May 24, 2008
Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Moroccan
71/7 Mac Thi Buoi Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Pita chips, warm flat bread, sesame crackers
Cold Mezza Platter – clockwise from top left – tabouleh, hummus, mutabal (slow roasted baby eggplant with tahini, olive oil and spices), baba ghanouj (110,000 VND)
Lamb and Prunes Tajine – braised marinated lamb cubes with prunes braised in a clay pot and laced with infused chili oil (158,000 VND)
Goose Pastilla – phyllo pastry filled with roast goose, almonds, raisins and oranges (135,000 VND)
Hot Chocolate and Fig Pudding with Cardamom (55,000 VND)
Even though my birthday was months ago, I’m still cashing in on my presents from The Astronomer. Knowing my penchant for good eats, my gift was a series of five fancy dinners. Warda was stop number three on our special dinners tour.
Warda has one of the coolest dining rooms in the city. The walls of the dimly lit space are painted with sweet wide blue stripes. And in true Moroccan fashion, there are tons of pillows for lounging upon while eating or smoking the hookah. There was no hookah for us tonight, but we did indulge in some fine food, including the most amazing chocolate dessert. But before we get to that, let’s start with appetizers.
We shared the cold mezza platter that included a variety of dips and a lovely selection of dipping utensils. The baba ghanouj with mint, caramelized onions and homemade yogurt was our favorite. The smoky flavor of the roasted eggplant was so very delicious that it managed to convert The Astronomer, a known eggplant hater. My favorite dipping device were the thin slices of warm flat bread even though they were kind of flimsy. The portions at Warda are monstrous by Vietnam standards. We could have left completely sated after the first course. I guess we’ll just have to invite some friends to join us next time!
For our mains, we shared the lamb and prunes tajine and the roast goose pastilla. The Astronomer ate the majority of the lamb tajine because I was pretty full and preferred to work on the pastilla with the little space I had left. The tajine, which was served with a side of fluffy couscous, was more The Astronomer’s cup of tea than mine. The overall flavor was decent, but the lack of presentation was a turn-off. A little parsley atop the lamb would have gone a long way.
The pastilla wasn’t doused in as much powdered sugar and cinnamon as we would have liked, but was still quite delicious. The roast goose’s distinctive taste brought us back to Hong Kong, and the almonds and raisins were fabulous touches. The pastilla was served with a fruity sauce (my guess is quince) that tied the nutty, meaty and fruity elements of the dish together.
In my world, there’s always room for dessert. Since The Astronomer was bursting at the seams, I chose the “Hot Chocolate and Fig Pudding.” With a name like that, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What arrived was a molten chocolate cake of sorts. The oozing warm chocolate innards were figged-out to the max. I love figs, and figs with chocolate is even better! This could be Saigon’s best chocolate dessert – full report to come.