The origins of NOSH Saigon can be traced way back to 2006 when Saigonese hospitality legend Bien Nguyen founded the Restaurant and Bar Association. This evolved into the concept of NOSH (literally meaning a light snack) in 2015 as Bien aimed to foster a clear sense of togetherness amongst the hospitality industry and promote what Bien described as the “collective energy of the community.”
Bien wanted to bring like-minded chefs together from different venues to create a special menu for a unique “one night only” experience. Bien, who owns and operates several successful outlets himself such as the iconic Xu Cocktail Bar on Hai Ba Trung, considers other restaurants and bars as partners to drive the industry forward and to hold each other accountable for showcasing the best for Vietnam.
From 2015 to 2019, NOSH was held predominantly at Grain Cooking Studio pioneering this concept of a “GastroMob” of teams of talented and charismatic chefs such as Tristan Ngo of Skewers, Camilla Bailey of MAD House, George Bloomfield of Stoker, and the award-winning duo of Peter Cuong Franklin of Anan Saigon and Julien Perraudin of Quince Saigon. This mob proved more than capable of delivering the second aim of NOSH, which is to give back something special to the diners of Saigon by offering a unique experience.
For obvious reasons, NOSH took a break for the last couple of years but the concept was recently revived by Chef Julien and hosted as a “doubleheader” two-night concept at his Quince home on 37 Ky Con.
Julien commented, “after the last two horrible years, I wanted to celebrate all the chefs that had survived the pandemic and remained in Vietnam and bring the band back together for one last hurrah. The NOSH event played a pivotal role in establishing my career in Vietnam and so restarting this was my way of saying thank you to Bien as the founder but also to the wider hospitality community.”
“The first evening which showcased the new generation of Vietnamese chefs was our way of handing the baton over to them and welcoming them into the NOSH family and it warmed my heart to feel the instant response of all Quince’s community; suppliers, guests, and media in supporting this.”
The first edition of this doubleheader kicked off at the award-winning Madam Kew hosted by smoldering Italian mixologist Elia Marchetti from Lighthouse Group IndoChina. Elia created a range of cocktails based on super-premium spirits such as Beluga vodka, Hendrick’s gin, Monkey Shoulder whisky, and Flor de Cana rum with his Salmon Bellini and Mangocolada’s being especially eye-catching. Juan Anthony Reyes, one of Saigon’s favorite musicians set the tone and the tempo for what was to come with his six-piece jazz band named The Boomtown Boys fronted by fabulous lead singer Jason Notarte.
We then moved downstairs to the Quince dining room where Celebrity Chef Luke Nguyen was waiting to introduce Vietnam’s young guns who by now were primed for service. Vietcetera Chef of the Year Hoang Tung was joined by Tru Lang from Mua, the seasonal eatery in Hoi An, Tram Nguyen, and Trang Tran, from Madam Kew (Bar of the Year at the Vietnam Restaurant & Bar Awards 2022) and finally our much loved bon vivant and seafood specialist Vinh Le from Ngoc Suong who made Asia’s 50 Best Essence of Asia list in 2021.
Jason was serenading the guests backed up by the moody and magnificent melodies of Juan on the trumpet while the chef and service team scuttled around the dining room like whirling dervishes. Relaxed and refreshed by the welcome cocktails, guests grew more animated chatting with the chefs with mobile phones ignored save for taking photos and videos of this gastronomic gathering.
All the chefs and service team were decked out in striking black T-shirts displaying a well-known Australian red and yellow food spread indicating to the guests that the menu would have an Australian theme.
Sure enough, Chef Tru Lang kicked off the menu with an Australian tiger abalone inspired by the Vietnamese dish “com hen” as he recalled cherished childhood memories of enjoying river clams with rice.
Vinh Le’s kingfish was delicious and paired perfectly with a fresh and fruity Australian chardonnay from Yalumba Estates. Another wine from this winery, the red Siraz/Viognier expression was then paired with a delicious BBQ duck breast with a Hanoi plum garnish lovingly prepared by Tram and Trang from Madam Kew.
Sorcerer Hoang Tung supplied the finale with his delicious lychee ice cream, which appeared to have been conjured from the set of the latest Doctor Strange Marvel movie such was the extent of the billowing smoke engulfing the open kitchen from his clever use of dry ice.
It is almost a year to the day since the fourth and strictest COVID lockdown was imposed upon Ho Chi Minh City. Dark days lay ahead but the community stood firm supported each other and survived. The revival of NOSH, a beacon of light in the hospitality industry here symbolizes the recovery of an industry and a community, which once again is all set to thrive.