Grab a glass of one of their brewed wines and toast to 100 years of good eating
The name of health food café and wine bar, Pach Café and Brewers (14 Huynh Thuc Khang, D1), comes from the Vietnamese word “bách,” meaning to live for one hundred years in good health and strength. Hien, graphic designer and brainchild of Pach, determined that, for aesthetic purposes, the “B” should become a “P.” From the modern polished concrete floors and geometric motifs, and the contemporary artwork adorning the tables and walls, to the layout and lighting that provides a feeling of cleanliness without sterility, and warmth without kitsch – every detail was carefully thought out.
Firstly, to quench our thirst, we chose from their selection of “teatox,” sugar free ice teas that come in eight different flavors using natural, unprocessed honey – this feature was particularly stressed by Hien, who was tired of being served overly-sweet honey-flavored syrups at most cafés in the city. My Fly To The Moon (VND45,000) was a refreshing mix of apple, orange, ginger and honey, a nice pick me up after a long day at work. My dining companion had the After Lunch (VND35,000) a delicious and revitalizing blend of watermelon, mint leaves and honey that served as an excellent palate cleanser between dishes.
Living to triple a digit age is hard work but Pach have made it worth trying thanks to their salads, teas and desserts. Do not go gentle into that good night until you’ve tried their homemade salad (VND65,000), a unique and delicious blend of perfectly cooked cold steamed vegetables garnished with starfruit and cilantro then drizzled sparingly with their homemade soy sauce and served with smoked Russian cheese. This dish is worth the trip to Pach and, while you’re there, try the beef kho quet in a claypot (VND79,000). It features tender strips of Australian beef sizzled in a pot of fish sauce, garlic and black peppercorns, complemented with a hefty serving of hot steamed vegetables. Next were the experimental Pach Spring Rolls (VND55,000) – not your ordinary cha gio – they’re stuffed with banana and pork, coated in bread crumbs and served with a sauce that’s a reinvention of the Thousand Island dressing – so delicious it should be bottled and sold.
I was interested in the “brewers” part of their name. Examining the menu, I flicked to the drinks section expecting to find a long list that would establish a new competitor in the Saigon craft beer scene. Instead I found something special, something which local friends have told me has been, until now, completely missing from Saigon – brewed wine. Brewed wine is essentially rice wine infused with fruit and a little sugar to make a sweet liqueur. Offered in both hot and cold varieties (VND75,000 for 100ml or VND155,000 for 250ml), the wine is available in seven infusions at Pach including mulberry, which is a reasonably priced treat for anyone who has abandoned the search for the taste of Port wine in Saigon. Our favorite was the apricot wine, with a more even sweetness and a flavor truer to the fruit, it was a well-received digestif.
If you’re new to rice wine as I was, I’d highly recommend trying the wine combo (VND115,000). It includes four shots of your choice served in a carved out baseball bat along with a selection of nuts, dried seaweed and the delicious Russian smoked cheese that complements the fruity wines perfectly.
With our desserts I ordered an Americano (VND35,000) that came with a pleasingly thick crema that’s similar to the Australian “long black” coffees I prefer. Light in texture but full of flavor, the peach tart (VND35,000) and vanilla yogurt (VND20,000) were a perfect combination to share after a filling meal. The tart was fresh and fruity, with a deliciously crumbly base while the yogurt was faultless, not too sweet and not too creamy, ending our dining experience perfectly.
With its vast and healthy menu Pach could certainly last 100 years, but I won’t be waiting that long to go back.
IMAGES BY NEIL FEATHERSTONE