We went to dinner at Le Silpa with high expectations, partly from good reviews on TA and partly from an attractive advertising spread in one of the local magazines.
Initial impressions were good. The dining room is large but nicely set up, the tables well spaced, with linen table cloths and napkins. The maitre d'/manager ( a French Canadian) was friendly, although he surprised us somewhat by announcing that everything on the menu was available - which suggests that this isn't usually the case.
First came a complimentary tapenade which was OK. My starter of Pate de foi gras was excellent, a cylinder of fine pate accompanied by a small piece of very tasty foi gras on toast. At 170,000 kip it is more than twice the price of the other starters, but worth it. Unfortunately my partner's starter was undistinguished, with about half a dozen small and fairly tasteless prawns swimming with some shredded 'veggies' (as described on the menu!) in a saffron curry sauce.
From there things went downhill. My main came in a casserole dish and consisted of a goodly number of large but fairly tasteless scallops and diced vegetables, drowned in a vanilla cream broth. My partner's Canadian black cod was poor, the small beetroot mesh and other flourishes on the plate not disguising a tasteless piece of fish. We are guessing that the seafood had all been frozen - pity they are not required to declare this on the menu as is the case in some other countries.
We didn't bother with dessert. The total price for two starters, two mains and three glasses of wine was around 760,000 kip (over A$100).
The wine list is fairly extensive and expensive, in keeping with most restaurants in Asia. There are a few acceptable wines by the glass at about 55,000 kip/200 ml glass.
We were disappointed with our meal. That there was only one other couple (also tourists) in the restaurant at 8pm on a Friday night suggests that all is not well with the restaurant. There is no website, and the dinner menu on the Facebook page is several months out of date. The Facebook page seems to be focussed mainly on advising people about the fixed price lunch specials which change regularly.
Perhaps we were wrong to ignore our second rule of restaurant eating (" don't order seafood in a landlocked country"). (The first is "don't eat anywhere that revolves".) However, if the chef is putting these dishes on the menu he or she should be confident in the quality of the produce they are using. Moreover, the meat dishes were largely sourced from Australia and NZ, which we don't need to travel to enjoy.
Perhaps a better starting point for La Silpa would be not "what should be on a French restaurant menu" but rather "what is the best produce we can source here, and how can we best cook it in a manner keeping with fine French cuisine". That approach can certainly produce some wonderful results (I still have fond memories from many years ago of a Nga Trang lobster in fresh vanilla bean sauce in the Metropole Hanoi).
For the moment however La Silpa cannot be recommended
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