Blanchy Street is a unique Japanese fusion restaurant where the best experiences are to be had from sharing…
Open 15 months , it’s possibly the city’s best kept dining secret – until last November it was hidden away above Blanchy’s Tash bar and nightclub on Hai Ba Trung. As executive chef, Australian Martin Brito, explains, “No one knew it was there. They didn’t think of Blanchy’s Tash as a place to eat, but as a place to drink. But we always got positive feedback about the food.”
So last year the decision was made to move the restaurant to a stand-alone location and Blanchy Street was born in a converted office building just inside the entrance to Ho Chi Minh City’s eatery courtyard. Now, thanks to a unique menu and high profile location, it’s beginning to flourish, with patronage rising by the month as word spreads.
Brito has been cooking Asian food for 10 years. His career began under Peter Doyle, who owns seafood restaurants bearing his name that every Sydneysider knows by reputation. More recently he spent seven years with world renowned Japanese restaurant Nobu in London. It is Nobu that inspired Blanchy Street.
“I’m not Japanese. So I worked in a very good Japanese restaurant for a long time. I also did Thai food for a long time. I like to mix and match flavors the way I like to eat and I like to make the menu so it’s something for everybody – Westerners, Vietnamese and Japanese,” explains Brito. “We are not authentic Japanese, we are Japanese with a twist – with my take on it. A few dishes on there are traditional Japanese, the rest are a mixture.”
It’s hard to imagine a more welcoming atmosphere than walking through the gates to Blanchy Street. One first passes through an outdoor courtyard – the only part of the restaurant where smoking is allowed – then past the sushi counter where sushi chef Yogo Oba, also ex-Nobu, leads a team creating fresh fish delicacies in front of a wall featuring a myriad of sake varieties.
We chose to dine upstairs for its more intimate atmosphere and were sat at a table flanked by oversized Japanese vases under the watchful eyes of beautifully-painted Asian women staring down on us from white walls. The upstairs dining area feels warm and even intimate, like a modern designer apartment – the tables are not too close together, and the half walls remaining from the conversion from office to restaurant mean you enjoy some privacy.
We asked the waitress for recommendations from the menu and selected three of her four choices. Green chili tempura Blanchy style (VND65,000), strictly speaking more of a Vietnamese dish than a Japanese one, comprised delicious fresh green chilies lightly dipped in tempura batter and shock fried, served with Shichimi pepper and fresh lime – they were crunchy on the outside, moist in the middle, but don’t eat the top tenth unless you love spice – that’s where those tiny seeds lie in wait to torture your tongue.
Beef gyoza (VND280,000) was next up. Ordering fried gyoza can be a lottery – some Japanese restaurants store it too long then fry it too long, and the result is a chewy shell filled with lumpy beef you have to douse liberally with soy sauce to get any flavor. This is not one of them. We hit the jackpot here, the gyoza soft and moist in the middle, the minced imported beef full of flavor. The texture of the wrap was lightly crispy and fragile, doused in a piquant sauce and sesame oil. Since our meal, Brito has refined the dish, adding foie gras to the beef for additional flavor (the price above is for the new version).
The Norwegian salmon with yellow and red anticucho sauce (VND380,000) was fresh, moist and tasty, a generously-sized fillet silky smooth on the tongue. It is slow cooked skin-side-down to a crisp and served with fresh lime. And our fourth dish, Blanchy Street’s most-ordered, the chicken Blanchy style (VND330,000), a half bird. This is Brito’s signature dish, completely original, a rarity in this age.
“That’s my baby, my dish I created from scratch,” he explains a week later when we reveal that his restaurant has been reviewed for Oi. “It took me years of playing around with it. Basically I marinate the chicken for three or four days then pan roast it to keep the moisture in. That’s our biggest seller by far.”
We washed this delicious meal down with a bottle of Zonin Classici Fruili D’Aquileia Pinot Grigio (VND920,000), which turned out to be a perfect accompaniment to three of the four dishes.
Brito’s business partner Yves Dubos, (who manages The Refinery across the courtyard) says Blanchy Street is focusing more on its extensive range of sakes than wine. Brito says most of his dishes are best matched with sake or white than red, although they stock a generous range of all to satisfy all comers’ tastes – and try to differentiate the wine list from those of neighboring eateries.
While Blanchy Street offers a superb destination for a romantic dinner, it is best enjoyed in a group. A new menu introduced in March tries to encourage diners away from the Western fixation with ordering starters and mains: instead food is grouped into categories.
The food tends to arrive close together, served in the center of the table, to encourage people to share them and mix the flavors. In our case, we were so enamored with the chicken we let the salmon get cold – and without prompting, the waitress took it away to reheat it for us, without any loss of flavor or moisture.
Blanchy Street represents modern dining at its best in the heart of downtown, a truly international dining experience in a trendy, modern and friendly setting. We simply could not fault our food, the venue or the service.
74 Hai Ba Trung, D1
Lunch from 11.30am – 2pm
Dinner from 6pm – 10pm