Friday, February 17, 2012

Pizza with an Asian twist

With the cool weather of Ho Chi Minh City this festive season, we decided to visit Pizza 4P’s last week.

It was around 8 p.m. and the restaurant was full of young local people and foreigners. My friend booked a table with a view of the wood oven and a spacious spiral staircase with stonewalls that created a “stone city” atmosphere reminiscent of ancient Rome.

Pizza 4P’s offers a very creative menu. In addition to traditional pizza, this restaurant also has modern Asian versions which use unconventional Japanese sauces, seaweed, Vietnamese fresh vegetable flowers and other local ingredients such as shrimp, pork and beef.

If you are after a fusion of new pizza culture you will surely have to try the Calamari Seaweed Pizza (squid, mushroom, homemade mozzarella, parmesan, olive oil, seaweed and soya sauce), or Teriyaki Chicken pizza (chicken, homemade mozzarella, seaweed, shiso leaves, mayonnaise, olive oil and teriyaki sauce). At Pizza 4P’s you can taste something Italian and something Japanese in a single pie, all smothered in homemade cheese.

For an appetizer we opted for “today’s marinade” which turned out to be our beloved mushrooms, and for the main course we choose something classic and something innovative: Margherita Pizza and Quattro Flowers Pizza (pumpkin, leek flower and daylily flowers and homemade parmesan with sweet chili sauce).

To encourage customers to try the diversified dishes, at Pizza 4P’s you can order one pizza with two different styles, split half and half. The simple Margherita was out favorite with its generous distribution of wonderful cheese while the Quattro Flowers Pizza gave us a taste of the exotic, the succulent homemade cheese mixing nicely with the light fragrance of vegetable flowers.


8/15 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: (08) 3 822 9838

For dessert my friend chose her favorite tiramisu which was very tasty and had a delightful presentation. (This dinner cost us about VND200,000 each).

“We targeted Vietnamese customers so we conducted research before opening the restaurant. We invited 50 Vietnamese people to come to taste our pizza twice a week and gathered their opinions. This menu was designed by Vietnamese people,” said the restaurant’s young CEO, Yosuke Masuko.

Masuko said he came to Vietnam from Tokyo three years ago to work in the financial sector. After this restaurant he plans to open an eco resort. “10 years ago I wanted to open an eco resort. That is why I came to Vietnam. Resorts and restaurants are similar businesses and I started with a restaurant first,” said Masuko.

After spending one year in Hanoi, Masuko moved to Saigon two years ago and together with his wife, opened Pizza 4P’s last August. The four P’s acronym stands for: Platform of Personal Pizza for Peace.

Now Masuko said works with former film director turned pizza chef, Takaaki Yoshikawa, a good friend for over 20 years.

Masuko said Yoshikawa has a good time making pizza and meeting customers in Saigon. “Six years ago, we made a pizza oven in the garden (in Japan) and cooked pizza as a hobby. We also offered pizza making classes for children,” said Masuko.

Pizza 4P’s follows an open minded concept. Masuko said pizza lovers could submit ideas for new dishes and after tests, the most popular innovation would be added to the menu. In addition to minor fame, the winner will receive copyright royalties for as long as the dish remains on the menu.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vietnam Airlines offers discounts to Europe, Northeast Asia flights

Vietnam Airlines has slashed prices on flights to Europe and Northeast Asia by as much as 46 percent from now until March 31 , Thoi bao kinh te Saigon quoted the national carrier as saying Saturday.

According to the report, the round-trips fare from Ho Chi Minh City to London is now only US$699, down 46 percent from normal. A trip from HCMC to Moscow and back now costs $700, a 39 percent discount.

Meanwhile, customers can expect to pay $480 for a round-trip ticket from HCMC to Tokyo and $449 from HCMC to Seoul.

Quoted fares do not include taxes and surcharges, the report said.

Vietnam Airlines currently operates 25 flights per week from HCMC to Japan and 14 to South Korea. The national carrier also offers 25 flights to England, France and Germany each week, and seven to Russia.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lanta Viet resumes operation in Mui Ne

Russian-invested tour operator Lanta Viet has resumed its operations in the Mui Ne resort area on February 2 after its sudden close following the bankruptcy of its parent firm Lanta Tour Voyage the previous week.

Nguyen Van Khoa, chairman of the Binh Thuan Tourism Association, said Lanta Viet director Konstantin Prikhodko opened the office in the late afternoon.

“Dozens of resort owners immediately came to the office to request him to sign debt notes for hosting the company’s Russian tourists over the past several days,” he said.

At a meeting with Vietnamese tourism authorities and the People's Committee of Binh Thuan Province on February 1, Prikhodko said he and his employees left the office in fear that some frustrated people could surround the place as happened at Lanta’s office in Thailand.

