“Rebellion within bounds”, “controlled chaos”, and “freedom with norms” are the terms that Tony Quu, Vietnamese-Australian executive chef of Quan Ut Ut and BiaCraft, would use to describe his kitchens. This month, the soft opening of the new Quan Ut Ut in D7 will have raised the number of kitchens in his charge to seven, and the freedom he enjoys exercising and passing down the art of American BBQ has only expanded with each restaurant.
“We don’t do traditional foods. We use modern cooking techniques and adapt to trends within certain bounds so that we attract new guests while retaining the old ones.” Just like that, Quan Ut Ut has straddled the line between sophistication and straight forward popular appeal. Now, smack dab in the heart of Korea town, the group is bringing in a new fusion: American BBQ ribs with Gochujang sauce and kimchi. The recipe sounds like haphazard merging of popular flavours, but unlike such poorly thought-out, artless inventions like the bubble pearl pizza, or using mayonnaise as cheese substitution, this Korean-American BBQ dish makes sense to the palate, with Gochujang-dabbled ribs grilled to such perfection that the meat and the sauce melt together. The large cut of meat remains American, and the kimchi remains Korean, but their flavours do not seem disconnected and thrown together.
Trained in Australia, proud home of fusion food, Quu is no stranger to bending the rules to create a refined dish like this. Speaking of Quan Ut Ut’s philosophy, Quu describes: “It’s all about the ugly-beautiful here. We do not make pretty dishes like other places.” Their creations, like the beef sausage, smoked salmon, and chicken skin tacos, to be coupled with their famed craft beers, tend to take on a harder edge, a punk-rock ethos of the America that the Tim Scott and Mark Gustafson would like to represent.
Still, disciplines matter to Quu. “One of the most critical and difficult things overseeing so many restaurants is to make sure that the food served at different places has the same flavours, same texture and is more or less identical.” So far, Quu has managed this just fine. Quan Ut Ut is therefore no stranger to praises from foodies, getting crowned repeatedly, among stiff competitions like Mad House, Marcel Gourmet Burger, Relish and Sons, as the best burger place in Saigon. Room for new inventions and heights will continue to expand for the brand as Scott and Gustafson eye openings in local neighbourhoods like district 5. Though he is yoyo-ing between new and old responsibilities, Quu is quite excited about the growth. “I think we’re really going in the right direction. We’ll see what the future holds.”
Quan Ut Ut’s latest venture can be found at 436 Nguyen Thi Thap, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City.