Top Foodie Destination In Saigon – Discover Vietnam’s First Capsule Dining Experience With Chef Nghiem Minh Duc

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Among a million good reasons to explore Vietnam, one of the best is its food. There has been an explosion in Modern Vietnamese Cuisine – and it’s never tasted so good!

Vietnam was named “Asia’s best culinary destination” by the 2022 World Culinary Awards. If you’re traveling to Ho Chi Minh City, here’s a one-of-a-kind dining experience to add to your list of things to do and places to eat. Head Chef Nghiem Minh Duc leads Vietnam’s first Capsule restaurant, Nous. Inspired by Japanese “capsule hotels,” the design and concept are an ode to the passion and precision of every course, meticulously plated for a personal and intimate dining experience.

In Nous, every dish is a performance in which we can share the stories behind them and their unique Vietnamese ingredients and create intimacy through meticulous plating.

Chef Duc
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Curious? I was blown away when I went to try Vietnam’s first Capsule Dining Restaurant myself…

In true Ho Chi Minh City style, you can find hidden treasures up alleyways and parking lots. We wandered up the stairs of the old building in downtown District 1. A stunning smile greeted us from behind a grand door. We walked through the unassuming entrance into a small bar, and the glass wine cellar wall opened like a secret door into the “capsule.” Elegant, inviting, and speakeasy-esque. The dining table wraps around the open kitchen, where the magic happens. The Chefs greet you while a welcome drink swiftly appears.

Soon a captivating scene unfolds, filled with storytelling and intricately delicious food and wine. The capsule keeps you fully immersed and present, forgetting about the bustling city outside. The best part is you can savor each bite as you take this culinary journey. The chefs prepare and plate each exquisite creation right before you. Fresh, subtle, and delicate flavors harmonize, revealing unique, tasty nuances. Almost a theatrical experience.

Chef Duc and his talented team showcase Vietnam’s rich culinary culture in a contemporary context, assembling eye-catching dishes right before you. Integrating Vietnamese flavors from North, Central, and South Vietnam, and influences from his experience in the famous Nobu, his humble beginnings over Chinese fire-woks, the local street food vendors in Hanoi of his childhood, and even guests that visit Nous.

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Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay praised Vietnam as an “extraordinary melting pot of great food“. Now I can tell why!

Lauren Tracy

If you’re a foodie, read on to find out why we have dubbed Nous as one of Vietnam’s hottest new dining experiences in Vietnam.

Duc shares that Modern Vietnamese cuisine rebels against assumptions that Vietnamese food is cheap and simple to cook. It reveals local ingredients can rival foreign ones and that “we can do a hell of a lot more with that ingredient than the traditional ways our mothers used to do.

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Tea & Flower Tasting Menu – “A Nap in the Flowerbed” – Ca Mau Crab. Daikon, Guava. Black Tea

What Does The Japanese “Omakase” Mean?

Omakase means the chef picks the meal for you. It’s popular in sushi restaurants but works for any cuisine. You sit at the counter and watch the chefs work their magic.

At Nous, we took inspiration from the experience and applied the same thinking to fusion fine dining. We’ve used some of the philosophy behind Omakase to Nous, especially the care and thoughtfulness that must go into selecting ingredients and curating our ever-evolving menus.

Chef Duc
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What Is A Conceptual Menu?

The problem lies in that Saigon doesn’t have four seasons, just hot and super hot,” – Duc laughs. Nous’s menu in Saigon is based on innovative ideas rather than traditional seasonal ingredients. It changes every 3 months and follows a unique theme, using locally sourced and environmentally friendly components.

Movie Marathon-Inspired Menu

The first-ever concept menu in December 2022 featured dishes inspired by iconic scenes, which you could watch projected on the restaurant’s wall during the course. Integrating unique details like popcorn into the canapes, booking confirmation, and menus designed like cinema tickets. The “movie marathon” menu includes “Nam Kho Tieu,” created by Duc’s Talented Sous Chef, Quoc Sinh. Inspired by the forest of giant mushrooms in “Alice in Wonderland,” Sinh combined his love for braised mushrooms with peppercorns to create a unique and flavorful dish.

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Movie – Marathon – “Nam Kho Tieu”

Tea and Flower Tasting Menu

The concept of a three-month menu can sometimes come from a very sudden moment,” Duc reveals how a customer’s question about tea and International Women’s Day spontaneously inspired him. The team pushed boundaries to explore tea properties and their interaction with other ingredients.

