The first thing that strikes you about Kiba Saigon’s food is the freshness. The crunchy Kiba salad, lightly smoked prawns, tacos with charred fennel and aromatic herbs. Then it’s Kiba Saigon’s tributes to Asian and European cuisine – homemade kimchi and beef rendang, and Iberico pork and catch of the day ceviche. And there’s the dishes where ingredients and ideas from the two cuisines meet, like in Kiba Saigon’s smoked Nha Trang crab with jackfruit cream.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
The term fusion-tapas doesn’t do it justice. Plus, these are much more generous sharing plates than traditional small plates of tapas. But Kiba Saigon do encourage you to share, even though you may not want to…
“It’s actually very simple. Kiba is short for kitchen and bar,” Pedro Goizueta begins. “It sounds Asian, it’s easy to pronounce, and it represents the concept exactly – the kitchen is on one floor, the bar is on the next floor.”
“There’s another meaning we discovered too, but this came after,” the head chef of Kiba Saigon continues. “In Vietnamese, Ki means to do something carefully, and ba means three – as we have three founding partners…”
Something “unique and different”
Pedro Goizueta Velasco, who was born in the sunkissed Mediterranean city of Marbella, shakes a jar of his homemade white kimchi. And then he proudly describes the flavours inside: “It’s sour, spicy, and sweet from the clams with strong umami flavours. It’s very different from eating raw cabbage. This cabbage is soft on the outside but stays crunchy inside.” It’s typical of Kiba Saigon’s approach to growing and making as many of their ingredients in-house as they can, from the salad leaves in the rooftop garden to warm, freshly baked bread straight out of the oven.
“We didn’t want to open a 100% Spanish restaurant,” Pedro elaborates, “because we felt it was less challenging than creating our own concept. We decided to go for something unique and different. Food that only can be found here…”
Homegrown in Kiba Saigon’s garden “haven”
Pedro takes us on a tour of the garden. “Hydroponics is the future of agriculture. It requires less water, less space and the growth rate is faster. And the fresh products go straight to the kitchen,” he explains as he carefully picks some mustard leaves and places them into a tray. “We mostly use aromatic herbs and leafy greens such as these mustard leaves, kale, Swiss chard, basil, lemongrass, mint. It’s like a haven in the middle of the city.”
The restaurant now offers a serious set-lunch at around 180,000VND with vegetarian options and an evening menu of classics like croqueta balls (95K VND) beef tataki (255K VND) and a delicate duck confit (220K VND). Or just grab a glass of wine or their house-made vermouth and enjoy the breeze on the balcony.
A home from home in Saigon’s District 1
The garden is on the third floor through a sliding door at the top of the stairs. Pedro continues the tour around the rest of the restaurant. “Here, on the second floor we have an open kitchen where guests can enjoy the action. Then on the third floor, besides the garden, we have our bar beneath this original ceiling with its slate tiles. Then outside we have this tranquil terrace…”
“It’s our home from home,” Pedro adds. “It’s a place where we try to make people feel comfortable, with good music, casual service, nothing too posh or intimidating. We want our guests to feel at ease…”
Celebrating Spain and Vietnam
“Believe it or not, I feel that the way of eating in Vietnam and Spain are very close,” Pedro muses. “We are both very social communities, we like to enjoy life and laugh and to have fun first and foremost…worries come second.”
“I think the way of sharing is also similar – we love to share food too,” Pedro nods, “sitting around a table with a few beers or some good wine and good food.” Then there’s the warm weather, lively street cultures. “Both have good weather, at least for most of the year.” The vibrant mural on the wall on the third floor captures the idea. “We wanted an image that captures all these ideas we’ve been talking about – a picture that expresses joy, comfort, the good life…”
Kiba Saigon’s head chef’s pants are just as flamboyant and expressively the colourful mural on the wall. “First there’s the chef’s jacket,” Pedro Goizueta points out. “White. Rolled-up sleeves. My name – which is important. Professional. And then, because we’re happy expressive people, we have details like my colourful pants, colourful shoes and socks. Just to make life more cheerful…”
Photos by Nam Tran Duy and Khooa Nguyen