Chef Sam Aisbet opens a new culinary chapter at Acuna, where modern Australian influences meet Vietnamese influences

Australian chef Sam Aisbitt feels a lot lighter in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis nowadays – 5 years after leaving Whitegrass, which began out as a contemporary Australian restaurant he ran from 2016 to 2018. Throughout his tenure, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2017 and was considered one of Essentially the most talked about restaurant on the town.

After a three-year hiatus, Aisbit has re-emerged on the wonderful eating scene – this time in Acuna, a recent Australian restaurant, which opened on July 19 on the Le Méridien Saigon resort in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis’s enterprise district. when the highest Aisbet met the Australian chef within the resort’s swanky restaurant, and he appears firmly in his component – ​​doling out ending touches to dishes with hawk-like precision and quietly cooking alongside his staff of cooks within the open-concept kitchen.
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Being away from the throes of operating a restaurant for a number of years and after some reflection, Aisbett has develop into extra assured in his culinary identification and has discovered to take again the reins. “I’ve calmed down a bit,” he candidly shared, “I was a perfectionist and took all the things significantly and tried to make everybody blissful. Now, I simply wish to prepare dinner and train my staff as a lot as I can.” Lately, he takes on a extra mentoring position guiding his staff of about 15 cooks, by having them present enter and ideas on dishes.

He displays: “At the moment, I did all the things I may – I got here up with the chilly listing and nobody was allowed to do it. I used to be very controlling. However I am older now and I do not take all the things so significantly. I wish to continue learning and creating.”

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Acuna’s luxurious inside design at Le Méridien Saigon. (Picture: Acuna)

At Akuna, the delicacies does not stray too removed from what he launched at Whitegrass: a contemporary Australian that casts widespread substances in an surprising gentle, coupled with a mastery of blending flavors and textures from Western and Asian delicacies. There’s additionally a leaning in direction of Japanese influences, from his days working with celebrated Japanese-Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda in Sydney, the place he was head chef at Peter Gilmore’s Quay.

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Shaved saltwater crocodile with steamed garlic custard and rose radish. (Picture: Acuna)

However this time, he turned to Vietnamese substances and cultures for inspiration, having toured throughout the nation and stumbled upon the “lovely chaos” of Ho Chi Minh Metropolis. One of many highlights of the menu is the shaved saltwater crocodile with steamed garlic custard and rose radish that accommodates an unusual protein – crocodile tongue.

The meat is thinly sliced ​​shabu shabu model, highlighting its chewy, fat-flecked edges. The dish additionally accommodates different elements of the reptile: the broth is boiled from the bones and meat, whereas gelatinous items of the tail are additionally used within the broth. Japanese influences just like the umami miso cured egg white over comforting damaged rice porridge spherical out the dish.

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Braised purple goose. (Picture: Acuna)

One other Vietnamese-inspired dish is braised purple goose with steamed Venus oysters, spiced goose jelly, eggplant cream, and crispy sea cucumber chunks. Take a cue from purple barbecue sauce, The candy, caramel-like sauce is a combination of rice wine, soy sauce, and sugar. The cooked purple goose is garnished with a disc-shaped jelly comprised of the sauce, a tapestry of edible flowers and Venus conch.

Aisbett has additionally crafted each spoonful of the dish with meticulous precision, with the eggplant cream tempered by crispy fried dried sea cucumber, which oddly has the identical texture as pork crackling. “Take a scoop down so that you get a little bit little bit of all the things,” he advises us earlier than consuming this dish, and a few others.

The stripped-down combo-Jimmy Jack sashimi is offered like an eye catching bouquet of curls of Fremantle octopus, white pomelo, and drops of artichoke tea jelly, which brings again scrumptious reminiscences of consuming considered one of his hottest dishes at Whitegrass, the Australian marron with contemporary buttermilk and pickled watermelon.

Australia represented

Aisbet could also be miles from residence, however Akuna, which implies “flowing water” within the Australian Aboriginal language, is stuffed with parts of Down Below, some apparent and a few not. Australian objects come within the type of a bread dish resembling Australian damper bread (or soda bread) served with quite a lot of dips, which alludes to the Mediterranean delicacies so widespread in Australia. The dessert is a enjoyable tackle Cherry Ripe, a preferred chocolate bar model from Down Below.

The chocolate bar, which brings again childhood reminiscences of Aesbet, is deconstructed into cherry compote, coconut slivers, macadamia nuts and chocolate crumbles. One other hidden secret (spoiler alert) is the graffiti-filled hall resulting in the bogs, which was impressed by Melbourne’s ACDC lane, named after the legendary Australian band. Search for a motif on the wall commemorating the crowning second when he acquired a Michelin star for Whitegrass.

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The staff at Acuna. (Picture: Acuna)

Being one of many first individuals to hitch the rising wonderful eating scene in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis, Aisbit believes that the eating scene shall be totally developed within the subsequent three to 5 years, with a rising pool of gourmets and the growth of the Michelin Information in Vietnam. “The locals who dine listed here are well-educated and wish to eat good meals,” he says. Though the native employees will not be very skilled, they work like machines, they’re hardworking and motivated.

Like the upcoming rise of Ho Chi Minh Metropolis’s thriving eating scene, we are able to solely eagerly await the following iteration of Aisbit’s creativity as he explores extra of his new residence, Vietnam.

The five-course Acuna dinner is priced at VND3,000,000++ (S$167++), whereas the seven-course dinner is priced at VND3,900,000++.

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