Given the pandemic’s devastating impact on the region’s HoReCa scene, the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list published by William Reed Business Media is playing a big role to bolster recovery and provide diners with local insights and culinary recommendations. The launch of the ninth edition shines a long overdue limelight on Vietnam, celebrating the gastronomy of the nation for the first time. The organization has ranked the contemporary Ho Chi Minh City eatery, Anan Saigon, in 39th place, formally acknowledging it as the country’s most innovative restaurant.

Fast developing into a cosmopolitan city, thanks to robust industrialization and increasing consumer spending, Vietnamese eateries are breaking traditions to forge new paths of experimentation and innovation. With a strong culinary foundation and a young population eager to try new flavors and unconventional pairings, the demand for global taste-making has evolved immensely in the nation.

Some new additions to Vietnam’s food scene:

A Beacon for Change: Striking a balance between modern and traditional, Anan Saigon’s chef-owner, Peter Franklin, uses his decades of fine dining experience to elevate iconic Vietnamese dishes such as Consommé-Style Pho, Banh Xeo Tacos, French Dip Banh Mi. According to Chef Franklin, his dishes remain deeply respectful of the history, traditions, and flavors of Vietnam, yet his vision is to be equally progressive and international in his outlook. “It’s the techniques that are changing. Most Vietnamese chefs have been afraid to take that on, but we’ve opened the door, so it’s encouraging a new generation,” says Franklin.

Four-In-One Combo: Maverick high-end restaurant, A by Tung serves a 20-course tasting selection that changes every 3 months. Officially launched in January 2021, the restaurant celebrates the four-in-one combination of aesthetics, flavors, seasonality and fresh local produce. Twenty-seven year-old chef-owner, Hoang Tung hopes to take his inspiration from around the world and combine it with local memories, ingredients and techniques to create an overall experience for customers. Dishes include Foie Gras and scallops, among other mouthwatering delights.

Chef Hoang Tung creates an overall experience for customers with a four-in-one combo. (Photo: A by Tung)

Four Corners of Vietnam: As chef-co-owner of Esta Eatery, Francis Thuan has personally traveled across the country, even amidst COVID restrictions to learn about Vietnam’s cuisine and ingredients. Reimagining new flavors with lesser known local ingredients, Esta Eatery is known for its unique menu items such as Smoked Eel, Hmong-Style Pork Jowls and Signature Dry-Aged Duck. A modern casual eatery, Esta fits in nicely between fine and casual dining with its cozy, comfortable ambience.

Chef Francis Thuan reimagines new flavors with local ingredients that are not common. (Photo: Esta Eatery)

Experimenting with new flavors and tastes, the food industry in Vietnam is definitely seeing an opportunity to establish relationships with customers through new, unique and personalized experiences. As the food industry emerges from the grips of the pandemic, new innovations and experiences in Vietnam are going to take us to even greater heights.