We found ourselves not only mastering a new field but also being refined in terms of our characteristics.” Duc reflects that working with tea requires a delicate balance of creativity and self-control because “the ultimate purpose of cooking should always be to let the ingredients sing their own songs.” – Duc reveals.

Stars Of The Show On The Six Course Tea & Flower Tasting Menu

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Petals In The Spring Wind

Long An Duck braised with Northern seasonal fruit – dracontomelon, with potato puree and sencha tea reduction, finished with crispy Pommes Dauphine.

A harmony of salty, sweet & spicy.

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A Bite Of Tea

Cheesecake and ice cream blend delicate elements of Kumquat, Salted Apricot, White Chocolate, Earl Grey & Thai Red Tea.

Discover Nghiem Minh Duc‘s Captivating Journey To Becoming A Leading Chef In Modern Vietnamese Cuisine

Chef Nghiem Minh Duc’s unusual journey led him to the thriving restaurant industry in Vietnam. He left Hanoi in 2012 to study dentistry and migrate to Australia. Here, he worked part-time in the restaurant industry and found his true passion amidst the “dynamic and creative atmosphere of the kitchen.” Duc explains.

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The Beginning Of His Journey

Duc shares that early in a chef’s career is physically demanding. He powered through from the lowest position in the kitchen, working in a Chinese Restaurant.

There were weeks during school break I worked up to 80 hours. Every morning, I started making 30 kg of stir-fried rice and frying 50-60 kg of chicken thigh. In Summer, the kitchen temperature could rise to 45 degrees Celsius. We couldn’t even have a fan because it would blow the fire under the woks.

Duc recalls.

In 2014, he became a dental technician and worked part-time at a Japanese cafe. Later, he landed a Sunday job at a brunch cafe without undergoing a cooking trial. Despite lacking formal culinary education and only having experience with Asian cuisine, he quickly learned how to prepare the dishes before his first shift.

I took a photo of their menu after the interview and went through every dish when I came home. I watched Gordon Ramsay’s similar videos several times for each dish and followed his instructions to practice at home. That was when I really respected Ramsay and appreciated what he freely shared on the internet.

Duc reveals.

From Dentistry To Cheffing – From Australia To Vietnam

After leaving his career in dentistry, Duc pursued his passion for cooking and eventually became the head chef of a small restaurant in Docklands, Australia, in 2016. He then went on to work in the kitchen of the renowned Nobu Crown Casino and was proudly licensed as a member of the Australian Institute of Technical Chefs.

Duc returned to Vietnam in 2019 with zero regrets about failing to migrate. He loves being in Vietnam, working with local ingredients and most of all being close to his family. After struggling through the Covid-19 pandemic, with multiple projects closing due to city lockdown, Duc finally found the exciting opportunity to join the team at Nous Dining in 2022.

I found myself a natural storyteller (I owned a blog and published a book about a chef’s life), and I think cooking is one of the best tools, or languages, to tell interesting stories. Well, at least, a better tool than making dentures.

Chef Duc

What Was The Biggest Challenge In Your Career?

The real challenge of being a chef is not about the physical aspect but finding a team to share the vision. After 7-8 years of cooking and climbing to the highest position in a kitchen hierarchy, you don’t just want to make food. You want to use your food as a means to express your philosophy and your (life) style. You want to contribute to the community and create some kind of legacy.

Chef Duc
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Head Chef Duc plating alongside Sous-Chef Quoc Sinh
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Conclusion

Experience the vibrant culinary scene of Vietnam at Nous, where Chef Duc takes modern Vietnamese cuisine to new heights. Indulge in a thrilling culinary adventure with the innovative concept menu, guaranteed to delight your senses. Enjoy a memorable dining experience that artfully blends the country’s rich culture and cherished traditions with a contemporary global twist. “Be a part of Vietnam’s very first Capsule Dining Experience.

Nous New Summer menu will be announced on June 10th 2023 & changes every three months.

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Lauren Tracy
Head of Content & Communications - Vietnam Is Awesome
Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Lauren has been living in Vietnam for the past 8 years. Her passion for the travel industry and wealth of experience has led her to become the Head of PR & Communications at Vietnam Is Awesome.

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