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Eating good sushi in Saigon needn’t burn a hole in your pocket. The last couple of years has seen an explosion of good-quality yet reasonably-priced sushi joints all over town. In many cases, the standard of food is on a par with the city’s more established (and pricey) sushi restaurants. Décor is cheap and cheerful, ambience is informal and fun, and customers are young and convivial: welcome to Saigon’s budget sushi scene.
BUDGET SUSHI IN SAIGON
4 of My Favourite Places for Raw Fish at Rock-bottom Prices:
These days, there are dozens of places for budget sushi in Saigon, catering to a generation of young, urban, outward-looking Vietnamese, who want a taste of Japan without having to pay Japanese prices. Not all budget sushi joints are as superb as the ones I’ve outlined here, but the following four make an excellent start to your journey into the budget sushi scene in Saigon. Although I can’t claim to know about sushi, or to have had as much experience of sushi as I have of Vietnamese cuisine, I do know what I like, and I know when it’s good quality and good value:
1. SUSHI NHÍ: Binh Thanh
2. SUSHI KO: District 4
3. SUSHI HƯNG: Binh Thanh
4. SUSHI MIKU: District 2
1: SUSHI NHÍ
Address: 25 Nguyen Cong Tru Street, Binh Thanh District [MAP] | Open: 10am-11pm daily | Price: 20-100,000vnđ ($1-5)
Opened in 2014, Sushi Nhí is fabulous. Squeezed into a tiny shopfront on a classic local neighbourhood food street, Sushi Nhí makes a mockery of expensive, formal sushi restaurants. The quality, variety and presentation is excellent. The ambience is low-key but comfortable. The staff and chefs are young, gracious and polite. Prices are reasonable and ingredients are crisp, fresh, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Over the last year – since business has been booming – they’ve added a few comforts, such as air-con, Tiger Beer on tap, and a lovely lantern-lit kiosk out front. Hân, a chirpy, attractive, and highly organised 28 year-old woman, runs the show. Sushi Nhí is popular with Saigon’s youth, middle-class families, and a spattering of foreign expats. It’s ridiculously good.
2: SUSHI KO
Address: 122/37/15 Vinh Khanh Street, District 4 [MAP] | Open: 4pm-11pm daily | Price: 20-120,000vnđ ($1-6)
On the lively, trendy, street food boulevard that is Vinh Khanh Street in District 4, Sushi Ko is in a prime position. Surrounded on all sides by well-established Vietnamese seafood restaurants, Sushi Ko’s Japanese menu has been pulling in crowds of young Vietnamese and expats for over a year now. It has all the buzz and atmosphere you’d expect from a Vinh Khanh establishment: the echo of blaring street-karaoke; clouds of cooking smoke drifting from roadside barbecues; and the raucous cacophony of passing traffic and excited diners. The menu is extensive but prices are higher here than other places in this list. There’s plenty of outside and inside seating – Sushi Ko is bigger and badder than most budget sushi joints: the fish is richer, the soy sauce is saltier, and the wasabi is wickedly hot. However, you should get here early, because by 8pm the quality tends to drop slightly: the seaweed loses its crispness and becomes rubbery, and the fish loses its shine.
3: SUSHI HƯNG
Address: 284 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street, Binh Thanh District [MAP] | Open: 10am-2pm, 5pm-10pm | Price: 20-80,000vnđ ($1-4)
Another diminutive place, Sushi Hưng is a cubicle of calm amid the chaos of Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street. Outside, a garish sign advertises ‘Viet Sushi’, but inside it’s clinical, clean and minimally furnished. Behind the wooden counter, Hưng slices, carves, prepares and presents the dishes with great care and attention. A gentle but determined 28 year-old man, Hưng learned his technique from working in numerous Japanese restaurants in Saigon. Portions are smaller than others in this list, but quality is excellent, and prices are still low. There’s an air of seriousness and intensity at Sushi Hưng that you don’t find at other budget sushi joints: here, the craft of sushi is earnestly pursued. It’s not uncommon to find Japanese expats dining here, which is quite an achievement for a young Vietnamese sushi chef.
4: SUSHI MIKU
Address: 82 Số 20 Street, Tran Nao Area (riverfront), District 2 [MAP] | Open: 4pm-11pm | Price: 20-80,000vnđ ($1-4)
Miku Sushi is rather different from the others in this list. The menu is smaller, the location is quieter, and décor is a bit trendier. Located under an umbrella tree, close to the banks of the Saigon River, Miku is a relaxed, al fresco spot for a light sushi meal. The black wooden furniture is lit by flickering candles, and dishes are served on black ceramic plates. There’s a handful of maki, sushi and sashimi dishes available. Quality is good and portions are surprisingly large. It doesn’t feel very ‘Japanese’ but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: it can be pretty romantic tucking into a plate of sashimi in this leafy courtyard, and then following it with a stroll along the nearby river.
Budget Sushi in Saigon
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