Barbara Adam gets the low-down on a new food-and-beer collaboration, Publik House. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

Once upon a time two chefs met and bonded over beers and fish tacos.

There was an instant connection. Not just because of their shared love of beer and conversation, but also their dedication to honest, no-nonsense food, created for the sole purpose of being truly enjoyed.

The bromance deepened over time, watered by craft beer and long-winded discussions about food. Eventually Josh McGechaen and Calvin Bui decided to create their own cheffy happily-ever-after: a restaurant with a short and simple chef-driven gimmick-free menu.

Josh and Calvin’s idea found a home in the taproom of Winking Seal Beer Company, itself a collaboration between two like-minded dudes wanting to create something honest and true.

The pork shoulder (VND200,000) probably best illustrates what this collaboration within a collaboration is all about. The dish is a three-layer savoury dream of polenta cake, boudin noir (blood sausage) and red wine braised pork shoulder.

Calvin’s braised pork is matched with Josh’s blood sausage, and bacon and dijon mustard polenta to create some a plate-lickingly great dish.

Funnily enough, American Calvin had never even tried the English breakfast staple of blood sausage until he met Josh, who hails from Leeds in the UK.

“This is why this collaboration is so great,” Calvin gushed as his partner slaved away in the kitchen upstairs, sending down dish after delicious dish in the Art Deco-style dumbwaiter behind the bar.

“We’re not constrained by any style. We can be influenced by all kinds of ingredients and techniques. The current menu has influences from Korea, the UK, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.”

Publik House’s menu will change regularly, at the whim of Josh and Calvin, who share a seasonal farm-to-table approach to what’s on offer.

Vegetarians are well looked after with the lotus seed falafel (VND155,000), a sweet and creamy version made with lotus seeds, served with a roasted capsicum, hummus and mint yoghurt.

Strangely enough, the bacon carbonara (VND170,000) can be vegetarianised on request. The original dish is a creamy and earthy combination of homemade pasta, house-cured bacon, roasted mushroom and lashings of parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

Also outstanding in terms of flavours was the Gochujang chicken wings (VND160,000), Korean-style double-fried chicken wings, with a crunchy toffee-ish glaze, served with a dash of sour cream and spring onion.

Equally flavoursome, is Publik House’s meatball, a take on the Vietnamese xiu mai (meatball), with ground pork and jicama and stuffed with Irish cheddar, swimming in a homemade tomato sauce.

For the sake of all Ho Chi Minh City’s foodies, here’s hoping this cheffy happily-ever-after story continues.   

50 Dang Thi Nhu, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
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