Hate to push the Thao Dien agenda — but another must-visit hotspot has opened in the expat paradise part of Saigon. And I’m not mad about it, because it’s absolutely fabulous. Meet Aalto, a new Mediterranean-inspired dining concept.
Let’s first talk about the food, shall we? You clicked on this probably feeling a bit snacky, and I can’t wait to show you my good-looking food pics. So let’s go!
We started off with the Hummus, Zoug, Egg. A soft-boiled egg on top of some creamy hummus. Finished off with Zoug, a spicy cilantro sauce with origins in Yemen. Taking your taste buds on a world trip while never leaving Thao Dien? You betcha.
PS: for my aspiring food bloggers - order this one for the money shot. Cutting into that perfect runny yolk on top of a cloud of hummus... The Instagram Reels are going to love this one, trust me.
Moving on to the Stracciatella, Carrot, Mandarin. The stracciatella (that stringy heart of a burrata cheese) is the perfect foundation for this blend of ingredients. Nice crunch from the thinly shaved carrots, a little sweet touch from the mandarin, and some chili oil to balance it all out.
My weak spot is always a simple but delicious dish. It might be my favorite of the night!
Next, we tried out the Raw Beef, Pecorino, and Charcuterie. Just lovely. Such fresh beef, some salty notes, some herby, sometimes a tiny spicy kick. Everything ties together. Order for the meat-lover at your table.
Moving onto larger plates, first up the Grilled Octopus with White Bean and Nduja. First of all, before this, I don’t think I would have ever chosen white beans as a side to my octopus. But somehow: it works perfectly. Second of all, have you ever tasted octopus that was as tender as a white fish filet? Me neither, until my visit at Aalto.
This grilled octopus is a beautiful fork-tender plate, great to share with the table. Never thought I would give a special shout-out to the beans in a dish, but here it goes: you go, beans. You were delightful.
Our final plate: Roast Cauliflower, Muhammara, Goats Curd. Ending on a super fresh and light note. The cauliflower works as an absolute sponge for this mix of flavors, releasing it all when you bite down.
I must say, the menu brought me something new in every bite. I love how Chef Jimmy Garside brings local produce-driven food with many different ingredients to explore, sprinkling some wood-fired magic here and there. Also, can we talk about how every menu item sounds like a Mediterranean poem? This is definitely my type of serenade.
So, food is great. But what else?
Branding, lovely. By day, I work in advertising, so I notice these things. By night, I fall in love with new restaurants in Thao Dien, apparently.
Playlist, funky. Aalto, if you’re reading this, send me the link. ;-)
Interior, stunning. Seriously, if I saw a picture of it on my Instagram feed, it’s going straight in the ‘home inspo’ folder.
In every little execution, you can taste Aalto’s unique concept. Love how everything clicks together.
So…. is it worth the hype?
The truth? I couldn’t fault a single dish or anything else for that matter. I know I’m a positive person, but I’m also honest. I hate overhyped restaurants that don’t deliver, but I must say Aalto delivered.
A little note in the spirit of honesty: I can’t imagine it fits everyone’s budget. I’m used to these prices in Europe, but for Saigon it’s a tad more expensive.
So, if you’re looking to splurge on a dining experience (read: convince your partner/friends to take you out), I guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth at Aalto. If not: the city is full of cheap eats. I’m looking forward to discovering them all together.