A movie projector is showcased at the entrance. Photo courtesy of S-Villa
By Đỗ Hữu
The first thing one notices about S-Villa is the old movie projector showcased at the lobby of the building.
The charming incongruity continues with cameras also dating from the 20th century displayed in glass cabinets scattered across the three floors of the restaurant.
You may think you've fallen backwards in time to an old movie studio, but no, you're in a restaurant.
Talking to the receptionist, I was informed that the restaurant’s owner is photographer Tô Thanh Tân, explaining the outdated gear. The French villa is filled with his photos on the walls, as well as furniture and decorative objects in European style.
The French villa is filled with Tô Thanh Tân's photos on the walls. Photo courtesy of S-Villa
S-Villa combines two spaces, one for cuisine and one for Trung Nguyên Legend Coffee. For people who come to drink coffee or to dine out, S-Villa offers an elegant space and dedicated service in a melodious French atmosphere.
Salmon salad with vegetables and Italian vinegar sauce. VNS Photo Đỗ Hữu
To start, I ordered salmon salad with vegetables and Italian vinegar dressing (VNĐ140,000). The salmon pieces were grilled a little bit to create a burnt surface and preserve the soft texture inside.
The pink pieces didn't have a common fishy taste, but were more like mildly flavoured meat that came straight out of the sea. The combination of salmon and beetroot, snow peas, lettuce and rocket make for a subtle and refreshing taste. The dish is completed with bread cut into small cubes. The Italian vinegar dressing makes the leaves shiny and a little sour. The dish really excites the tongue and eyes.
The next thing I tried was tiger prawn soup with fresh herbs baked with cream and garlic butter bread (VNĐ160,000). The soup's presentation with a whole tiger prawn and its charming red colour really wowed.
The soup’s thickness was ideal for me to feel the creamy, savoury and nutritious taste created from minced prawn and carrots. It was topped with thin almond slices.
Grilled black Angus rib-eye with black pepper sauce is unforgettable thanks to its fragrance and taste. VNS Photo Đỗ Hữu
For main courses, my friend and I chose Norwegian pan-fried salmon served with mashed potatoes, spring onions and tamarind sauce (VNĐ340,000); and black Angus ribeye with black pepper sauce (VNĐ450,000 for a portion of 180g)
Angus beef is known for its finely marbled meat, so its succulence sets it apart from other kinds of beef. I asked for medium-rare steak and was not disappointed. It was cooked how I wanted it; burnt on the surface and nicely pink inside. When I cut into the steak, I enjoyed the rich, tender, juicy and full-flavoured taste.
I have tried salmon and steak at different restaurants, and honestly, making a good grilled salmon or beef dish is not too difficult. Just select fresh and good ingredients, add spices and grill. What makes the dish extraordinary is the sauce it is served with.
The menu featured different kinds of sauce, from creamy sauce and red wine sauce to black pepper sauce, which impressed me as it showed the care and precision of the chefs.
The black pepper sauce I tried at S-Villa was so incredible that I expressed my appreciation to the waitress. She said the sauce is made of bone marrow. The recipe is secret but she revealed that the sauce is simmered for 48 hours.
“From 20 litres, it’s cooked until it’s condensed to five litres. The rest is divided into parts. They are added with different ingredients to make different kinds of sauce and we continue simmering it for a few more hours,” she said.
“That’s the key to make it creamy and savoury.”
More than a lunch or dinner, it’s a culinary experience in a relaxing space. There are plenty of things to discover at the restaurant so I will return for sure. VNS
Grilled salmon served with vegetables and mashed potatoes. VNS Photo Đỗ Hữu
S Villa Restaurant
Add: 128 Mai Hắc Đế St, Hai Bà Trưng Dist, Hà Nội
Tel: 035 858 8886
Comments: Western food in fine dining style, attentive English-speaking staff, private spaces in different scales, artistic decoration, lunch offers from VNĐ55,000.