• Vegetarian Vegetarian
    ( 15 reviews )



185/30 Pham Ngu Lao St, District 1, Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Uses some dairy and cheese but otherwise vegan. Prices cheap to moderate. Reported re-opened Jan 2012. DEC 2013 REPORTED SHUT.

Categories: Vegan-friendly, Lacto, Ovo, International, Vietnamese

15 Reviews

First Review by raphalla

relaxed little place with pretty good spring rolls - Edit

Have eaten at zen several times both in feb 2012 and jan 2013 and have never had a bad meal. The owner man is super nice, and probably the most relaxed guy in vietnam. Which is saying something. I am really suprised by most of the reviews on here, its true it's not exactly five star dining, but if you stick to the vietnamese dishes (try the deep fried tofu with lemongrass and chilli, or any of the stir-fried noodle dishes) the food is always good. Also its nice to be able to have a beer with the food, which most of the places aimed at local vegos don't offer. If you're the kind of person that doesn't mind too much if your tofu is sauteed or braised then you will probably enjoy zen.

Pros: relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, english menu

Cons: hawkers, a little pricey

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Zen Veg - Edit

I don't recall what my partner and I had ordered but I remember the food being salty and heavy on sauce. We didn't return after that one meal. Also, cleanliness seemed like an issue here at the time. Hope that's all changed and improved. If you eat here, please write a review and let us know!

Pros: it's vegetarian

Cons: vegan not labeled

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Disappointing Recommendation in Lonely Planet - Edit

After a great run of vegetarian recommendations in our South-East Asia on Shoestring Lonely Planet guide (2010 edition), it was inevitable that one average experience would be waiting around the corner That corner happened to be the one that led us down Minihotel Alley to Zen.

The menu looked impressive with a large selection of fried, deep-fried and braised dishes. We decided to share a selection of dishes including fresh spring rolls, deep-fried eggplant and braised turnip, tofu and mushrooms in a claypot. It sounded like a meal to remember, but the dishes failed to live up to expectations.

The fresh spring rolls were the worst we have eaten in Vietnam, being dry to the point that no dipping sauce could save them and completely overwhelming with their overuse of mint. The braised vegetables and tofu in a claypot were not in a claypot and featured full segments of onion, rather than the infamous caramelised goodness you come to expect from a claypot dish in other Vietnamese restaurants. The deep-fried eggplant was a keeper, though it's not enough to save the average-at-best other dishes.

The price of alcohol was also a downer with the cheapest being a bottle of the local Saigon beer, setting you back 18,000 Dong. You can pick up a bottle of Saigon for 10,000 Dong in most places in the backpacker district, so this price seems unnecessarily high.

The service was barely worth writing about as all the waiter did was chain-smoke as he took our order and brought our food. The experience was entirely devoid of any personality or atmosphere.

If it is cheap veggie food you are after, then this may be a good spot if you pick the right dishes. I wouldn't return though and would recommend trying one of the many other vegetarian options in the district.

Pros: cheap varied menu

Cons: braised "claypot" dishes, expensive alcoholic beverages, dull

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Disappointed - Edit

Next time i will read on Happycow before...

I ordered some fried tofu (boring, no taste) and a salad (they brought me the wrong one and than i waited about ten minutes for english-speaking staff to tell them what for a salad i ordered because the guy who brought it to me really did not understand a single word. Unfortunately he was to lazy to get me i waited and waited and in the end i had to ate the wrong one, a normal papaya salad, nothing special). During the meal the guy stared at me the whole time. Really bad service, boring food and definitely too expensive!
Shame on you, Lonely Planet.

Btw. i think they use only soy cheese, no cow milk cheese.

Pros: Big menu, Easy to reach

Cons: Boring food, Bad service, Very expensive

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Disappointment - Edit

They have a huge menu with different kinds of Asian and European dishes. That might be part of the problem, because the cook didn't really seem to have idea how these dishes should be like. Both pesto pasta and Indian tofu curry were really strange and didn't really taste that good.

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good if you know what to choose - Edit

Zen had one big default : The cook makes too many dishes and some are excellent, some are bad. Peace rools for example are great. But its sometimes difficult to be understood with english. The wife is very nice but not everyone in the restaurant. Don't miss the fresh juices

Pros: fresh juices, peace rolls, fried noodles

Cons: too many dishes

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... - Edit

bit wary because of the bad reviews on here but the food was good, better than can be said for most other veg places in vietnam. a bit more expensive than most but we avoided the indian/western food and had some nice tofu, the veg was fresh and tasty, and not too pricey for beer. all in all good, and the waiter was friendly. just really annoying being interrupted 5-10 times in the course of a meal by hawkers.