However, the resort owners said they had taken good care of the Russian tourists to maintain their reputation despite being aware of Lanta Tour Voyage’s bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, tourism authorities said they had instructed the resorts to continue taking good care of the tourists as a move to promote Mui Ne tourism.

Dozens of Russian tourists stranded in Mui Ne have left Vietnam over the past days and all of those sent to Vietnam through Lanta Viet are expected to leave by February 8.

Prikhodko committed to pay the resorts but did not offer a payment time.

Russian tourists stranded in Vietnam as tour operator goes bust

Lanta Tour Voyage, one of Russia’s largest tour operators, declared bankruptcy January 27 and shut down after being unable to provide funding for contracted services, leaving thousands of Russian tourists stranded abroad including 309 in Vietnam.

Russia's state development bank VTB on February 1 said it will lend Lanta Tour Voyage US$7 million at an interest rate of 12 percent, according to the Russian daily newspaper Vedomosti.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A slice of Nha Trang in Ho Chi Minh City

To enjoy authentic food from the coastal resort town, visit Khoai Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City

Ốc cuộn mỡ chài nướng
(Grill snail wrapped in caul fat) at Khoai Restaurant in
Ho Chi Minh City

Nha Trang, with its beautiful white sand beaches and range of seafood, is clearly a land that Mother Nature looks upon kindly.

Locals have taken advantage of the bounty and created many marvelous dishes from seafood that entrance visitors.

Nha Trang residents who move to Ho Chi Minh City take with them their love for the specialties of their land, but find it hard to satisfy their craving in the southern metro. Hard but not impossible, for there is Khoai Restaurant on Le Quy Don Street, District 3.

This Nha Trang specialty restaurant claims to get all its ingredients from the coastal town as also its chefs to ensure the food remains authentic.

It does serve many of the delicacies of the coastal city - like nem nướng (grilled minced pork). The dish is made by grilling minced pork and rolling it in soft rice paper with lettuce and fresh herbs, and is served with peanut dipping sauce.

Bún sứa (jellyfish vermicelli soup) comprised of crispy jellyfish and delicious soup; bún cá (fish vermicelli soup) gets its delicately sweet flavor from the fish.

Khoai also serves some traditional cakes such as bánh bèo (small steamed savory rice cakes), bánh xèo (fried rice pancake folded in half and filled with shrimp, meat, and soya bean sprouts), and bánh ướt (steamed rice paper). The cakes are simple and rural but delicious.

The restaurant is also easy on the eye with its simple but pleasant décor – it has rough stone walls, magnificent pictures of Nha Trang Bay, and storm lanterns hung everywhere.

It is suitable for gatherings of families, friends, colleagues, and others.

Valentine awaits in beautiful Nha Trang

Michelia Hotel is offering a sweet Valentine in one of the world’s most beautiful bays -- Nha Trang in central Vietnam.

The romantic package, valid between February 13 to 29, will allow couples to enjoy three nights together in a romantic setting in well-equipped rooms with champagne, chocolate, breakfast in bed, and roses on the bed every evening.

A candlelight dinner to the sound of a violin will be served on February 14 by the hotel pool. Couples can take photos with a Cupid to record the moment.

The package also offers free use of the gym, Internet, and the hotel’s exclusive beach, and a 20 percent discount on laundry.

It costs just VND3.83 million (US$182).

The four-star hotel at 4 Pasteur is located in the heart of the central town, which in 2010 was listed by Worldbays as having one of the 29 most beautiful bays in the world.

It takes around a minute to walk to the beach, and several minutes to shopping centers and many of the town’s attractions.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Victoria group presents 12-night Indochina tour

Victoria Hotels & Resorts, the group that runs six properties across Vietnam and Cambodia, is offering a 12-night Indochina exploration package.

The Indochina Explorer package will highlight the attractions of the region. Tourists will be taken on train, boat and bus tours through ethnic minority regions in the northern Vietnam, the UNESCO heritage town Hoi An and its beach in central Vietnam, the floating markets of Can Tho and the mystic Sam mountain in An Giang Province in the southern region.

Customers will then travel by speedboat to Phnom Penh, and see vestiges of the Khmer civilization in Siem Reap.

The package includes accommodation with daily breakfast in superior rooms at each Victoria Hotels & Resorts in Sa Pa, Hoi An, Can Tho, Chau Doc and Siem Reap. The group operates five hotels in Vietnam, including one in the south central resort town Phan Thiet.

Customers will also receive welcome drink and towel upon arrival, daily fresh flowers and fruit basket, souvenir gifts from the tour operator, and early check-in or late check-out if available.

The package costs US$1,563 a twin sharing room and a further $867 for a single supplement.