Hubby and I had the pleasure to attend AN‘s March 4th One Year Anniversary in Oakland, CA with my fellow Foodie friends. It was also my and hubby’s first Pop-Up Dining experience ever. Heard of the amazing Chef Tu and lovers of Vietnamese food, we were very excited about this experience! We were so impressed by what we were going to sample in the evening:
We started our meal off with the Amuse-Bouche, one of Chef Tu’s signature egg dishes. Simple, conceptual presentation. Though this dish is not a hard-boiled egg, I couldn’t help but remember my childhood when my Grandmother would prepare hard-boiled eggs for the family. With my teaspoon, I always dug into the egg and was so pleased with each bite. I even dug for every single, remaining morsel of the egg because it was that good. I ended up doing the same with Amuse-Bouche. Chef hit this dish in the nail with the perfect creamy texture of the yolk and its smoothness along the tongue. Just like how my Grandmother made the perfect hard-boiled eggs.
The first course: Cà Ri Tîm Héo (Curried Pig’s Heart). My Mother made Pig’s heart from time to time for the family. Honestly, it was never my favorite due to the chewy, jelly-like texture which stood out more than the flavors, even from the marinade. But that’s the key: Finding the right balance to not lose the heart’s distinct texture and the flavors of the ingredients married with it. Chef Tu successfully accomplished this. In his dish, he has the strength of texture from the pig’s heart and overpowering flavors of the parsley and tumeric. After one bite, I was blown away how everything blended well together. I was afraid that the heart, parsley and tumeric were going to clash! But it was the opposite.
The second course: Luoi Bo (Beef Tongue & Truffle). Having tried tongue in the past, it was either tough to the point that I couldn’t chew and enjoy it or so bland that I didn’t even notice that I had it. So what stood out for me in this dish was Chef’s incredible combination of ingredients. The beef tongue, green papaya and radish, which are flavorless, became flavorful because of the truffle. It was as though the truffle brought revitalization to these ingredients in my mouth!
The third course: Rau Muong (Water Spinach). This is a beautiful presentation and take on rau muong, water spinach, which is commonly grown and used in cooking in Vietnam. I really like the colors from the rau muong, rice cake, sesame seeds and fish sauce. The rice cake was cooked perfectly, very smooth with each bite. I could also taste the flavorful fish sauce and nuttiness of the sesame seeds on the rice cake and rau muong.
The fourth course: Com Bi (Claypot Rice). Claypot rice is one of my favorite comfort foods. Chef used literally the most simple, common ingredients: lap xuong (known as Chinese sausage), shredded pork meat and skin, bean sprouts and rice. But each bite took me back in time to my childhood when my Grandmother and Mother would prepare their own versions of Com Bi. I could even imagine chef’s own family story behind this dish.
The fifth course: Tau Hu Ky Bo (Filet Mignon en Croute). Chef’s Vietnamese take on Beef Wellington. I really liked the presentation of this dish and the nice pink color of the meat. The crispiness of the crust was perfect. The meat was cooked on point and had flavorful hints of oyster and lemongrass.
The sixth course: Banh Bo (Honeycomb Cake). A sweet, delicious ending to a wonderful experience. The cake itself was very moist and sweet (but not too much) from the honey. The taste of the coconut in the sauce was surprisingly not overpowering at all. It actually married well with the honey from the cake and rhubarb sauce.
This Anniversary dinner for An: A Vietnamese Dining Experience was truly an incredible experience. I tasted Chef’s amazing takes on the Vietnamese classics and experiments on the many ingredients and flavors. I also had the opportunity to see his family stories in these dishes while traveling back in time to relive my own family stories.
To learn more about Chef Tu and An: A Vietnamese Dining Experience as well as check out the upcoming schedule of their pop-up dinners, check out their website at anavde.com.
All images and content © 2017 Carol Vu, unless otherwise indicated.