Vietnam's Barbecue Joint
November 19, 2014
An American-style barbecue joint with all the Vietnamese trimmings is hogging the spotlight in Saigon's restaurant scene. By Duncan Forgan. Photographed by Morgan Ommer.
Published on Nov 19, 2014
Vietnam's culinary love affair with the pig is long established. Porcinecentered creations such as bun cha (vermicelli noodles with grilled pork meatballs) and thit heo kho (caramelized pork) are among the nation's most beloved dishes, and the beast is revered from the mountains of the north to the steamy southern river deltas. Yet few could have predicted that the country's hottest table of 2014 would turn out to be a humble American barbecue joint whose Vietnamese name, Quan Ut Ut, translates to "Restaurant Oink Oink."
Ode to the oink
Located in Saigon's central District 1, it's become a phenomenon since opening for business in March 2014. Owned by long-term Vietnam residents, Frenchman Albin Deforges and Aussie Tim Scott, in partnership with American Mark Gustafson, the caretaker of the venue's hallowed grill, the restaurant packs in a mixed crowd of foreign and Vietnamese meat-enthusiasts on a nightly basis. Bookings are not accepted and waits of up to an hour are common as diners queue patiently to, in the words of the owners, "get their ut ut on" and fill up on barbecue and a selection of local and imported beers, including the Saigon-brewed Platinum IPA.
It is a pork-lovers paradise. "The difference is the quality of our meat," says Deforges, "which we source carefully from suppliers who can provide full traceability of the animal, and the love we show it." Bacon is cured in-house while items such as the signature half-rack cashew-smoked pork ribs are smoked for a minimum of five hours and massaged with Gustafson's special spice rubs before sizzling on the grill. "I think we've created something everyone can enjoy," says Deforges. "People can come, drink lots of beer and throw their bones onto the floor."
Lots of chilled beer
With space in short supply, the restaurant is building an extra floor on the restaurant to cope with demand, and all the picked-clean bones. Future plans include the addition of new menu items such as beef short ribs. Begging the question: how do you say moo in Vietnamese? 168 Vo Van Kiet, Q1, Saigon; +84 8 3914 4500; quanutut.com.