Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pasteur...A French Vietnamese Classic

I love Vietnamese food. In fact it’s my favorite cuisine and Pasteur (5525 N Broadway) has skillfully recreated some of the authentic Vietnamese classics.

Interestingly, they do not do fusion. Instead they happen to have some classic French dishes on the menu too so you can mix your meal like I did.
With fish sauce, soy paste, fresh herbs and vegetables, Vietnamese is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. The meats and vegetables are briefly cooked and when you throw in a bit of lemongrass, mint, coriander and Thai basil, you’ve got the most aromatic cuisine around. I also love the colorful, spicy and flavorful condiments such as the Nuoc Mam.
Dishes such as phở, bún riêu, bánh cuốn are classic in the Vietnamese kitchen as well as central Vietnam’s bún bò Huế and bánh xèo.
Central Vietnam cooks up some of the spiciest food in the country so I need to find more recipes from this region as I love spice.
Outside influences?
Vietnamese food has a powerful vegetarian tradition influenced by Buddhist ideals. Thus all the veggies floating in my soup today.
The French introduced baguettes which were stuffed with Vietnamese meat and pickled vegetables to become the banh mi, the most profitable French-Vietnamese culinary merger ever and a popular street food in Vietnam.
India’s inspiration lead to the adoption of curry in Vietnamese cuisine and that is one dish that I have yet to wrap my arms around but I am trying.
The service at Pasteur is typically French where they take time to introduce each course and you take the time to appreciate each and every bite.

I had Vegetarian egg rolls served with lettuce, pickled vegetables and Nuoc Mam. followed by Tamarind Shimp soup. The soup was delicious, filled with a ton of fresh vegetables and the pineapple gave it a full and rich flavor. In fact, I think that’s the first time I’ve had pineapple as an ingredient in my soup.

My main course was Confit Duck Legs with cauliflower puree, and a Grand Marnier and orange reduction. The duck was perfectly cooked and to my surprise, the side - the cauliflower -was my favorite dish of the meal.
So who is the French in this interesting equation?
Eric Aubriot was born in Paris, has been twice nominated for the James Beard Rising Star award and I should have guessed is a product of Carlos in Highland Park.
Come to think of it, just about every great French chef has Carlos on his resume somewhere.
Bon Appetit!