Real Ale in Saigon finds the Perfect Partner

Pasteur Street Brewery is taking the Real Ale in Saigon scene by storm. Meanwhile, The Racha Room has also been causing quite a stir. This was my first visit, I had been meaning to come for weeks but had just been too busy. The first impressions were excellent. You enter up a narrow stair case from Mac Thi Buoi. At the top, the scale of what they have achieved here becomes instantly apparent. It really is a fantastic space. A tall roof space with old brickwork and roof beams blending in superbly with a modern mezzanine, large windows on the front and cool artwork. It’s a combination of minimalist modern and old world charm.

The Racha Room
I love the quirky artwork in The Racha Room

The event was a joint promotion by the Racha Room and Pasteur Street Brewery. Initially thoughts were obviously, how on earth does one pair beer with food? The perceived wisdom on my country is that wine accompanies food unless its a curry that it’s lager all the way. Real ale in Saigon was hard to come by a few years ago. However, such is the growth and development of craft beers in recent years, that it is absolutely possible to have a meal where the beer plays a valid part in just the same way as wine does. Each serving was a small glass to accompany and lift the food. Though it has to be said, there were plenty of top ups.

Sitting at the bar I was immediately offered a glass of Pasteur’s Petite Saison. This was the perfect 3% starter, it’s a light lively beer that put everyone in the mood for what was to follow. After just enough time for people to finish saying hello and settle down we were asked to take our seats. I was still a little unsure at how this would pan out, but Alex Violette from Pasteur Street Brewery took to the microphone and explained about the joint affair. Then the event started in earnest.

5 types of Real Ale in Saigon with 5 equally delicious dishes.

Food: Soy cured scallops with Daikon and Crispy Salt Tofu.
Beer: Passionfruit Wheat Ale 4%

The scallops were delicious and the tiny touch of horseradish mayo was delightful. I’ve never really got tofu, so it is difficult to comment, but my table mates were enjoying it. The sweetness of the beer sat well though and didn’t take anything away from such a light starter.

Food: Shredded Duck, Palm Sugar and Pomelo Dressing
Beer: Saigon Saison 7.2%
The duck was beautiful and the dressing matched it really well. I generally think that pomelo is just a poor man’s grapefruit, this was, though, a creative use of it and one that I really enjoyed. The yeastiness of the beer carried well and left room for the sweetness of the food. This was really nice.

A supreme piece of Salmon
A supreme piece of Salmon

Food: Salmon with Turmeric Curry, with Sugar Snap Peas & Crispy Skin Salad
Beer: Pumpkin Spice Ale 7%

Pumpkin Spice Ale
Pumpkin Spice Ale, a Tour de Force

This beer is a corker. It is malt heavy and bursting with flavour. This was probably the riskiest pairing of the evening. The salmon was one of the best pieces of fish I have had in Ho Chi Minh City. It sat perfectly with the sugar snap peas. A superb dish, I thought the pairing just about worked, though the beer did dominate somewhat.

Food: Braised Mulawarra Veal Cheeks, with Peanut and coconut Salad
Beer: Jasmine IPA 6.5%

Braised Mulawarra Veal Cheeks
The veal cheeks were really something

The best of the night in every way for me. The veal was incredible and there was a generous serving. The salad matched it perfectly. The Jasmine IPA is Pasteur’s finest in my opinion. It has enough hops to make you suck in your cheeks, a bitterness that is quite English in many ways and it’s bursting with flavours. The best beer, the best food and the best pairing of the night.

Food: Yoghurt and Cherry
Beer: Chocolate Stout 13%
I found the desert a little fussy, it probably would have impressed more served in a small bowl rather than a large plate. It was tasty though. The beer was blow your socks off good. This 13% beaut was strong enough to stand a spoon in. Served in tiny glasses it was excellent. Sharing a table with Mischa Smith from Paster Street Brewery, ensured my little glass did indeed runneth over.

A stylish bar for a stylish venue
A stylish bar for a stylish venue

This was a great event, a complete sell-out and I’m sure they will be back for future events. Some of which are already in the planning stages. One small criticism, was that the PA system was inadequate. It’s always the same at these events in Ho Chi Minh. A better, louder PA would have made people listen to the descriptions, instead of struggling for a while, then giving up and talking. It did little though to take the gloss off a fabulous evening.