Sep 2008

Le Toit Gourmand – Ho Chi Minh City

One of the greatest and most memorable meals that I ate in Saigon was at a little-known French restaurant named Le Toit Gourmand. The restaurant, which is housed in an expansive villa in Tan Binh District, is owned by a Frenchman named Giles (above) and his Vietnamese wife. Although Le Toit is a bit of a trek from the center of town, those willing to make the trip out yonder are handsomely and deliciously rewarded by Giles.

A few days before farewelling Saigon, The Astronomer and I headed to Le Toit for one final feast with our two bestest friends, Hawk and Nina. We arrived at 8 pm and were seated at a table for four poolside. It was an uncharacteristically cool night thanks to a late evening shower that doused us on our ride here.

At Le Toit, Giles does all of the cooking and waiting, while his minions serve the guests. Throughout the meal, Giles left his post in the kitchen to chat, mostly in French, with his adoring diners. Both Nina and Hawk have impressive command of the the French language and were able to speak to Giles with ease. The Astronomer and I couldn’t partake in the conversation because we didn’t speak a lick of French and English was passed over like a stale bagel. This was perhaps the first and only occasion where I have regretted taking Spanish in high school.

1 - scrambled eggs with black truffles

Meals at Le Toit are not hasty affairs. Each course is brought out at a liesurely pace, while conversation and wine flow like the Saigon River during the rainy season. Or like free-style rappers—your choice.

Our first appetizer of the evening came highly recommended by Giles—scrambled eggs with black truffles. We have no idea where Giles obtained his truffles, but dang, these eggs were silky, fluffy, buttery and unbelievably truffle-y. The woodsy essense of the tubers (Thanks, Jon!) permeated every morsel. Even though The Astronomer usually doesn’t like eggs or forest tubers, Giles’ pitch was so convincing that he decided to give it a go. I like how The Astronomer constantly re-tries food that he dislikes to test if his tastes have changed. Unfortunately for him (but quite fortunate for me), his tastes hadn’t changed so he passed his portion on to me. Woot.  Two is better than one when it comes to truffles!


As part of our prix fixe meal, we each picked three additional appetizers from the menu. My second course was a plate of house-cured smoked salmon with mangoes. The flavors were so fresh and so clean, clean—a squeeze of fresh lime juice lightened up the already refreshing dish.


My third course was a single delicate ravioli stuffed with succulent shredded beef. While I could have easily downed it in two bites, I stretched it out to five bites in order to savor it fully.


My final appetizer was a cooling ceviche with tender pieces of white fish, zuchinni and fresh basil. The addition of lime juice made this course taste too similar to the smoked salmon.


We each ordered unique combinations of appetizers to suit our individual tastes. Although there was a bit of overlap, we ended up sampling a good portion of the available options between the four of us. Hawkins, Nina and The Astronomer each chose the foie gras stuffed spring roll (another highly-praised dish by Giles) for one of their appetizers. The spring roll was placed atop a mound of apple compote with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar along the plate’s perimeter. The Astronomer shared a bite with me. I found the combination of deep-fried oiliness with melty foie too fatty and overwhelming.

Another one of The Astronomer’s appetizers was lump crab meat with tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, zucchini and cilantro. The crab meat and vegetables were very fresh, but it seems that Giles is a one trick pony when it comes to raw appetizers.


The Astronomer’s final appetizer of smoked salmon stuffed with ricotta cheese was pleasant and creamy, but once again fell victim to redundancy. Didn’t we just eat a light fish dish garnished with basil, olive oil and vinegar? There’s no doubt that Giles’ raw appetizers are tasty, but he should either mix up his ingredients or advise patrons to not order too many similar dishes.


Nina’s leek ravioli appetizer wasn’t as rich as my beef one, but just as delicate and tender. Seeing and experiencing foam in Vietnam is a sight for sore eyes.


Hawkins’ lamb lasagna, a deconstructed affair comprised of savory and moist lamb hunks paired with tangy tomatoes, was one of the best appetizers of the evening. Who says lasagna has to include sheets of pasta?


My main entree was an unbelievably delectable plate of beef cheeks topped with seared foie gras, sitting in a pool of salty beef gravy. The cheeks were no-knife-required tender and the lightly seared foie put the dish over the top. Oh, Giles—I forgive you for your raw appetizer misstep because you truly know how to execute beef cheeks well.


Hawkins’ stuffed rabbit loin entree was also swoon-worthy. The lightly-dressed meslun mix and sauteed vegetables offered a nice contrast to the heavy meat, potatoes and gravy.


Nina and The Astronomer each ordered the lemon fish with vegetables for their entree. The dish was not as citrusy as they had hoped, but the bed of lentils and grilled vegetables, along with the deep-fried basil, were very satisfying.



Queso! Fromage! Pho mai! The cheese course arrived after we finished our entrees. We were all stuffed to the gills after four appetizers and one entree each, but there is always room for cheese, especially home made cheeses with black truffles and scallions! We smeared the creamy cheese on brown bread, but it was definitely mild enough to eat straight up. The truffle confetti floating in olive oil was difficult to pick up with the bread so I made good use of my fork. The plate of hairy cheeses was a bit too “rustic” and French for me. They weren’t exactly stinky, just unpleasant to my palate and not to mention strange looking.


Although we each had the option of ordering our own desserts as part of the prix fixe menu, we decided to share a couple in order to avoid popping our motorbike tires on the ride home. Nina picked the Tarte Tatin because it’s one of her all-time favorite sweets. The warm and sweet tatin was served with ice cream and topped with a buttery caramel sauce. Great pick.


