Vietnamese cuisine is fairly new to India and still relatively lesser known, but fast gaining popularity. Five Star Hotels and stand alone specialty Pan Asian restaurants are the only ones who generally serve this cuisine in metros.
The Vietnamese pop up at Shiro, in Mumbai, led by Chef Vu Dinh Hung from Ho Chi Minh City seemed like the perfect opportunity to step into the restaurant, after a somewhat long gap. Of course Chef Vu had trained the team here headed by Chef Sameer Juvekar and left. Yet, the entire meal served to us was authenticity personified.
This simple but flavourful cuisine, has borrowed a lot from China, Thailand and of course has an obvious French influence too. But all to its advantage.
We began our meal with the customary summer salad rolls comprising vegetables, bún (rice vermicelli), & other ingredients wrapped in Vietnamese bánh tráng (rice paper). These truly were a refreshing start as it was light and easy on the stomach. The burst of crunchy veggies in the rolls felt good to bite into. Ours were the prawns and crabstick ones, but Vegetarians have an exciting Tofu option.
Cha gio, or the spring rolls with vegetables came next. Unlike the Chinese spring rolls, these are lighter and easier to digest. One has to wrap them in a lettuce leaf and dip into the sauce to relish them in the traditional way. These surpassed our expectations. Absolutely extraordinary flavours and gave a boost to our palate.
No Vietnamese meal is complete without Pho and I must confess, I was secretly awaiting its arrival. Pho is a popular noodle soup, made with rice noodle, herbs, broth and chicken. It is filling, yet, not a complete meal. In fact it is quite light and refreshing. The dash of chilies and the paste added the right amount of zing to it and perked our taste buds beyond compare.
Olive oil, lots of tomatoes, Italian basil, pistachios, all have a large presence in Hung’s dishes, we discovered. Along with these, he mixes Western foods with Asian ingredients in his signature dishes to give them a contemporary twist. I loved that as he obviously does a perfect job of it.
The BBQ eggplant took us completely by surprise. I was reluctant to try it but with its unique marinade and copious amounts of peanuts and grilled to perfection, it turned out to be one of my favourites that evening. As in our baigan bharta, the eggplant flavour was masked, and yet distinctly enhanced.
A mildly flavoured aromatic chicken and potato curry with steamed sticky rice followed. It was strongly reminiscent of the Thai curry minus the galangal and lemon grass of course.Vietnamese curries are made with freshly ground spices as opposed to pastes. Totally my comfort food. Relished it. Could have been a bit more spicy though.
Although each dish we were served, was savoured by us, but they had saved the best for the last. The glass noodles had an eclectic flavour. The myriad textures- crunchy, creamy, teased our palates and made us crave for more. It was a compete meal in itself, although Chef Juvekar, generously sent us some clay pot fish which had subtle saucy flavours and was equally delicious.
The chef’s creativity knows no bounds. The chocolate fondant with figs ( my first ever) was delightful and decadent. What a fabulous combination I thought, it was. The cream and crunch were married perfectly. The molten chocolate filled our mouth and we were satiated beyond words.
The chef transported us to Vietnam through his culinary journey. Even after a meal comprising so many dishes, we were not uncomfortable. That is the beauty of a Vietnamese meal. The fresh ingredients have a lot to do with this. A memorable meal, I shall always cherish. On till April 26, pop by to experience this unique pop up:)