They don’t have any oompa loompas. But there’s a factory feel to the place. And there’s chocolate. Lots of chocolate. So go out and try some today!
A country known for coffee now boasts another cafe delicacy both expats and locals enjoy, thanks to Maison Marou. They make chocolate. Lots of it. And it’s pretty damn good. Maybe not Switzerland good, but the Swiss have to be good at something else besides skiing and neutrality, right? (We kid, we kid.)
Maison Marou: Why we like it
If you have a sweet tooth, without a doubt, this is the best place to come in Hanoi or Saigon. They specialize in chocolate. Do we really need to say more?
The concept is a hybrid between a factory and a cafe, resulting in a product that is best described as a chocolate showroom. The large glass windows into the back room reveal the chocolatiers working away at their craft.
Wrapping, tempering and cooling stations are clearly labeled for visitors to appreciate the process that goes into each chocolatey creation.
The entire experience, sans oompa loompas, is reminiscent of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.
On our visit, we sampled the Signature Marou, which is their specialty hot chocolate. The flavor was full and rich. It is most definitely a drink to sip through slowly. And be patient before the first sip. Sometimes it is scorching hot.
The Minty Marou is a peppermint variation of the classic hot chocolate. It is a recent addition that has received rave reviews. If you have difficulty deciding what to order, the tarte au chocolat and chocolate ganache are recommended.
If you’re looking for something particularly indulgent, you won’t be disappointed.
Inside the glass is an alluring array of truffles, tarts, pastries, cookies, chocolate covered cacao beans, and more. The vibes are casual and slightly hipster. A good place to come and enjoy a sweet treat (or two..or FIVE!).
You can get a variety of coffee too, everything from espressos to cappuccinos.
If you just so happen to be looking for gifts, you’re in luck. A huge table in the middle of the cafe displays a vast collection of specialty packages and sampler boxes of chocolates. We recommend making a stop here if you’re wanting to pick up a memorable edible. Just remember that it’s usually hot in Saigon so get your chocolate present somewhere cool immediately after leaving Maison Marou.
Or for gifts that won’t melt, you can buy other souvenirs such as bags and notebooks.
Let’s start with the name. Maison is French for home. And Marou is a combination of the French founders’ names: Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou. Samuel was a banker. Vincent was an advertising executive. And their idea was born a decade ago during a camping trip to the jungle.
They later Googled “cacao plantation” and that led them to a farm in Vung Tau-Ba Ria province.
Now they rely on a select group of farmers in a handful of provinces, including Lam Dong and several in the Mekong Delta.
Maison Marou is a bright, airy space with excellent air conditioning. The decor matches the wrapping of their chocolate bars with its vibrant illustration and rich colors.
Located on Calmette, the cafe is handy to the Ben Thanh market and Marcel Gourmet Burger, one of the best burger spots in town. Chase your trip to the market or Marcel’s with a chocolatey, post-shopping or post-meal pick-me-up.
The place is not known for its service, so don’t expect to be fussed over. Reviews around the internet are mixed.
During our visit, the experience wasn’t awful, but also not memorable. Keep in mind, though, you’re here for the chocolate! And if you’ve been in Vietnam for even a week, you should know by now that the service you expect is the exception, not the rule.
Just learn to shout, “Em oi!” You’ll be OK.
Perhaps the only other complaint you can make is about the price. But let’s be real. Where else can you get chocolate this good in Vietnam?
A signature hot chocolate will run you 90,000 VND, while one of those chocolate bars that make a great gift costs 120,000 VND. For something cheaper, get a brownie or cookie for 60,000 VND. Or if you feel like digging in to something a little more special, try L’Opera for 150,000 VND. It’s shaped almost like a brick, with layers of chocolate and French buttercream.
To indulge or not to indulge?
It all depends on how you feel at the moment, I suppose. I’m not gonna lie, I’ll grab a Hersheys or Kit Kat when I’m at the mini mart and craving some chocolate. But those won’t do if I’m anywhere near Calmette. There’s only one option in that neighborhood: Maison Marou.
Just one disclaimer: Not suitable for those watching their waists.