What would Grandma say? Sake Restaurant does Pho for Hats Off

The diners were pleased but would a very important 82-year-old Vietnamese grandmother give it her seal of approval?

Last night Sake Restaurant & Bar entered the Good Food Month Hats Off Dinner realm with Vietnamese cuisine from Head Chef Shinichi Maeda learnt the old fashioned way, straight from Grandma.

Shinichi's passion for Vietnamese food started eight years ago when he struck up a friendship with Vietnamese Australian chef Luke Ngugen, best known as the host of television series Luke Nguyen's Vietnam and Luke Nguyen's France, while he was dining at Wasabi in Noosa where Shinichi was working as a chef.

"That was before he was famous," says Shinichi.

A visit to France for the wedding of Sake's Assistant Manager Celine Martin, who is also Vietnamese, saw him spend a week with her family in the south of France eating their Vietnamese food.

"They cooked Vietnamese everyday - it was unbelievably good," says Shinichi.

Another visit to Cambodia saw Shinicihi again indulging his passion for Vietnamese food with pho for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But his kitchen skills come courtesy of cooking sessions with Sake chef Vien Ngugen's grandmother and aunties.

"I went to their house and met Grandma who is 82 years old.  They are always 30 or so people there and cooking is done in a huge outside kitchen.  Grandma likes to do it her way so I had to watch and learn and also take photos.  Grandma loves photos."

Just to make sure he got it right, the family took Shinichi to Inala to show him how to select and negotiate to buy the produce at the best price.  Shinichi bought all the produce for the Hats Off Dinner there.

So what did Grandma say when she tasted Shinichi's pho?  Well you'll have to ask Shinichi!

Here's the Hats Off Dinner menu -

A bit like Shinichi, I have developed a fondness for pho and it's a great dish particularly at this time of the year when a warming soup is ideal.

If you'd like to pronounce pho like a local, check out this guide .  It should sound much closer to 'fur' than 'poe'.

Bottom line:  The Hats Off Dinners are inclusive of a Tanqueray cocktail of on arrival.
Best tip:  Don't tell Grandma that Shinichi changed one of the recipes. Promise.

Hats off Dinners are a feature of the Brisbane Times Good Food Month and will see hatted chefs from the Brisbane Times Food Guide indulge in a few culinary fantasies and throw out their normal menus for one night only.

Kerry Heaney

Disclaimer: Ed+bK was a guest of Sake for the dinner.