There are few more foundational and essential practices that extend across cultures, rooted in thousands of years of tradition, than the pairing of food and wine. For every occasion, every flavour combination, and every course, there exists a perfect wine to accompany it uniquely. But for novice wine drinkers, with so many wines and possible food pairings, knowing how to choose the right combination can seem like a monumental task.
The fresh produce and broad variety of influences and flavours in the Saigon Social Club Restaurant and Bar menu are a perfect inspiration to draw from. Consider this your handy beginner’s guide on how to pair some of the world’s most well-known wines with some actual dishes you’ll find at one of the best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. You could even use this as a “cheat sheet” next time you visit Saigon Social Club Restaurant and Bar—and we won’t tell anyone if you do!
Perhaps one of the most well-known white wines, Chardonnay can range from dry and acidic to the famously oaky, buttery variety typically produced in California. Chardonnays are perfect for fatty fish, like salmon, or any seafood dish with a rich sauce. If you’re tempted by the lobster bisque with kombawa lime foam and lobster ravioli, or the pan-seared Tasmanian salmon with green pea risotto and parmesan foam, the French Chablis Laroche Chardonnay would complement these dishes perfectly.
Sauvignon Blanc is a dry white wine that can range from a zesty lime to a juicy peach, depending on the ripeness of the grapes used to make it. Generally, Sauvignon Blancs are the ideal choice for tart dressings and sauces, citrus, and tangy foods and cheeses. The beetroot salad with goat cheese and salted egg yolk would be an ideal match for the New Zealand Matua Sauvignon Blanc, as would the cured ocean trout with creme fraiche, hazelnut crumble, and fennel salad. The seabass guazetto with artichoke and heirloom tomato would be an excellent, more hearty pairing.
A Riesling is a light, sweet wine, with American varieties typically sweeter than those made in Europe. Riesling is perhaps most well-known for taming heat in Asian and Indian dishes, as well as a great choice for duck, pork, bacon, shrimp, and crab. The German Fritz Riesling would sit perfectly alongside the Thai-inspired Canadian lobster salad with mango shavings, sweet basil, and tom yum puree. The pork Iberico presa with grilled artichoke and celeriac cream would also pair with the Riesling quite nicely.
Light-bodied, full of savoury depth, and with juxtaposing flavours that make them very unique, Pinot Noirs stand up to most meats and heartier fish, and go well with earthy flavours such as mushrooms and truffles. Savour the New Zealand Matua Pinot Noir with the Black Angus hanger steak served with grilled mushrooms, asparagus, and red wine sauce. Or for a lighter option, the crusted French turbot filet with confit fennel and clam truffle emulsion would be a fantastic alternative.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the champion partner of juicy red meat; perfect for any steak on the menu. The hearty, fruity notes with firm tannins of the Chilean Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon would complement the Australian Wagyu 6/7 strip sirloin with roasted beetroot particularly well. The Cabernet Sauvignon is also absolutely divine when matched with Social Club’s beef tartare with honey mustard, and semi-dried tomato.
Malbec is a rich, full-bodied red similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but it doesn’t have a very long finish or aggressive tannins. Therefore, in addition to red meats and more robust flavours, it also does well with leaner meats like dark meat turkey or roasted pork. It’s also excellent for foods brushed with heavily-spiced barbecue sauces and seasoning. Try the Argentinian Amancaya Gran Reserva Malbec with the New Zealand honey crusted lamb rack with sicilian caponata and eggplant caviar, or with the Pork iberico presa.
Rose arguably brings the best of both worlds together—the dry tartness of white wine with the rich, bold, fruity flavours of red wine. It’s quite versatile for food pairings as well! The French Les Maitres Rose complements anything rich and cheesy, but also goes great with a salad, light pasta, or fresh fruit, like the Golden Garden Farm organic red radish with avocado mousse and homemade butter, or even the Japanese yellowtail tuna tartare, served with Italian black truffle, granny smith, and arugula salad.
Sparkling wines range from fruity and sweet to very dry, so be sure to ask your server to find out which one will suit your taste buds. Commonly served before a meal or with hors d'oeuvres, sparkling wines are the perfect choice for anything salty and fried. The french fries sprinkled with parmesan and black pepper, served with truffle dip, would go fabulously with the French Mumm Champagne, or perhaps one of the many Brut selections on the menu for something on the sweeter side. The fried Phu Quoc calamari with roasted garlic and bird’s eye chillis would also be an excellent choice.
Wine and Cheese: A Match Made in Heaven!
We couldn’t talk about food and wine pairings without mentioning cheese! There is perhaps no more divine combination ever conceived in the gastronomic universe. The rule of thumb with cheese and wine is that red wines should be served with semi-firm, firm, and aged hard cheeses. Lighter, softer cheeses or semi-firm cheeses with a lighter flavour should be paired with white wines. Port, a sweet and fortified red dessert wine, is famously well-paired with a blue cheese or stilton.
If you’re eager to dive into the wine and cheese world, there is perhaps no better opportunity to try some of Saigon’s finest French imported cheeses and an extensive cellar of fine wines than at Delicatessen Night at the luxury boutique Hôtel Des Arts Saigon. This weekly tradition, hearkening back to the era of London’s Gentlemen’s Clubs in the 1930s, is a celebration of the very best wine and cheese, in a cozy and familiar setting that will put you at ease and keep you coming back week after week.
The Saigon Social Club Restaurant also frequently hosts wine dinners to celebrate authentic brands and invite guests for a taste truly remarkable fine wines. Each dinner features specially imported wines from legendary winemakers around the world, expertly paired with delicious gourmet courses served throughout the evening. It’s a great way to educate yourself on some of the world’s best wines—and what better way to enjoy them than at the best restaurant and rooftop bar in Saigon?
The extensive menu at Saigon Social Club Restaurant and Bar provides a wide variety of flavours and influences from around the world, and the pairing possibilities are nearly endless. With some dedication and practice and of course, the occasional “Cheers!”, you'll be an expert in no time.
Image source: Social Club Saigon - Hôtel Des Arts Saigon