Business Lunch in Ho Chi Minh – Where to go?

 

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Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability.

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Granger Whitelaw:  Good morning and welcome to Monday morning coffee. This is Granger Whitelaw. Today we have a really interesting guest with us. The topic for today’s Monday morning coffee is Business lunch in Vietnam. Thinking about if I’m going to take a client out for lunch, where should I go? What kind of restaurant should I go to? What kind of food should I eat?

Granger Whitelaw:  What’s the protocol, what’s proper and what’s the most efficient way to have a productive Business Lunch that makes my guest feel comfortable, and to get a good yummy meal for the day.

Granger Whitelaw:  Today we have Caroline Nguyen as a guest – Good Morning Caroline!

Caroline Nguyen: Good Morning and thank you for having me for Morning Coffee

Granger Whitelaw:  Absolutely. I would have morning coffee with you anytime. So we’re glad that you could make it here today. Many of you may know Caroline from foodies. Caroline is very popular on the foodie site. She is a guest judge at many events here in Vietnam

Granger Whitelaw:  The taco event – you did the Taco event?

Caroline Nguyen: the taco burger fest,

Granger Whitelaw:  the burger Fest. You were there and you looked like you had a lot of fun at taco fest. When I showed up you were having fun.

Caroline Nguyen: Ya, like eating and just wanting to roll back home at the end  of the day.

Granger Whitelaw:  Oh yeah. So, and then who won the taco Fest

Caroline Nguyen: the taco Fest. We each, participant/participator won the prize, Anan won the prize and then,

Granger Whitelaw:  Anan won the prize for best taco?

Caroline Nguyen: Actually each we have each cat category like the fusion Wong, the like beef one, the vegetarian one like that. So,

Granger Whitelaw:  so is Anan is Peter’s place. Right?

Caroline Nguyen: Yes Peters place, it’s a nice place.

Granger Whitelaw:   I just met Peter. I hadn’t been there but I was there for I guess for his anniversary, 10 year anniversary party. I was invited and, and Brad and I and Albin and a bunch of us were there, it was a great, great meal. So, well Anan and there’s a great place that you could actually have lunch or dinner. That’s a good one.

Granger Whitelaw:  But let’s start with how do you know where to go How do you Caroline decide where you would recommend taking a guest A business guest for lunch?

Caroline Nguyen: Normally I will have to have the research about my guests a little bit on the internet or even on linked In because where they’ve been through where they have; learned or where they have traveled.  So, I can understand that which type cuisine in that they like so I can narrow down where’s the place that I will. go

Granger Whitelaw:  So you like, you want to know who they are. So you go on LinkedIn if you haven’t met them before. So this is a guest you haven’t met and you’re here and you’re an expat or you’re Vietnamese. Doesn’t matter. Entertaining a guest. Maybe go on to LinkedIn and kind of learn a little bit about them if you can, or, at least know their nationality and try to think, Hmm, what would they enjoy for lunch Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a good question. Because when guests visit Vietnam, coming from out of the country, many times they’ll look for us to say, Hey, you tell me where to go. Right Like, where’s the cool place to have Vietnamese food Or you know, can I get Dim Sum here – And they just don’t know. So They’ll rely on our experiences. “Saigonee’s”, right. People living in Saigon for that guidance. Yeah. Yeah. But I think it’s true. It’s really good that you, that you, research and so some of the things you look at is

Caroline Nguyen: Where they from, they have studied or traveled.

Granger Whitelaw:  Where they study, that’s a great one!

Caroline Nguyen:. Yeah. Because sometimes sometime when you were studying in one place, because I have my friend used to live in Georgia as a country. Yeah. So, so she liked Georgian food,

Granger Whitelaw:  Georgian food. Now what kind of food is Georgia food

Caroline Nguyen: You know, like, what can we say

Caroline Nguyen: Some Spice similar to salami, something like that, but only in Georgia in they have it. And it’s really hard to find here, but sometimes she make it when she got here. So I had the change who enjoyed that.

Granger Whitelaw:  That’s cool. That’s very, very, very cool. All right, well what else – any other kind of game changers or any things that you, that you look at when you think about where to go to lunch with your customer or your client

Caroline Nguyen: choose the place that make them comfortable as one of the most important things for me. Don’t choose the dish that make them feel uncomfortable. Oh, that’s a funny story. I only make that like an example is don’t put your clients to the in the situation Like Vivian in Pretty woman, you know, that says, yeah, no, when she was out with Richard Gere that she had like dealing with, seashell

Granger Whitelaw:  Oh, when she was escargot. Yes.

Granger Whitelaw:  And it slipped out, it popped out right!

Caroline Nguyen: and she was like “ EH”!

Granger Whitelaw:  yeah, you certainly don’t want to put somebody in an uncomfortable position, right. Where they have to like shell their own shellfish or things like that. And it can be uncomfortable. But you know, funny that you bring that up. I’ll tell you a story since my mother who was, one of my great mentors in life and as is your mother.

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah. They are our big fans, our biggest idle right?!

