I am excited to share with you another dining experience I had with Table Crush. If you haven't signed up to be on their mailing list, I urge you to do so (CLICK HERE). Not sure if you remember, I attended to a Table Crush event back in October at Gracias Madre. Let me give you a quick recap on how this works. All you do is sign up, and you will get email notifications about when the next Table Crush dinner is. The dinner is consisted of 8 people are so (you better book fast) with a special pre-fixed sampling of the menu. With that, you also get to meet the chef, a very intimate experience.
Here we go! Brace yourself as I open up my experience I had at Simbal for the last Table Crush event of 2015.
Yes. This was the tasting menu that we were looking forward to. I don't know how you feel about it, but I sure as hell was f*cking excited. I had a big lunch. But after seeing this, fireworks shot out of my ass and I was ready to eat again.
The restaurant was pretty awesome, and most importantly of all: clean. The restaurant had a welcoming vibe due to the open concept kitchen. The staff was also very kind and hospitable.
Loved these nuts. This was something I grew up eating, though not even close to being this good. There were dried/fried small fishies and seaweed mixed together. This takes beer nuts to a whole different level. This will put the nuts my dad buys to shame. Sorry dad. TO SHAME!
As part of the opening courses, this was very refreshing and good leeway to open our palates. The fruit was very sweet which paired perfectly with the saltiness of the relish. I feel like this is the Vietnamese version of cantaloupe and prosciutto. Very simple, but the flavors married perfectly.
I hate how much I loved this. The pomelo was extremely ripe. The lime was just heavenly with the sweetness of the pomelo and the light poached shrimp. I would order this again, and cry that I won't be able to eat this again till I come back. It's ok, I will drink my sorrows again until we meet.. until we meet again..
A very light dish. Reminds me of Hiyayakko, but with tuna added on top. This compliments the silkiness of the tofu. The Meiji tofu paired perfectly with the mild ponzu that does not overpower the dish at all. This screams summer.
I've been contemplating on making a crispy sweet potato hash for a while now. This justifies how good sweet potatoes can be. Chef Pham explained to us that this was a dish that can be found in the streets of Vietnam. This was extraordinary. The fresh herbs was stellar. The light fish sauce vinaigrette added a delicate touch to cut through the oiliness of the crispy potato. The shrimp added a nice texture to balance all the crunchiness from the potato. This is a must.
This wasn't on the menu, but it was fried tofu doused in a flavorful sweet and spicy sauce. I'm assuming there is some fish sauce in this as well. I just loved how each dish has a hint of fish sauce. I'm assuming it's something renown in Vietnamese cooking, and appreciating that the chef is not intimidated to implement it in so many of his dishes.
This was my favorite. I grew up eating Banh mi since it was extremely affordable. My dad used to buy a few sandwiches for my brother and I to eat during the week. I didn't know what to expect when I saw this. Actually, I didn't think it would be that good. The first bite took me by surprise. And I just feel my cheek, slowly trembling from smiling so much. The carrots and daikon were perfectly, and I mean PERFECTLY, pickled. I know. Chef Pham said it's all vinegar, sugar and salt. NO! His ratios of each component for this pickling liquid, will blow all carrot/daikon pickles in SGV out of the water. A must order.
The tartare was delicious and delicate, obviously. But again, the larb seasoning was spot on. That sesame bread? light and fluffy. Fluffier than my belly and that says a lot. Dang I need a moment to collect myself.
Hello fried sweetbreads. I know you freaked out a lot of people at the table, but don't worry sweetheart, everyone tasted you, because I told them you were like tofu. And guess what? the texture kind of was. If I told you it was tofu, you would've probably believed me. The funny part about this,? Everyone was quiet when tasting this. Seeking the "sweetbread flavor", but nothing. NOTHING. Just very yummy fish sauce glazed around with some chinese mustard greens. By the way, the crispy peanuts and mustard greens is something that is eaten in Chinese culture. It pleases me that Chef Pham acknowledges where these ingredients originated from. It's something that I, personally, appreciate. Have to take my dad here for this because he LOVES pickled chinese mustard greens.
Looks simple right? The smell was simple as well. But the pork, was perfection. Extremely tender with the ever so slight sweetness from the coconut juice. Chef Pham mentions this was something his grandma would make at least 3 times a week. I believe him. In Chinese cuisine, we have braised pork belly stewed in soy and spices like star anise, cardamon and cinnamon. Pork belly is a cheaper meat, and back then it was even less expensive. So this was something our families definitely took advantage of. I can understand how this dish represents the Chef and his family. Very delicious, served with a side of Jasmine rice. Which was cooked perfectly exactly like how I would cook mine. (this dish is extremely important with rice).
This dish was so perfect for the weather. The chinese doughnut is dipped into the slightly spicy lemongrass infused broth. Dip then eat with mussel together. Amazing and such a crowd pleaser. The mussels were fresh and cooked perfectly.
One of those "MMMMMM" Moments. The use of turmeric was executed perfectly. Turmeric has an extremely strong flavor and can easily overpower a dish. Cod is one of those fishes that you wouldn't want to mask since the flavors are so light. This was so beautifully paired with the fresh herbs and dill. Chef Pham was gracious enough to send another one over.
The bone marrow sunk into the donut with no mercy. Chinese donuts is great to dip into anything, it's literally a sponge. Just imagine the marrow, soaking up the donut through the crevices? My heart is stopping with each bite.
The beef is marinated in coriander and garlic. I would like this on skewers so I can walk around little tokyo like I'm in Vietnam. All I need is a little imagination. In no time, these bad boys were snatched out of the bowl. Love the caramelized edges on some of these.
The sauce on this was pretty heavy, so a nice bowl of Jasmine rice will do. The chicken was very tender. The scallions and ginger slices not only complimented the chicken, but added a freshness to cut through the rich sauce.
All I can say is cooked to perfection. Slight crispiness from the skin and a refreshing touch by the scallions. The duck spoke for itself, and does not need anything to justify how amazing it was.
Finally dessert. I'm partially alive guys. But the end of our extravaganza has come to an end. Closing with coconut flan, Sugared chinese donut with vietnamese coffee foam, and banana cake with whipped coconut cream. Everything we had was delicious. But. The coconut flan stole the show, and ran with it. It was amazing, and extremely refreshing especially after everything we just had. Out of many things I would come back for, this has to be one of them.
I hope this presentation is enough for you to sign up for Table Crush. They have one coming in January 2016. If I remember correctly, it might be at an Indian gastropub. I am totally down for that. Sign up now at www.TableCrush.com.
All in all, I really appreciated this dinner experience. Chef Pham was very intimate with our group, and shared a lot of his memories with the dishes that he has prepared for us tonight. His experience and love for his culture really speaks through his food. Check out Simbal if you are in Los Angeles.