This post was originally written for Nyam Penh on May 23, 2012
When I go to Vietnam, I tend to eat a lot of Vietnamese food. So much that sometimes, my wife has to call a stop to it and force me to eat something that doesn’t involve a noodle, grain of rice or fish sauce. When this happens, I usually complain, pout, and kick about. Basically, I turn into a 3 year old.
It was one of these times again last week where she put her foot down and told me to find a non-Vietnamese place for us to try out. So I opened the excellent Word magazine and unenthusiastically started down the list of international restaurants until I saw a listing that piqued my interest.
Italian tradition meets Japanese ingenuity
It took a while to find the place, mainly due to the fact that it is down an alley. Best advice is to look for the Domino’s and then walk past it, then make a left when the road ends. We arrived on a very busy Saturday night and were told it was going to be a 30 minute wait for a table but were free to sit at the bar. I suggest anyone eating here to sit at the bar to watch the awesomeness happen.
All the pizza’s are made by the man in the red rimmed glasses. And he is very good at what he does.
The menu is quite extensive with appetizers, soups, salads, one-dish meals and of course pizza. With over 14 different pizzas, it was hard to choose. Luckily, Pizza 4P’s offers combination pizzas by offering half orders on each pie. This time, we ordered a full margherita and a half salmon sashimi/quattro flowers pies.
From the first minute of watching from the bar, I was completely enthralled by the quick work by Chef Yoshikawa and his crew making the pies. The speed at which pizzas were getting placed in the wood-fired oven was astounding after seeing some of the complex affairs that were being assembled. I asked the chef’s assistants to let me know when he was going to start our pizzas so I could document the process. So after a half hour of beers, conversation with our fellow bar mates and a fantastic caprese cocktail appetizer, the assistant indicated that ours was next.
Once the dough gets rolled out, the toppings get piled on. I love a place that doesn’t shred their mozzarella and seeing Chef Yoshikawa grabbing whole chunks of cheesy goodness made me extremely happy.
Once all the ingredients are on the pie, it gets moved to a waiting pizza peel for baking. .
Once Thuy, the pizza baker gets a hold of the pizza, it is placed inside the oven for about a minute, then it is slowly rotated and constantly checked for the prerequisite char marks to appear. When she decides the pizza is done, it is placed on an awaiting dish to be garnished. It only took 2:27 from the time Thuy put the margharita pizza in the oven to the time the plate was placed in front of us.
A simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil finished off with some extra-virgin olive oil is all that is on this margherita pizza. My wife commented that the tomato sauce was the best she had ever had on a pizza. Sometimes simple is all you need.
The other pie that came out was the complete opposite of simple but the crew still managed to get it out to us at 3:47. The Quattro Flowers pizza had pumpkin, leek, telosma cordata, sesbania, grandiflora and daylily flowers accompanied on a sweet mozzarella cheese mayo and parmesan cheese. The medley of flora in the Quattro Flowers brought a fresh, crisp texture to the pizza and would have made it a light meal if it wasn’t for the other side of my plate.
The other half was the Salmon Sashimi which had house-made ricotta, capers, onions and parmesan cheese cooked onto the pizza. It was finished off with some raw salmon and fresh dill on the side. The Salmon Sashimi side of the pizza was a playful Japanese spin on traditional italian ingredients by adding the raw salmon and dill.
As we were leaving, I had a chance to chat with the owner, Yosuke Masuko about his restaurant. Chef Yoshikawa and him have been friends for over 20 years and actually built a wood fired a few years ago in his garden. When I asked about the quality and care they took in each pie that came out, the former venture capitalist cum restauranteur simply replied, “I really like pizza”.
8/15 Le Thanh Ton Street
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
We came back 2 more times and tried the Okonomiyaki, Chicken Teriyaki, Quattro Fromaggio, Proscuitto and the Salmon Miso pizzas. All were great and we will definitely come back when we are back in Ho Chi Minh City!