Granger Whitelaw:  Oh, for sure. It’s certainly your mother who I still am looking forward to meeting. so mom told me one time:

Granger Whitelaw:  She said, you know, Granger, we are negotiating this deal. It was a real estate deal and there was 12 guys coming for, for lunch and we were having it at the board room at the office. And, the boardroom is a great place to have a working lunch and I recommend that highly. A lot of people want to go out for lunch, but sometimes it’s really good just to have a working lunch. Anyway, she had this big group of guys, 12 guys coming in for lunch and she was trying to close this deal and it was kind of a tense –  everyone was kind of tense and you know, it had been negotiating for a while and she said, you know what I did, I ordered Ribs!

Caroline Nguyen: Ah Ha!

Granger Whitelaw:  Wow. Why not Why Why did your order ribs She goes, Granger I ordered  ribs. Because it meant that everybody had to roll up their sleeves and eat with their fingers and wipe off the, the barbecue sauce off their lips. Right. Yeah. And it changed the, the energy in the room instantly when lunch came to this really relaxed environment. Because here, we all are eating ribs and you know, we’re all hungry and we have to use our hands and it brought us all down to the same level.  right It made it human, right Like we’re all on the same playing field now and it took off kind of the edge and it ended up being a phenomenal lunch and up closing the deal and it was successful.

Granger Whitelaw:  So in response, you don’t want people to feel uncomfortable and not not be out of place. Right. And I take him to a, a Five star fancy place where they may not know which fork to use and you know how to eat escargot properly. But certainly there are times when I think that, you know, leveling the playing fields and having a relaxed lunch  like that is a great thing for business and, and can really kind of change the environment that’s going on.

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah, When he’s so intense, we need some little bit of fun. Right.

Granger Whitelaw:  Well now what did the Vietnamese do after dinner A lot. They go out.

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah. “NAU” the words in Vietnamese, which can literally change later is Drunken foods, something like that. So like, yeah. Yeah. Like more padded by Yos when you were just like fresh off the boat arrived,

Caroline Nguyen: to Vietnam. And you will feel a little bit like this is new. This is is, that’s the way they enjoy an even like seal a deal with that. So prepare  If your clients invite you to having some beer,

Granger Whitelaw:  right, right, right. There’s a big beer. Big, a big, a big, a big celebration. Yo, I see them doing that. I don’t drink, but, but anyway, and of course drinking for lunch I don’t think is really appropriate. Any context. I don’t think you should drink alcohol lunch. I don’t think it’s a good signal as a businessperson. And, I don’t think it’s, it’s  it’s  the best thing to do. But listen, sometimes a glass of wine,

Granger Whitelaw:  Hey, it’s okay now what kind of place We’ve talked about places, Vietnamese, of course, we’re here in Vietnam. There is middle Eastern food, Asian food, there’s fusion, there’s all kinds of food and American food, a lot of Western type of food here as well.

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah. luckily in Saigon we have different kind of, we can say that it’s variety of type of cuisine. So we can choose based on our plan after you do the research Right. for me, like the most common one will be the Western one and a Vietnamese one, the local one. So you, there’s a bunch of place that we can mention later that I often go to those places.

Granger Whitelaw:  Sure. But the most common, I think the Japanese, certainly there’s a lot of great Japanese restaurants here. There’s Korean, there’s Dim Sum, there’s Thai food, so many different types of foods here in Vietnam. And Ho Chi Minh, it’s amazing how many restaurants are opening up every day and every week it’s, F & B is exploding here.

Caroline Nguyen:Yeah,  it’s true. Like even in one month they want to be at least five new restaurants or eateries open

Granger Whitelaw:  and some of the chains are growing, right. Ut ut, and bia craft. And it’s these chains,  cocette, right Alban’s new place I think is phenomenal. I hope he opens them everywhere. It’s a great restaurant.

Caroline Nguyen: I even can call them, like an empire right now. Like they open so much. Right

Granger Whitelaw:  Absolutely. Well, let’s talk about some of the places. I know that people are interested to, to hear about the places that we are recommending and certainly maybe more you since you’re the food expert. But give me some names of some Vietnamese and some other Asian restaurants that you think are great places to go for lunch.

Caroline Nguyen: any place. The first thing I do is I recommend is the, if they have a private room, please book a private room because sometimes lunch is quite noisy. Like if you need to listen to your client more clearly.  like that private room. We will help you a lot.

Granger Whitelaw:  So for a working lunch, more of an intense kind of lunch, a private room. Is a good idea And there are many places that you can get private rooms, so call ahead and find one and yeah, Caroline Nguyen: So we, for Vietnamese I have some is quc doc quan

Granger Whitelaw:  Quoc doc Quan. Okay. Where’s that

Caroline Nguyen: Quc doc quan, they have plenty of addresses around the city so you can google it find the one  closest to your place or where they stay.

Granger Whitelaw:  Right. Okay, cool. And there’s a lot of those places that have multiple chains around too.

Caroline Nguyen: Secret garden, hum  is in the two.

