Le Garçon Saigon

Le Garçon Saigon

Where:
Le Garçon Saigon (the website is total bullshit, I wish I could get the two seconds back that I spent looking at this sorry excuse for a website)
GF/12 – 18 Wing Fung Street
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2455 2499

Price:
We got out at a very reasonable HKD380 a person for food and drinks.

The deal:
Le Garçon Saigon has only recently opened in November 2015 and despite it being open for about five seconds, every time I’ve walked past it (even on random weeknights), it’s been totally rammed.  It’s a concept which I can totally see the masses getting behind – a French-Saigonese style bistro serving Southern Vietnamese food in the “trendy” Star Street precinct, run by the popular Black Sheep Restaurant Group (Carbone HK, Chom Chom, Burger Circus, Ho Lee Fook, Stazione Novella, Boqueria, etc. etc.) who continue their march towards HK restaurant domination.  I always feel that the Star Street precinct is deceptively trendy, as in, it feels like there should be cool, hip shops and lots of trendy restaurants but when you’re actually there you realise it’s a massive commercial yawnfest of a Pizza Express, a Classified, an Oolaa, a stack of mediocre restaurants hiding behind cool facades and a couple of interior shops which have made solid typography choices and a carefully curated inventory of only five items for sale.

Le Garçon Saigon is perfect interior bait to lure the unsuspecting trendy restaurant punter in, nailing that new-old Saigon French brasserie feeling with shiny mirrors, teal walls, geometric mosaic tiling and purposefully weathered concrete murals painted with cute as fuck French motifs.  Nothing more perfectly captures the time when the French lorded over Vietnam than a mural with French cartoon people doing colonial shit like drinking wine and a dog reading a newspaper. Fuck yeahhhh, colonialism! Another wall faithfully replicates a deliberately shabby stencilled list of Vietnamese dishes with prices listed in Vietnamese Dong, which is ironic given that I’ve got no doubt that I’m about to get stung some serious HKD for the meal we’re about to order.

Despite everything looking slick as fuck, my main fuck no issue with Le Garçon Saigon is that the softest thing in the whole place is one banquette that runs down one side and every other surface in LCG is harder than the abs of an ardent crossfitter who has eschewed carbs and non-crossfit related conversation for years #strongisthenewdouchebaggery.  This results in Le Garçon Saigon’s dining room being rendered into a cacophonous as fuck echo den with every possible noise bouncing off the bare ceilings, the concrete walls, the tiled floor, the drapeless windows, the naked marble tables or the mirrored walls. I know that tablecloths are unequivocally the devil’s work these days in most restaurants but fuck, I’m not convinced the occasional potted palm was doing their bit for acoustic baffling. I’m an old fuck so I could barely hear the waiter nor the person sitting next to me and you can completely throw all hope to the goddamn wind that I’d ever hear anything being said by the people at the other end of the table.

One thing that is more striking than Le Garçon Saigon’s interiors though is the batallion of attractive as fuck and thoroughly charming French waiters that Le Garçon Saigon have recruited.  Our table discusses whether the Black Sheep homies parked themselves at HK International Airport, staking out every Air France flight that touched down to recruit every other SO HANDSOME French homie that wasn’t destined to crush some quantitative shit at a bank to be part of their Le Garçon Saigon SO HANDSOME waiter crew. I don’t think I can emphasise this enough, the Le Garçon Saigon waiters are really SO HANDSOME.

mattdamonhandsome
While gazing upon his SO HANDSOME face, our SO HANDSOME waiter talks us knowledgeably through the menu, which predictably have cutesy French sections like “Les Woks” for the stir fries and “Les Grillades” for the skewers and an ambiguously named “Larger” sub-section.  Based on our waiter’s SO HANDSOME recommendations, we order a number of different things – a few starters, some salads, a couple of skewers, “Larger” dishes and some of the stir fries.

We were given the wrong salad to start but didn’t realise this until we’d started eating it.  The green papaya salad (HKD68 + 10% service charge) was mixed with beef jerky, small dried crispy shrimp, cashew nuts and a spicy tamarind vinaigrette. We also had a serve of the Morning Glory salad (HKD68 + 10% service charge) but due to one of my homies serving shit super unequally, all I got was a couple of chrysanthemum leaves and some jellyfish pieces, in a pickled ginger and chilli vinaigrette.  My other homies who got first dibs claim there wasn’t any morning glory in there but I can’t fairly pass judgment here.  Regardless of whatever titillating named vegetables may or may not have been present, both salads had enough texturally going on and some good fresh flavours but both vinaigrettes were really fucking sweet, even as the tart tamarind and vinegars unsuccessfully tried to cut through it all.

The canh ga fried chicken wings (HKD78 + 10% service charge for five wings) are covered in a salty spicy mix combining Chinese five spice and chilli and predictably served with a side of sriracha mayonnaise.  While the actual wings are cooked well with crispy fuck yeah skin, my more enduring memory is how even though I’m into salty, fried food these chicken wings were pushing the sodium chloride friendship to a new level because it was definitely too fucking salty.

From the “Les Woks” section we definitely order up on some Les Disappointing dishes.  The glutinous rice promises clams, lemongrass, peanuts, salted cucumbers, rice paddy herbs and pork floss (HKD108 + 10% service charge) and it’s unremarkable in the sense that I can barely remember anything about it at all except the rice being sticky.  The Banh Xeo is a Vietnamese style crispy rice based pancake which is folded over a filling of chorizo, prawns, fresh bean sprouts and large red chillis.  You’re meant to break up the banh xeo and fold it into lettuce leaves with fresh herbs, dipping it lightly in some num nuoc sauce (lime, sugar, chilli and fish sauce).  It looks fucking incredible but in execution, the filling is entirely underwhelming, a mess of largely beansprouts dotted with the occasional prawn or chunk of chorizo. Whoaaaaaaaaaa check out the chorizo repping for the modern East meets West influences bullshit massive. But in reality, the chorizo just feels like it’s out of place and trying too hard to be proving some sort of culinary culture crossing point.  This fusion chorizo concept continues to bomb out even harder when it’s eaten in combination with the num nuoc sauce, which just leaves me thinking once again “Why is everything here so fucking salty??”