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Just DON'T go there. - Edit

Inedible - the worst food I've had in Asia in the last 2 and a half months. I ordered the veg coconut curry with rice. It arrived too quickly which always sets off alarm bells and it definitely tasted like it had been lurking around a bit long. They hadn't even bothered to heat it up properly and the rice was stone cold (dangerous). It was tastless and yet tasted strange - it was obvious they just don't care and the owner and staff acted like they were doing me a big favour. They looked slightly embarrassed when I paid and left a full plate of food and so they should be.

I believe the only reason this place manages to stay open is because of its Lonely Planet recommendation.

It gets a BIG thumbs down from me.

Pros: there aren't any

Cons: over priced, bad attitude, incompetent cooks

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Asian dishes good - Edit

This is essentially a tourist place and the menu is extensive which includes a lot of western dishes. I assumed the western food would be average at best and therefore avoided it. We had a nice braised tofu in clay pot which was great, noodles and rice and cheap iced green tea.
Not incredible but no complaints.

Pros: good asian dishes, reasonably priced

Cons: nothing special

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disappointing to say the least - Edit

Like most eateries in Saigon this place was disappointing to say the least. For breakfast I ordered muesli (without the cow's milk) with sliced banana and a mango juice poured over it (instead of the milk). I got a couple of slices of mango and banana with some museli sprinkled on it and then got charged 35,000 dong for the lot (too much), and the guy serving me (with total disinterest) blew cigarette smoke all over me. I pondered going back for dinner one night because the menu was quite comprehensive, but I never did because who knows what they would have served me or charged me for that matter!!

Cons: staff & customers smoking, rude staff, over-priced

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me ones again - Edit

well, i found this quite disappointing. the dishes miss some heartful flavour. your better of down the street at Little Saigon, which has an awesome variety of vegetarian dishes, though it's not a vegetarian restaurant. the fried yam will justify everything.

Pros: central to guesthouses, cheap

Cons: missing flavor, too many alternatives

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Tasty Burrito/ Wierd soup - Edit

I ate here before reading the other reviews on Happy Cow, which suprised me actually. We actually liked the Bean Burrito (with salad and guacomole) so much that we went back a second time. I ordered the pumpkin soup the second time we went back, which was weird, way too heavy on some herb or spice. The enchilla wasnt as good as the burrito and the nachos were ok as were the spiced chips (french fries). We didnt get sick or anything and didnt get a look at the kitchen but it was ok.

Pros: Yummy Burrito, Large menu selection, 100% vegie

Cons: Lacks atmosphere, Hawkers galore, Hit and miss dishes

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Be careful - - Edit

I hope that the current owners quickly change their style. Under the old owner this was a good place to visit & eat in. Original paintings by the local artist "Le Vuong" on the walls. Great layout / design by the last owner. Drinking coke / pepsi / other canned & bottles drinks is perfectly safe. If you are considering eating there I strongly suggest that you first go & take a look in the kitchen / freezer / on the stove / on the food preparation areas - if everything looks "tickety boo" & you order / enjoy dishes made from fresh & clean ingredients then please email to me & I will visit there again myself & will agree to delete this review. Until then I will be eating in An Lac Chay / Bodhi Tree etc. on the next lane where the owners use fresh ingredients.

Pros: Good decor, Airy

Cons: Old veggies, Old dough, Old oil

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Heavy Tasted - Edit

Wide variety of choice.
The Indian food is so so.

Pros: Location

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I got a little sick! - Edit

The meal I was served was bland and the rice stale and obviouly re-heated and old. I was stupid enough to have eaten a bit and as a result I had a 24hr dose of stomach cramps. When I passed the canteen over the next week it was usually empty (not even locals).
* Beware the two 'outdoor canteens' on the same narrow street advertise and give the impression they are solely vegetarian. They are not and serve two restaurants that are very popular for their meat and seafood dishes. I never saw the pans being washed between cooking, so any food ordered will be contaminated by the previous meat dish.

Pros: cheap

Cons: hygene problems, stale/ bland food, not popular

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