, while the soups begin at VNĐ238,000 and main courses at VNĐ328,000.
Friday, which is seafood night at the restaurant, features a seafood buffet with a sumptuous array of premium fresh seafood, cold cuts and hot dishes cooked to order.
Starting from VNĐ1,688,000 including free flow of prosecco, the buffet offers many dishes as well as tasty delicacies such as smoked salmon, lumpfish caviar and tiger prawn in a spicy chilli sauce.
As children under 12 are not permitted in the restaurant, my colleague and I enjoyed the special seafood night without my nine-year-old twins who usually accompany me.
After carefully scanning the menu of hot items cooked to order, we decided to start with a crustacean bisque with Alaskan crab, apple and organic crusted egg.
While waiting for the soup, I walked around the food counters, which contained hot food and raw stations with a wide selection of fresh seafood, including imported caviar, classic condiments and sauces; Canadian Baynes Sound and French Fine de Claire oysters, on ice or baked; prawns with garlic, chilli and cherry tomato sauce; and Nha Trang lobster, baked or grilled. Freshly mixed salads and vegetables and sumptuous desserts were also on display.
When the waiter brought out the Alaskan King crab soup, I was not impressed with its colour, but after tasting it, I fell in love. It was one of my favourite items of the entire meal.
In addition to all-day fine dining, the restaurant serves up afternoon tea daily. Priced at VNĐ548,000, it includes selections from across Europe, including favourites such as Austrian Linzer torte, French éclairs and English scones.
Sweet tooth: Coconut and pandan jelly is a Vietnamese dessert offered on Friday seafood night at Café Cardinal. VNS Photo Minh Phi
Fresh flavours: Prawn and pomelo salad is a must-try at the cafe. VNS Photo Minh Phi
High-class: Café Cardinal provides luxury ambience and impeccable service. VNS Photo Minh Phi
On Sundays, roast carving and seafood stations (and a chance to pair brunch with Louis Roederer Champagne) further tempt visitors to while away the hours.
I also sampled the delicious and freshly mixed pomelo and prawn salad with a homemade sauce, while my colleague opted for caviar and rice rolls.
Two premium raw oysters on ice with lemon juice, one from Canada and another from France, were fresh and juicy, and though the gratinated oyster with cheese looked tempting, we skipped it and headed for the main course.
The two made-to-order main courses were crevette de rivíere (golden crispy river prawn with pepper sauce) and loup de mer (seabass fillet with fennel, spinach and chardonnay sauce), both of which were exquisitely prepared and presented.
For the prawns, I consumed the body while my colleague chose the head. The crispy prawn, well married with the homemade sauce, melted in my mouth. The sea bass was good, but the prawn really won me over.
At the dessert counter, we noticed green tea cakes, tiramisu and strawberry cheese cake; Vietnamese coconut and pandan jelly, and seasonal fruit cocktails, among other items.
I broke my personal rule not to eat sweets in the late evening and ordered the coconut and pandan jelly. With less sugar and more coconut milk, the dessert was especially flavourful and should be a must try for lovers of Vietnamese desserts.
Dining at the luxe Café Cardinal, where impeccable hospitality is combined with premium ingredients and amazing food, was a memorable experience. Pricey, yes. But well worth it. VNS
Address: Times Square Building, Level 6
22-36 Nguyễn Huệ & 57- 69F Đồng Khởi streets, District 1, HCM City
Tel: (028) 3823 6688
Comment: All-day fine dining, international cuisine, continental during the day and contemporary French in the evening; elegant ambiance and impeccable service.
A dress code policy is applied, and children under the age of 12 are not permitted.