Guest shifts in Saigon are nothing new these days.
Most weeks there are bar takeovers, often with international brand ambassadors at the helm of our favourite bars for an evening.
As for wine dinners, ha, take your pick!
Fabulous dining venues like Qui Cuisine & Mixology are famous for it, especially with their premium steaks and wine soirees.
While craft breweries it seems are frothing to do a “collab” any chance they can get.
Saigon has always been a great food city, but there’s probably never been a better time to dine out than right now.
This month, one of Saigon’s best-known craft beer breweries, Pasteur Street Brewing Co. got in on the act and cosied up with Urban Kitchen & Bar to bring us a pairing dinner with a twist.
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Murderer’s Row! Snapped during a photo shoot by our friends at @vietcetera – Double IPA, Dragonfruit Gose, Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout, Jasmine IPA, Nitro Irish Stout, Spice Island Saison, Passion Fruit Wheat Ale, Coffee Porter … get some! . . #biacraftedinvietnam #pasteurstreetbrewing #pasteurstreet #beer #beers #craftbeer #bia #ipa #saigon #vietnam #brewstrong #beerdontlie
What happened is that Pasteur Street’s American head chef Logan Hestor ducked across town for a couple of nights and pulled up a station at the coalface alongside Urban Kitchen’s local head chef, Dat Tran.
Emerging from that was an east-west fusion of interesting sharing plates carefully paired with a selection of signature beers from Pasteur Street’s award-winning inventory that we’ve all come to know and indulge in, probably a bit too much in some cases.
There were no glasses of Marlborough region Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, not even a whiff of smoky, bourbon barrel-aged 15 year-old Glenfiddich single malt whisky.
Don’t even think about it.
This Pasteur Street / Urban Kitchen collaboration was something a little different – a guest chef event that had more of a “back home” kind of feel than other more dinner jacket and pocket square affairs.
I believe I saw a trucker hat, definitely a gnarly looking beard or two, plaid shirts here and there, and if someone had turned up in flip flops, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
It was refreshing, though, like Pasteur Street’s flagship beer, the fruity Jasmine IPA (ABV: 6.5% | IBU: 50), when it was paired first up with the wagyu tartare and the very Vietnamese and citrusy bo tai chanh.
I’ll be honest, tartare isn’t my thing, wagyu or not, but I appreciated chef Hestor’s intent. He was telling us this dish need not be just for stuffy five-star French restaurants at double or triple the price.
And his choice to pair it with the Jasmine IPA allowed this florally drop to stand out like a vegetarian would at Meatworks.
The crisp, citrusy notes that it’s renown for permeated each mushy scoop of tartare. Its versatility was being showcased.
You want to quaff it down with a plate of BBQ ribs? Sure, go ahead.
Equally, if you want to sip it in an upscale restaurant over a wagyu tartare, be my guest.
Other appetisers joining the wagyu tartare and the bo tai chanh combination were Buffalo wings daubed with a glistening coat of edible liquid gold.
This was the closest thing I’d ever come to a gold nugget, let alone eating one that looked just like it.
Chef Tran balanced out the offering with the quintessential Vietnamese quan an dish ga chien nuoc mam. Anyone who’s lived in or Vietnam for even the shortest time will know the dish I’m talking about.
While those glittering golden chickeny nuggets drew the limelight and filled the lenses of phone cameras table-wide, it was probably Chef Tran’s dish that won this round, as his sweet and savoury (and fishy) chicken wings and thighs were downed with the utmost gusto by the increasingly chatty local and foreign punters feeding their faces.
Either way, as my mother used to say, our chicken all went down the same way, with a frosty glass of Pasteur Street’s Viet Wit (ABV: 4% | IBU: 20), a Belgian-style easy-drinking white ale with a yeasty but fruity aroma.
Rounding out the triumvirate of appetisers was Chef Heston’s BBQ duck sliders and Chef Tran’s banh bao vit quay paired with Pasteur Street’s Dragonfruit Gose (ABV: 4.3% | IBU: 13).
BBQ duck, sliders and banh bao are welcome anywhere at anytime on my dinner table, and rightfully, these were duly despatched by our guzzling gourmands.
Given the Dragonfruit Gose’s sourness and in particular the banh bao’s sweetness, the pairing was a good one. But as the appetiser pairings revealed, the beer combinations could quite easily have been switched around such was their easy drinkability at low IBUs and relatively low ABVs.
When the main landed, a “Tomahawk” com tam with quail egg and broken rice, we were nicely gassed up and ready to hook in.
Com Tam is a ubiquitous southern Vietnam dish that’s sold everywhere and eaten any time of the day, although mostly for breakfast.
It generally consists of grilled pork and rice served with a very generous splash of nuoc mam (fish sauce) to the side.
On this occasion our “Tomahawk” (a cheeky piss take) was a large pork chop cut up into bite-size pieces resting on a bed of greens.
For this main event, our frothy pairing was Pasteur Street’s Spice Island Saison (ABV: 7.2% | IBU: 23), but by now we were chopping and changing, trying this with that, as the entertaining dinner culminated with a delicious mango cobbler and nitro-coconut ice cream, complete with all the theatrics.
And all for just VND375,000++ per person. Get excited!
Words by Matthew Cowan. Follow Matt on Instagram at @mattcowansaigon
Photos by Mike Palumbo. Follow Mike on Instagram at @mikepalumbo_
For more information about Pasteur Street Brewing Co., go to https://pasteurstreet.com/
UPDATE: Urban Kitchen & Bar has closed.