Granger Whitelaw:  Sure. Secret garden. Okay. Hum. That’s a great,

Caroline Nguyen: yeah, it’s a vegetarian place if your clients is vegetarian

Granger Whitelaw:  Hum is a phenomenal restaurant and they have spice bistro in D2 also with hum. But that the hum in  D1  by kind of, VIetcombank down near the water, great place, They have this, this appetizer there, they’re like triangle shaped I think. I don’t know. They made it out of mushrooms or something and you’d dip them into a sauce. Oh my God, they are so good. I can tell you if you just went to hum and ate those alone, but they have many, many varieties of food and I’m not a vegetarian. I’m a meat lover, but I love HUm. Phenomenal choice. Yeah. I think it’s a great place for, for, for, for a, a Vietnamese lunch, but also vegetarian mix.

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah. Yeah. Like, like if you want to play out of the box, even if your clients not vegetarian, you can go there too, it’s a nice place, try new things too, right?!

Granger Whitelaw:  Yeah. Asian experience. And they’re beautiful inside. The one district two is indoors. They have an outdoor play area for the kids, but it’s, it’s all built on wood and it’s just, it’s lovely, lovely.

Granger Whitelaw:  So where else in Vietnamese

Caroline Nguyen: we also have Bit whan nassan, it is on John Calvin street in the trees if I’m not wrong. Okay. And the owners. He was the participant in them, master chef in Vietnam. The first season. Yeah, Ms. Thu Thuy, So she made that place really, really nice. And I really like that place when it’s come to the business.

Granger Whitelaw:  I’ve never been there.

Granger Whitelaw:  But yeah, I will definitely be going. So other places I think, you know, for quiet as opposed to non-quiet now you know, if there’s ex-pat Americans, certainly in district one if you’re downtown, you know, places like the Park Hyatt, they have Opera upstairs also,  Also Stoker, which is a great for steak. I love Stoker for lunch. I think it’s quick. It’s easy. They kind of have an ala carte kind of meal usually… for a quiet lunch. I always tease people when I, tell them I go to Namo, which is right across the park Hyatt somewhere that I like to go. It’s on the second floor. It’s very quiet. They have excellent food, but it’s not loud. I can have a, you know, a conversation where I can really hear somebody. Yeah.  the elbow room – well Gee, you know, I’m there probably couple times a week.

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah. Kristen the food over there is Wonderful.

Granger Whitelaw:  Have you seen the desserts there

Caroline Nguyen: Oh, I love this dessert. Like I am addicted to that. is so, so good. It’s like bringing you back to America, right

Granger Whitelaw:  Oh my God, the desserts are huge. I can’t even eat it. That’s why I’ve gained, this is why I’m on my diet to lose 10 kilos right now. And my listeners out there, you can keep me honest. I’m, I’m down about three or four in the last 10 days. Right. So I’m doing pretty good. I’m going down 10 but not by eating it desert at any of these places. So Jerome  has Chanh Bistro rooftop.

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah. Chanh rooftop place is

Granger Whitelaw:  I’ve never eaten there, I’ve gone there for events with him. But what’s the food like

Caroline Nguyen: the food will be a little bit more Western style, so, but it’s make your clients comfortable in the other way too. But the view is breathtaking. Like even for lunch is like – wow.

Granger Whitelaw:  Well it’s lunchtime. You can kind of see some of the construction of the Metro line. But at nighttime it’s a beautiful view

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah, yeah. so nice. He was the participate in them. Master chef in Vietnam the first season. Yeah, ms So she made that place really, really nice. And I really like that play when he’s come to the business.

Granger Whitelaw:  And then there’s skewers and Octo top us and tongue guard. There’s so many places and, and we cannot – not talk about in district two, Stoker has opened up there.. but Eddie’s Diner. What a place. If you want to have a burger and a milkshake or just a great meal and they have Shelley’s, which you know, hes named after his mother has some vegetarian food, but they have such a variety as 200 kind of different things on the menu. Great American food, really good. If you’re looking for a, a fun place to have lunch. . And upstairs there are private rooms that you can use. Yeah. So it’s very quiet. And, so I highly recommended Eddie’s and of course there’s many places Jasps’ and the loop and many, many places you can go for lunch in district two. So anyway, I think really the idea here is like you so eloquently point out, try to know your client, right

Caroline Nguyen: Yeah. Try to know your client, what they like, what they like, make them feel comfortable so their conversation will be more – smooth, and ‘seal the deal’

Granger Whitelaw:   find a place where you can talk if that’s what you’re looking to do. Set the environment properly and if you just want to go have some fun and go to one of these, you know, different places that you can have more fun, light, airy conversation and get some good food and having a Vietnamese experience. Yeah. Yeah. So Friday we’re going to talk about a specific restaurant or restaurant group that we recommend and we want to thank you all Caroline, thank you for joining me today.

Caroline Nguyen: Thank you for having me today. It was fantastic.

Granger Whitelaw:  It’s such a joy to have you. You’re such an energetic, wonderful person with a great taste. And I’m so glad you took the time to join me today.

Granger Whitelaw:  Everybody out there. Thank you for listening. Make sure you, tune back in Friday to hear, the restaurant or restaurant group that we picked, for our profile on Friday notes. And I hope you have a fabulous week. Granger Whitelaw:  Bye bye.  

The Lotus Talks is produced by The Vietnam Group and Hosted by Granger Whitelaw.
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