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The press on Le Garçon Saigon has been banging on about its grill and we try almost all of the skewers on the menu.  Per order you get three skewers and you can get selections such as the Wagyu beef Tri-tip / Bo Liu (Vietnamese beef teriyaki) (HKD138 + 10% service charge), the Pork Meatballs / Nem Nuong (HKD128 + 10% service charge), the Kurobuta pork / Thit Nuong (HKD128 + 10% service charge) and the proteinless / funless Zucchini & Leeks (HK68 + 10% service charge).  Each skewer is presented with a tray of fresh Vietnamese herbs, lettuce leaves, pickled carrots, cucumber, peanuts, rice paper, rice vermicelli pancakes and dipping sauces, so you can make your own wraps with the meat.  The grilled meats are a fuck yeah, with a good charcoal taste but the problem is that all the sauces that everything is served with are either too sweet, too salty or an awful fuck no combination of being too fucking sweet AND too fucking salty.  There’s a balance in trying to combine the Vietnamese flavours of sour, sweet, salty and spicy but Le Garçon Saigon manage to bludgeon my enthusiasm for their skewers into a bloody lifeless pulp by showing not a shred of nuance and instead hitting me with SWEET SALTY SWEET SWEET SALTY A BIT TANGY OK BACK TO FUCKING SALTY the whole fucking time.

From the “Larger’ grill section we ordered the Whole Red Snapper (HKD208 +10% service charge) which looks beautiful as fuck, grilled in a bamboo leaf package.  Be careful my white homies because this fishy homie is served in one whole piece, bones and all and requires some skillful dissection.  I’m quite into it, enjoying the fuck yeah sweet snapper fish which is very fresh and the fragrant bamboo leaf flavour imparted from the grill until I hit a patch of scales and end up trying to detach the large snapper scales that have attached themselves unceremoniously to the roof of my mouth. Fuck no to that bullshit, I’m already socially awkward enough without being further sabotaged by my choices in seafood.

The grilled half yellow chicken (HKD168 + 10% service charge) looks fucking sensational, all crispy skin and some fuck yeah looking juicy meat.  I rue the fact that I’ve chosen to come with so many homies because I want to eat at least half of it on my own.  Like all of the proteins that have come before it, it’s had a sweet ass time in the grill and the meat is juicy as all hell and fucking great.  The crispy skin is covered in lemon, a chilli-salt spice mix and a thin chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves, which initially gives you a good sour, delicately fragrant and salty mix but just like everything else, crashes down in a crescendo of salt.  At this point, I would cry from all of the salt if I wasn’t trying to preserve whatever precious fluids were still within my body as it teetered precariously on the edge of dehydration thanks to the half a kilo of salt that’s been in my food.

We finish all of our dishes and in a telling sign, my hands are so sticky from making all of those rice rolls with the skewer meats  With no moist towelette or finger bowl on offer I take this sticky moment to reflect upon my feelings towards every single thing at Le Garçon Saigon either being so salty, so sweet or so salty and sweet OR seasoned appropriately but then littered with fish scales.

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Piling into the “Les Desserts” section we try every single one on offer (all HKD68 each + 10% service charge) and this is a FUCK YEAH highlight of the meal, as Le Garçon Saigon present their modern take on Vietnamese dessert flavours.  The flan is a riff on the Vietnamese coffee, using condensed milk in the flan and topped with a drip coffee syrup, served with a salty chocolate sable biscuit to cut through the rich, sweet flan.  It’s fucking delicious and goes some way to calming my rattled so sweet, so salty bad juju from dinner.  The pandan waffle is delicate as fuck but still crunchy on the outside and it’s served with strawberries, mascarpone ice-cream and almond crunch.  I was really into Le Garçon Saigon’s version of the traditional Vietnamese “Che” dessert – a combination of smashed meringue, roasted pineapple, taro and sago, served in a palm sugar and coconut milk sauce.  There’s a scoop of “smoked” coconut ice-cream (which isn’t that smoky) and some smoked, caramelised peanuts (which I think were too smoky), but this is a small gripe in an otherwise fucking delicious dessert.

With all of that done, it’s a fun evening in a cool, new spot and I can guarantee that it’s only a matter of time before someone bails me up and goes “OMG, have you tried Le Garcon Saigon yet? It’s just soooo cool!”.  But the fact that it’s totally packed out after a matter of weeks means there’s definitely a place for Le Garcon Saigon in HK and it’s for that person we all have met a million times in HK, the type of person who doesn’t really eat or care that much about food and just wants to feel like they’re on point with what’s trendy.  Bonsoir motherfuckers, I’m afraid that I’m all about the food and even LCG’s SO HANDSOME waiters can’t replace appropriately seasoned food for me.

Verdict:
Fuck no.  But if you’re someone who just wants somewhere cool to hang out, drink fuck yeah booze and you don’t really care all that much about the food, this is totally gonna be your new fuck yeah hang spot.  Go on, wear your Sunday best and take your yappy little dog and sit on one of those outside tables and suck down some drinks while waiting for someone to throw down some air kisses at. MWAH MWAH DARLING, HOW FUCKING CUTE IS THIS PLACE??

1Comment
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    Posted at 07:49h, 29 December Reply

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