Barbara Adam dives into decadent dining at Quince. Photos by Jonny Edbrooke.
Ky Con Street is named after a Vietnamese revolutionary, so it seems appropriate that a revolution is taking place in this not-very-trendy area full of cramped shops and budget hotels. It’s a food revolution, and it’s happening in quite an elegant style, overseen by chef Julien Perraudin, who works in plain view in Quince Saigon’s open kitchen.
Chef Julien was educated in the culinary arts in Europe, in the top kitchens of France and London, and then in Melbourne. The result: a Melbournised menu based on fresh local produce.
“It’s just about really good food,” Julien says, as he slides perfectly-cooked Sapa rainbow trout off its bones at our table. (Side note: Chef Julien is so tall he was surely called Tiny when he worked in Australia.)
Quince Saigon is the sister restaurant to Quince Eatery and Bar in Bangkok, which was included in the first Michelin Guide Thailand, published last year. Quince Saigon’s decor, in a palate of warm browns, is conducive to conversation and long leisurely multi-course meals of shared plates, selected from the four menu sections: To Start; Green; Main; Cheese; and To End. Our meal started with the simply-named crab and cucumber (VND210,000), an explosion of apple, crab and cucumber flavours smoothed by segments of yoghurt mozzarella.
Throughout the evening we’re repeatedly blown away by the intensity of the flavours, including the roast cauliflower with Compte cream and herb crumb (VND140,000), which would have to be the world’s most decadent cauliflower cheese. Our feast, accompanied by Soave D.o.c. Colli Scaligeri (VND170,000 per glass), included hommus and merguez with pickled chilli dukkah and naan bread (VND140,000). The fragrant warm naan bread came in handy to soak up some of the eminently drinkable sauce from the cauliflower dish.
The main event, whole Sapa rainbow trout with beurre rosette dressing and five spices (VND890,000), was a showstopper, the delicate fish complimented perfectly by the sauce.
The side dish that arrived at the same time, burnt fennel with stracciatella cheese and pomelo (VND190,000), worked well with the fish. The fennel was slightly pickled, which reduced the liquorice flavour of the vegetable and gave it an interesting texture.
Quince’s menu relies heavily on the giant woodfired oven in the corner of the kitchen, which is used to bake and roast all kinds of fresh local produce.
The one and only cheese dish on the menu doesn’t escape the flames, either. The baked camembert with coffee blossom honey and nut granola (VND360,000), was the perfect finish to a indulgent evening full of flavour surprises.
Oh, except we weren’t finished. Chef Julien sent us one more dish, coffee and cherries (VND190,000), a simple name for a complex and delicious combination of coffee crema, drunken cherries, coffee jelly, Anzac crumb and cherry sorbet.
We’ll be back at Quince soon to eat our way through the rest of the menu.