While we wait with bated breath for Chef Yia Vang's Vinai restaurant to open, we got to get a sneak preview through their residency at Steady Pour. You may recognize Chef Vang from the reboot of Iron Chef, from his amazing Union Hmong Kitchen restaurant, as a newly-minted Minnesota State Fair food vendor, and many other accolades.
The residency at Steady Pour is a tasting menu featuring seasonal Hmong dishes paired with creative cocktails (both alcohol and NA options) by Steady Pour. It's located in a random office building in northeast Minneapolis that I've driven past zillions of times. I never would have imagined that one could get a fabulous tasting menu inside!
The meal started with an amuse-bouche of compressed apple with a pleasantly non-Minnesotan amount of chili powder.
Khoom Noj (Tiny Treats) - Chilled grilled shrimp with maple chili oil
THIS SAUCE. Incredible. Perfect level of heat and amazing char from the grilling.
Drink Pairing: Ginger Peach Fizz (NA)
It was like an actually delicious version of snapple peach tea with lots of brightness coming from ginger and lemon. Sesame oil gave it a little je ne sais quoi. The foam on top is aquafaba (chickpea water) which serves the same function as egg white.
Yog Peb Xwb (Just Us) - Smoked duck heart laab
This was my first time trying duck heart and I'm a fan, especially in laab format. It was loaded with fresh herbs and the texture of the meat was really fun.
Drink Pairing: Cucumber Watermelon Cooler
I was surprised that a watermelon drink wasn't pink, but it was just the perfect hint of watermelon rather than overbearing watermelon. Very refreshing and the gin paired nicely with all the herbs in the laab.
Mov (Rice + Noodles) - Five Spice Pastrami Duck Noodles
I love cold noodles and these were the best rice noodles I've ever had. I don't even usually like rice noodles but these were fabulous. The noodles were tossed in nuoc cham and topped with very thin slices of pastrami-cured duck and pickled veggies. It came with big sheets of puffed rice paper that added a lovely salty crunch to the dish.
Drink Pairing: Thai Tea Slushie
You know I love a slushie. This had rum, Thai tea, coconut milk, amaro, and a cardamom dusting. The full-strength nature of this cocktail hit me in the face after the first NA cocktail and the second low-ABV. It was delicious and super creamy.
Nqaij Ci + Zaub (Grilled Meats + Veggies) - Sweet Pork
PHENOMENAL pork tenderloin cooked to perfection and glazed with tamari. It was served with Hmong sticky rice, pickles, and an incredibly savory and flavorful chili paste.
Drink Pairing: Pho Old Fashioned
This cocktail was made with bourbon infused with pho spices and rum and had MSG in it. I love MSG in a cocktail (and really anything else). This isn't something I would typically order for myself and the star anise flavor from the pho spices was a bit strong for me, but it worked really well together with the food.
Qab Zib (Sweets) - Flourless chocolate torte with puffed wild rice
I loved the Hmong/Minnesotan fusion with the inclusion of wild rice on this dish! It was decadent and light at the same time with a nice hit of saltiness.
Drink Pairing: Vietnamese Decaf Coffee
I was THRILLED to see decaf and this was a perfect cocktail version of an equally perfect beverage. It reminded me a bit of Mexican spiced hot chocolate with the combination of creaminess, spice, and orange notes. It was also nitro, which made it beautifully smooth.