The Astronomer chose the raspberry mille feuille because he loves, and I mean loves raspberries. The mille feuille was beautifully presented and tasted even better than it looked. In retrospect, we all should have ordered our own desserts because the ones we had were truly stellar. Giles rocks!


After dinner we had a photo shoot by the pool because it’s gonna be a while until we unite again. In the words of Hawk from a recent e-mail correspondence, “all your posts are making me super nostal, not to mention ridiculously hungry.” Well, here’s another one!

Le Toit Gourmand
31/4 Hoang Viet Street
Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City
Phone: 0908225884

UPDATE: Le Toit Gourmand moved in early January 2011 and changed its name and to “TROIS GOURMANDS.” The new restaurant is located at 18 Tong Huu Dinh Street, Thao Dien Ward, District 2, HCMC. Phone No. 84 8 3744 4585.

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26 thoughts on “Le Toit Gourmand – Ho Chi Minh City

  1. Haha, this meal looks hilarious. So retro! So funny! So expat!

    Point of clarification, since you’re going to write for food: truffles aren’t mushrooms. They are actually tubers, like potatoes. They have a pungency kind of like mushrooms can have, but the taste is wildly different.

  2. hi Gastronomer, since i go back to Viet Nam this Dec, would you please tell me how much did it cost for this meal (per person)? I want to try it.

  3. WC – Should I have classified this post as “food porn”? I did show some midriff.

    JF – I bet you Giles has been living in Vietnam since the French ran the place. This resto is a French-expat hot spot! And thanks for the clarification. I have changed the text accordingly 😉

    Duy – It cost around $35 USD per person not including wine. I expect a full report when you return.

    N – Oh, I totally forgot. I was too busy having fun with you guys that I didn’t photograph the menu!

    Foodhoe – I’m glad that I was able to properly convey my excitement for Le Toit. It was just one of the best and most fun meals ever.

  4. Don’t listen to JF. The truffle is the fruiting body (ascocarp) of a fungus. The potato tuber is the swollen, starch-filled stem of a plant. The two are nothing alike.

    A better comparison would be that truffles are like Morels; both are ascomycetes, and the part we eat is called the ascocarp.

    The meal looked amazing, btw.

  5. An education in truffles, right here in the comments!

    The dishes all look fun, and certainly different than your other ‘nam posts! I love the idea of cured salmon with mangoes, and may have to steal it. There’s nothing better than a decadent fun meal with good friends!

  6. All of you,

    Please come and try your self, menu prices start at 35 usd per person with out wine; is the cheapest and greatest restaurant in Saigon.

    Add: 31/4 Hoang Viet Q4 Tan Binh.

    A famous customers of that place.

  7. bonjour Gils

    décidement tu réussis partout ou tu vas …

    on parle meme de toi ici en Hollande ( je t’expliquerai )

    je te souhaite plein de bonne chose ( christian & sunita de Nice )

  8. hey gils

    je ne sais pas si tu te souviens de moi…
    J ai travaillais pour toi un cour moment, j avais 17 ans.
    Je suis de retour a Saigon demain, je passerai te voir.


  9. Salut Gils,

    Je viens de lire le recit enthousiaste de ce diner. Tout a l’air delicieux. Je suis contente que tu reussisses aussi bien mais tu nous manque a Nice!

  10. Sans conteste, LA meilleure table de Sai Gon.
    Accueil, qualite et cadre irreprochables.
    Toujours des nouveautes qui nous poussent a revenir.

  11. Gils has actually not been around that long: he arrived some time in 2004. But he used to run a place named Le Coin Gourmand in Sofia Antipolis in France. We see visitors from there coming to Vietnam, staying at his place to say “Gils, reviens!” (come back). He left a foie gras on board our boat, for my wife and me to taste. We were hooked to his cooking from then on.

  12. salut gils,j’ai fini par te trouver(googel) c’est magnifique ce que tu fait,il n’y a pas d’autres mots.félicitations.tu me donne l’envi d’aller gouter tous ces nouveaux plats. quelle gifle a tes detracteurs si il y en a encore. tes nouveaux plats ,mais aussi les anciens??????
    continu,pour un autodidacte c’est une réussite.
    je t’adore,je t’embrasse JR dit papy le viet pour ma famille, je n’arrete pas de leur parler du viet-nam ,il sont saturés

  13. salut Gilles,
    ici la cote d’azur, je t’ai vu dans le Time magazine et viens de regarder ton site. Tu ne changes pas et ta cuisine nous manque.
    Il va falloir aller te voir !!!!

  14. Fabulous food, excpet perhaps too much nuts on the beef cheek there is nothing to pick about. Wallet got snatched by the bike thieves when we walked out of the restaurant. Just be careful with the area.

  15. I’m sorry to interfear but i ate 3 times in this restaurant and felt sick 3 times after. Every time i saw rats running in the restaurant, and it doesn’t seem to bother anybody there…The food is really expensive, and Gils forced me to get a very expensive wine, i drank one glass, and he made me pay the bottle !!
    I won’t go back there anytime anymore !!

  16. zazan, do you not realize that when you buy a bottle of wine, you have purchased the entire bottle of wine? if it’s not available by the glass, you can’t just buy a glass of it. i can’t believe i have to explain this to you.

    and how did he “force” you to buy the wine? did he hit you with a roast chicken or something?

    i know i’m three years late, but this comment just irritated me so much.

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