Pacharan Tapas & Bodega, 97 Hai Ba Trung, District 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
Grand opening party Friday September 29, 7 p.m. until 2 a.m.
Vietnam will experience its first taste of authentic Spanish cuisine when Phnom Penh's Pacharan unveils a sister restaurant with a raucous opening celebration in Saigon on September 29.
The new Pacharan promises the same Iberian atmosphere, similar food and wine menus and an equally breathtaking building — this time four stories high.
"It's a fantastic spot to watch Saigon. It's one of the busiest corners in the city," said FCC operations director Anthony Alderson. "It's right behind the opera house and right opposite the Park Hyatt. In fact, if you walk outside it, you'll be standing in our building. It's near the Caravelle and other 5-star hotels."
Starting with a ground-floor deli serving snacks, pastries and coffee, and finishing off with a rooftop cocktail bar licensed to serve until 2 a.m., Pacharan Saigon is designed for all manners of imbibing. The middle two floors hold the restaurant itself, serving the signature tapas that have made the Phnom Penh eatery the most exciting new restaurant in Cambodia this year.
"What we are trying to achieve, again with the new place, is a real Spanish atmosphere," said General Manager Andres Arias. "It should be exciting and fun. Spanish dining is an informal way to have very active social interaction."
Arias is the point man at the new Pacharan and admittedly working around the clock to ready the restaurant for opening. Prior to Phnom Penh, the Brazilian-born but Barcelona-raised 26-year-old most recently worked for Robert DeNiro at the US actor's Japanese-South American fusion restaurant in London's Mayfair District.
Like the original Pacharan, the new place is the brainchild of Arias, his longtime colleague Roberto Mata and a management team led by Alderson and Steve Hayward.
The new site's interior design was crafted by renowned artist Jerry Swaffield, who also handled Phnom Penh. Swaffield, a longtime collaborator with the FCC team, is famous for quirky, eclectic and generally fabulous creations that can be seen from Shanghai to Bangkok and beyond.
The tapas menu, created by Mata, will feature imported Spanish cheeses like manchego and the some of Iberia's illustrious cured hams such as serrano. The seafood dishes range from Galician-style octopus to an assortment of paellas. Available among the segundso platos, or main courses, are roasted suckling pig, sea bass and fillet of veal. The cost for most of the dishes hovers around US$5.
"We encourage people to combine dishes to make a meal. Tapas should be shared from the middle of the table," said 37-year-old Mata. "The key is that it's simple. With everybody trying to do new things with fusion and flavors, we're sticking to the basics of food."
Alderson's credits entrepreneur Rod Quinton with providing the impetus for the push for Pacharan II.
"He came to a party in Phnom Penh and said 'Man, I love it. You've got to do this at a site I'm renovating in Saigon," said Alderson. "I said 'We'd love to."
Beginning in May, the FCC team has been working in conjunction with Quinton, who is Dutch, and his two Vietnamese partners. The older building had to be completely re-engineered, but now promises some state-of-the-art technology such as touch screen sales registers that Alderson said will "raise the bar on quality of service."
If you're in Vietnam late this month, the opening party for the new Pacharan is not to be missed. Feel free to come late, too, as the food and drinks go until 2 a.m.