Garlic Butter Fries –
a real thing that was brought to our table.

As I believe the Bard so eloquently phrased it…:

Two le Pubs, of unequal dignity,
In fair Saigon, where we lay our scene,
From Vi’tnamese to gastro mutiny,
Where mango shakes are mostly cream.
From forth the kitchens of these two foes
Two pairs of entrees stake their claim;
Whose mismanaged qual’ty overthrows
their chances at glory ‘n fame.
The downing of their soggy chips,
And sides of server apathy,
Which, but for our cries, nought could fix,
Made dining out an agony;
Now if you with patient ears attend,

With what I write, your dining plans mend.

Strangely, there are two different restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City called le Pub. I thought perhaps they were two branches of the same restaurant – nope! Totally separate restaurants, and there are a lot of differences lurking behind the label (even though they have very similar logos!).

Let’s start with le Pub in District 3 – closer to my house, and closer to my idea of a grown-up restaurant.

Le Pub in D3

We started with smoothies, of course (smoothies are my substitute for drinking a beer at restaurants now… can’t really complain about that), mine mango (sinh to xoai) and my companion had banana. Both were fantastic. [Let’s be real – it’s hard to mess up a smoothie.]

The atmosphere was nice. As with most places, it had an al fresco area on the front, and a more or less open-air “inside” dining room, too. We sat out front, the better to chat and observe street life (this country is amazing for people-watching!). The tables were a dark brown and chunky, favoring benches instead of chairs, and blending in with the deep oranges and reds that surrounded us.

Because we thought we were merely visiting another outpost of the Bui Vien location, famed for their burgers, Western food, and pub-like atmosphere (befitting their name), we were completely blindsided by the fact that this restaurant apparently served strictly Vietnamese food!

Erin got Garlic Butter French Fries (which is Vietnamese? Pictured at the top, served with chili sauce… of course) and fried vegetarian spring rolls. The fries were decadent – too decadent, to say the least – but ok. Turns out that butter, garlic, and chili sauce is kind of a great combination with fries! The ones at the bottom were drenched, though.

The Fried Vegetarian Spring Rolls were equally good, if only marginally lighter. They contained either fresh tofu or potato – we weren’t really sure. They were good, but not the best veggie ones I’ve had (that honor has to go to Quan Bui, naturally).

I got Stir Fried Eel in Fried Brown Rice, with Rice Pancakes. Basically, it was eel fried brown rice with rice bread nacho things, and it was salty and PERFECT. With pepper garnish and cilantro it was a great meal and worth every penny.

It was surprisingly enough food. Those little mounds are about 1.5″ x 1.5″. So salty.

All in all, le Pub in District 3 was a great place to go for some differently-prepared Vietnamese food. The menu was reasonably sized but not intimidatingly massive and the food and drink were good. Service was pretty good – not great, but far from bad. It wasn’t my favorite vietnamese spread, but they had a few interesting-looking dishes.

Our only unpleasant surprise was that parking cost 10k VND a bike – with such a fancy restaurant, it’s typical that parking is free. Not at this le Pub, however! Erin balked, but I don’t really mind this up front. Even if someone’s ripping me off… if they need that extra .25 cents, good for them. I will simply choose not to come back to the restaurant, no matter the quality of the food.

So, sorry, le Pub number 1… but I won’t be back. It was great, but not that great. Forget your expensive bike parking and not having burgers when I was craving burgers.

Le Pub in D1

Or perhaps more accurately, le Pub for Other-Country Folk.

Sinh To Blah

Located in the heart of District 1’s backpacker district, I’d heard that the burgers were decent and that it was a good place to meet new friends. This must occur later in the night than 7pm, the time we were there, because the place was deserted. I didn’t really have a problem with this – my companion said that when she was here later at night, the place was an undergraduate-level madhouse. With a bit of a cold and headache, I wasn’t looking for excitement, just a quality meal.

It was not to be found here, sadly.

With a great al fresco area halfway encroaching on the alley (parking is across the alley), the place is a nice, relaxed environment for a meal.

Obviously, mango smoothie for starters. Not good. Virtually no mango taste – such a disappointment. Congratulations, le Pub. Way to faceplant ouf of the starting gate.

Sadder still was the service. After an embarrassingly long wait – there was a soccer game on – flagging down one of the waitstaff proved consistently obnoxious (resulting in forgotten drinks, lack of silverware, and missing condiments). Waving them down when we needed something was at best only 50% successful. Even telling multiple people our needs only sometimes resulted in accurate service… and even then it was terribly, terribly slow.

Pathetic ‘pea patty. Forgotten fork for fresh foods. 

The saddest things of all, however, were our dishes. Yes, it had been praised for its burgers, but, being a little sick, I wasn’t in the mood. I got a fried chickpea burger instead. Erin opted for the falafel. Both were terrible. The fried pieces were mushier than they should be, especially the falafel (a burger-shaped fried chickpea patty I can at least begin to understand), and the fries were middling. I never got my water. The whole affair was such a dingy, unfortunate let-down that I’m not surprised our meal was a little muted. Being so early, and with both of us kind of sick, we were the only people on the patio, so we assuaged our disappointed stomachs by people-watching.

All in all, a smashing disappointment. Way to go, le Pub number 2. You’re terrible. Your food was boring. BORING. Can’t speak for the ‘famed’ burgers, but I probably wouldn’t come back even so.

I’m pretty sure I got ripped off with parking at this place, too (literary symmetry, ha ha!). I was putting on my helmet and a guy that had been near the bikes indicated 5k. I gave him a ten, got situated, and waited for my change… which no one seemed to know about. The guys just walked up, charged me money for nothing, and walked away. Brazen!

Pretty much the only good thing of the visit was that we visited over the little mini rainy season we had for a week in December. The sound of rain felt good, and I have trouble believing I’ll see so little of it for the next 6 months.

In the end, I’d skip them both. With so many more exciting dining locales to choose from, you might as well find something a little more interesting.