How about a seven-course Laotian meal prepared by chef Bob Somsith at Austin’s own 4th Tap Brewing Co-op? You know: In an enormous, soaring-ceilinged warehouse space, sparsely peopled, properly distanced – the sort of situation that’s better for safety in these pandemic times.
And how about pairings of well-crafted 4th Tap quaffs to go with those freshly made courses? You like the sound of that, citizen? We like the sound of that. (We also like the sound of Somsith’s eatery, SXSE, because it’s pronounced “sek-see”; but it was the SXSE cuisine that won the 2019 Trucklandia Competition.) So, yes, we also love the taste of the whole thing: One of our first culinary outings of 2021, and already we’re thinking this year can’t possibly suck as much as good-riddanced 2020.
We should tell you a bit about the meal, so you’ll know what to expect. Because the SXSE food truck in the brewery’s parking lot serves up a variety of tasty skewers with rice, but this Laotian extravaganza, this Chef’s Table event, was a few magnitudes of complexity beyond that – and it wasn’t a one-off deal: It’s part of a continuing series of collaborations between 4th Tap and SXSE, and each part of the series is, well, they call them Acts.
“We call them Acts,” says 4th Tap’s Jared Chacon, “because, like a play, these evenings are intended to tell the story behind each dish and beer and the culture that inspired them. Each Act features a unique six- or seven-course menu that runs three days a week for five weeks, with a two-week break between Acts. The menu is always focused around the cuisine of Laos and spans appetizers, light and heavy dishes, and desserts.”
Note: Act I, which we stupidly missed, wrapped last year; but Act II has just begun – and will still be going by the time this article sees print.
The Act II menu brought us mak som (fruit crudités with dipping sauce); heavenly beef with pickled veggies; lahb diep (beef tartare); mok pa (salmon steamed in banana leaf); mee katee (sweet chicken curry); nem nuong (pork skewers – and the skewers themselves were lengths of fresh sugarcane); and kongh vahn for dessert. And that kongh vahn, that’s a completely gluten-free coconut pandan crème brûlée, studded with shards of green glass candy. All the courses were *chef’s kiss* a delight for the palate, but we’d never had anything like that pandan-infused coconut crème before. Khong vahn like that, even without the sugar glass, is a sweet revelation that we’re already jonesing to experience again.