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Take advantage of the chance to enjoy Vietnamese cuisine at Va Va Voom, with an authentic Vietnamese Chef behind the delicious creations that makes mouths water. Though the cold noodles some could do without.
Singaporean Chef Sean Lee has stayed afloat for more than one year in Beijing's booming ocean of restaurants. Creativity is the secret to his success, he says.
"In the restaurant business you meet big challenges all the time. You have to surprise the customer to keep them coming back," he said.
And Lee should know what attracts customers, having worked with an advertising firm for more than ten years back in Singapore, before deciding to move to Beijing two years ago to open his own Vietnamese restaurant in Sanlitun.
"There are tremendous opportunities in the restaurant business in a buzzy city like Beijing. Even if the competition is fierce, there is always room for more restaurants," he said.
Latest on his list of creative ways to captivate customers is his idea of the bar experience at night with easy listening live bands playing and specialty martinis based on recipes from across Southeast Asia.
Ten different martinis are on the menu, all from cities that Lee has visited before settling in Beijing. Bangkok, Beijing, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur to name a few.
The idea of martinis are classic but what makes mine different is that every single one of them contains unique local characteristics from each of the countries and cities visited, he said.
A prime example is the Beijing martini. In addition to the classic martini combo, he combines the flavors of the Shan zha, a popular and common fruit found in Beijing.
"I want expats in Beijing to feel closer to home, when they have a martini. I also want my Chinese guests to open their eyes for a bar culture that already exists in the West," Lee said.
The Chinese customers have slowly been opening their eyes to this concept and have begun grabbing a drink or two after work, while the foreign costumers love the authentic Vietnamese cuisine and embracing Beijing's food culture, he said.
"Since going out to eat is relatively affordable in China. More foreigners have started to gather in restaurants. They are now trying to find the best restaurants that serve foreign cuisine," he said.
What makes Vietnamese cuisine so exciting is a kind of yin and yang mentality, he says, a balance of contrasting elements, such as sweet, sour, salty and hot flavors. Flavors like Sugar, lime juice, fish sauce and chili are blended into the indispensable dipping sauce "nuoc cham." Further contrasts between hot and cold are found in dishes such as cold noodles and raw vegetables.
Most ingredients used in Vietnamese cuisine are also found in food from other Southeast Asian cuisines, but the difference is in how the food is prepared and served.
What distinguishes Vietnamese cuisine from other Asian dishes is that the heat of the food is rarely added in the kitchen, but rather at the table.