Restaurant rally – Obama noodles and pizza built from wild Tacoma yeast
Today, I’m featuring Saigon House in Tacoma and E9 Brewing Co., two restaurants you should visit for Pierce County’s Restaurant Rally.
I’ll be writing about locally owned restaurants throughout the rally, which takes place Nov. 8-12 and Nov. 15-19 at about 300 participating restaurants all over Pierce County. (Friday and Saturday dining is excluded).
Restaurants that participate in Restaurant Rally give diners a 30 percent discount off the menu.
That 30 percent offer is good for dine-in service or take-out meals – so if you’re skipping dining inside a restaurant right now, you can still participate in the deal by ordering directly from the restaurant via phone (third-party delivery/ordering is not included in the program). Where applicable, I will note if the restaurant has outdoor seating, and whether it’s covered and heated.
Read to the end of this article for more info on Restaurant Rally, or click here.
Oh, Tacoma. How I love your abundant strip malls. They’re mundane destinations for check cashing, dog grooming and laundry pick-up, but so often in Tacoma, strip malls hold the best dining treasures.
Enter Saigon House, which opened in July, sandwiched between Big 5 and a T-Mobile store. This is a second outpost for chef-owner Dung Tran, who also owns Green Garden Pho in Silverdale, which is just as lovely as Saigon House, and also scrunched into a strip mall.
Enter the restaurant and look up. Pretty hanging pendants cast a glow on the photo of bustling downtown Hanoi that spans the entire back wall.
It’s an absolutely lovely space, strip-mall location or not.
It’s casual enough to bring the family, but date-night ready with an interesting cocktail list.
General Manager Dan Chau, who also manages Seattle’s Noi Thai Cuisine, is Saigon House’s barkeep and creator of some stellar cocktails tweaked with the flavors of Vietnam (but remember, alcohol is excluded from Restaurant Rally).
Chau deftly combines the spicy-sour-salty-sweet harmony of Southeastern Asian cuisine in his booze creations. Tamarind, chile peppers, galanga and ginger get starring parts in cocktails designed to tug at your senses. He takes what could be an ordinary lemon drop and adds a tease of salt-and-spice-and-smoke on the rim with a house spice blend. That cocktail is served atop a bubbling cauldron of smoke. Chau steeps vodka with galanga, ginger and Thai chilies for a week to use at the base of his Vietnamese-style mule. His whiskey sour is loaded with puckery tamarind paste, and then sweetened up with palm syrup.
Ever see that episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” when Bourdain and President Obama visited a hole-in-the-wall and eat noodle lettuce wraps? At Saigon House, there’s a version of those noodles. The Hanoi-style vermicelli (number V11 on the menu) is an assemble-your-own adventure with grilled pork, in a sweetened-tangy broth, pickled carrots and papaya, rice noodles and fresh herbs layered atop lettuce in whatever order you prefer, folded over and jammed into your mouth.
Also find a menu with rice plates, a solid vegetarian menu, a selection of wok dishes and a broad selection of vermicelli ɓǔn.
Where: 2505 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-503-3010
Note: Open daily for lunch and dinner.
E9 BREWING CO.
“I’m really big about things having the connection to one another and things going full circle, whether it’s in architecture and bringing things from the outside in; or having things relate to each other on our menus,” explained X Group co-owner John Xitco late in the summer when I sat down with him at E9’s Fawcett location the weekend after Labor Day to talk about his pizza program.
X Group is the restaurant company that operates E9 Brewing, Engine House No. 9 on Sixth and Asado, the upscale Argentinean steakhouse, and the Pine Room Events Center.
He explained, “When we set up our pizza program here, we wanted to do something that was fitting. How can we tie a pizza to a beer? Ok, they both have yeast as a component. How can we get a yeast that we’ve developed here ourselves?”
Enter: Tacoma wild yeast. E9’s cooking crew took the brewery’s house-cultivated beer yeast and used it as the foundation for the starter that is now used to create E9’s pizza pies.
It took an entire team of X Group chefs months to figure out the right formula for E9’s pizza dough. Xitco took trips to San Francisco and hired fancy pants pizza consultants to help.
It took several iterations to get the beer yeast to feed off flour instead of malt. Julie Brown, the former longtime X Group pastry chef who is working on opening her Cat & Rabbitt Cakeshop, also took a round or two with that dough.
The result of all that dough labor is a pizza pie with a tug of chewy resistance and a delicious yeasty waft from a double ferment. Pies arrive with blistered edges from the super hot wood-fired oven. You’ll have to talk yourself out of eating a bite of the molten pie the moment it’s placed on your table. You’ll hurt yourself. Wait 2 minutes. I know from experience.
If you try any pizza on the 10-pie menu, make it the Heidelberg, named with a tip to the surrounding brewery district where E9 operates its Fawcett brewery and pizza restaurant.
Sausage “nubs” blanket that pie slick with a coat of garlicky pesto. That pie carries an earthy bite from roasted mushrooms and a bit of sweet from candied walnuts ($18).
E9 BREWING ON FAWCETT
Where: 2506 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma; 253-383-7707
NOTE: Normally closed Monday onTuesday, but open this week and next on Monday and Tuesday for Restaurant Rally.
PIERCE COUNTY RESTAURANT RALLY INFORMATION
- Third-party ordering and delivery services, such as Uber Eats, Grub Hub and Door Dash, are excluded from the program because the program is intended to directly support local restaurants, not give money to technology companies. (Read more about why that is here).
- Tipping etiquette suggests diners should tip on the full amount of the bill, not the discounted amount. Treat servers well, they’re stressed enough as it is.
- State regulations require dining room capacity remain at 50 percent, and only dining parties of 6 and fewer will be seated
- Make a reservation if the restaurant accepts them. Cancel the reservation if you can’t keep your reservation. Empty tables = lost revenue.
- Booze is excluded from the promotion.
- Diners can get the 30 percent discount on dine-in service and take-out meals at participating restaurants. Confirm with the restaurant that they’re participating before you order.