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Unfiled March 11, 2005
The Mesto in Saigon
By Mark Ames Browse author Email

As a counter to O!Chen, I would like to offer a few words about an entirely different and highly positive experience I had at a Russian (or rather Russian-by-way-of-Sweden) restaurant I ate at in Saigon a couple of months ago.

The restaurant is called "Mesto," and it was opened last year by eXile A-list chef Per of Moscow's Scandinavia fame, along with his partner Alyona, also a Scandinavia grad.

Unfortunately I don't have too much space here to really describe to you the oasis of upscale pleasure that Mesto offers its customers, so I'll do my best. First, it helps to know that Saigon is an extremely crowded, active, noisy, and rather oppressive city. I've eaten some fine food there, especially Thai and local stuff, but never have I found a restaurant where you feel as if you've genuinely escaped the heat and smells and bustle.

Mesto, with its fine minimalist interior of white with brown trimming, offers just that transformation -- something like a cross between Scandinavian simplicity and Japanese order -- so you can just concentrate on Per's awesome concoctions and perhaps your company if, like me, you happened to be towing along a Russian teenager.

We had a fantastic Bloody Mary for starters -- Scandinavia was the place that first turned me on to this spicy little meal-buzzer, and Per's Mesto Mary still has the golden touch.

We started with a lobster bisque soup, a foamy delight served in a ceramic longboat-like bowl, with a cold terrine of blackened foie gras atop in a spoon. My teenybopper dining partner and I ate it wrong, vulgarians that we are -- I think we dipped the terrine into the soup -- but hot damn, it was still tasty.

Next, and probably the most original of the dishes (which is saying a lot) -- a Dragon Fruit Ceviche with coconutmilk, mint olive oil, lime and a chicken skewer. Per managed to make the dragon fruit flesh spicy and almost meat-like, with a heavy Thai influence.

We were then treated to Lemon Scented Loin of Lamb with a ragout of Puy Lentils, onions and black pepper sauce. As you can imagine, my tenniebopper date was overwhelmed. Usually she lives happily on kuri grill chicken from the local kiosk, but this day, she was so impressed she couldn't stop saying "vwow" and "bozhe moi" after each bite. I felt pretty sure I was going to get anal after treating her to this meal.

There were other dishes -- amazing desserts in a region that forgot to appreciate chocolate and sugar -- and other things to say about the amazing interior, the fine attention to every detail right down to the place settings and silverware... But I would just suggest this: if you're in the Far East, you MUST put Mesto at the top of your places to dine list. There was nothing like it in all of 'Nam. Heck, I bet if they had a Mesto 40 years ago, Kurtz would have never left town for the jungle.

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The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

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