Sydney Morning Herald - Bar Pesta puts an Asian twist into Italian pasta

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

Excerpt from The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 March 2020:

Bar Pesta’s Nhu and Minh Nguyen are born adventurers. They’re savvy about risk, yes. But they’re also unafraid of testing the cultural waters. In 2009, when Vietnamese restaurants were largely seen as “cheap and cheerful”, the pair opened Xage — a beloved Surry Hills eatery that elevated Vietnamese homestyle cooking. Fast forward a decade, the husband and wife team are ready to challenge the market again. This time closing the successful Xage and re-opening it as Bar Pesta — a smart-casual eatery that focuses on one thing: Asian pasta.

“We want to introduce people to the idea of Asian pasta,” says co-owner Minh Nguyen. “Judging from the feedback we’re getting, a lot of people don’t even realise it’s a whole category of food in places like Thailand and Japan and Vietnam.”

The couple, who also own three Madame Nhu eateries across the city, travel frequently and take inspiration from the cosmopolitan food scenes in South-East Asian cities. “There’s a lot of Italian expats in Bangkok, for example, so restaurants started experimenting with local flavours like pad kee mao [drunken noodles] spaghetti and pad ka prao [Thai holy basil stir-fry] pasta,” says Minh.

At Bar Pesta, the kitchen takes things one step further and incorporates flavours from different Asian cuisines into the trusty Italian dish. This means you’ll see things such as a fragrant Tom Yum tiger prawn linguine alongside a Japanese-style mushroom wafu pasta. The latter glossy with dashi butter and packed full of oyster and enoki mushrooms.

Nhu (of Madame Nhu fame) is the brain behind the diverse menu. She also runs the kitchen and takes pride in creating the restaurant’s signature dish — the aglio e olio (garlic and oil) Laotian. Here, Nhu ups the smokiness by using the wok to toss the noodles. While the technique is Asian, most of the ingredients (chilli flakes, garlic, olive oil and white wine) are still staunchly Italian. The Laotian influence being the addition of spicy pork sausages.

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Published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 5/3/20. Story by Candice Chung. Photos by James Brickwood. To read the full feature, visit:

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