If it’s good enough for Angie and Brad…
During their visit to HCM City last week, American superstars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited Temple Club, a Vietnamese restaurant housed in an old colonial-era building favoured by expats and tourists.
Brangelina, as the couple is known, depending on your tastes, chose Temple Club for a brief taste of anonymity following a highly recognisable tour around town on a Yamaha motorbike, manned by bike aficionado Pitt.
Staff and customers told me they kept their distance to give privacy to the famous couple, who were visiting Viet Nam after a trip to Cambodia.
The couple is currently shooting a film in India based on a book by the wife of an American journalist who was killed while covering the Iraq war.
Entering the building, I walked up a narrow staircase softly lit by red lanterns placed on the floor, a peaceful beginning to a wonderful evening.
The restaurant has a large lounge room filled with furniture popular during the French occupation (art deco and other styles), and is hugely popular among expats looking for a casually elegant and quiet setting.
The dining areas, however, feature Chinese-style decor, and the menu offers both Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, including local favourites cuon (spring rolls), bun (vermicelli) and cha ca (fried fish).
According to staff, Brangelina selected Cha Ca La Vong (Ha Noi-style fried fish), a traditional dish cooked with a freshwater fish.
A similar dish, Ca Sot Chua Ngot (fish with tamarind sauce), which can serve two, costs an affordable VND80,000 (US$5) The addition of tomato adds a special piquant touch.
The Ha Noi-style chicken salad at only VND80,000 for two will whet your appetite for more. Served on large white china, the dish features very thin pieces of steamed chicken, fresh cabbage and vegetables, spiked with sweet vinegar.
If you’re a fan of spring rolls, the Temple Club Platter, at VND80,000, is a delicious bargain, with fresh vegetables, vermicelli and fried cuttlefish or beef.
The tiny, delicate rolls have to be painstakingly wrapped by the chef, who is a master at his craft.
Nearly 50 dishes at prices ranging from VND80,000 to VND150,000 are on offer, and for vegetarians, the restaurant has a separate menu.
Kazuko Ishibashi, a Japanese diner, struggled to express her feelings about the place in English and Vietnamese: “We just can say, ngon (very delicious).”
No one knows what Brangelina may have said, for they left Temple Club very late, after spending more than $200. Once outside, they faced a gaggle of paparazzi, and then sped away.