Given my recent and rising affections for Pho; proximity to Windsor/Prahran area of deliciousness; and my great experiences at sister restaurant Tokyo Tina; it was no surprise that I would lob onto the doorstep of this fine establishment. With a kind of grunge cool that is typical of this breed of hawker style restaurants, it was sure to satisfy my Vietnamese cravings.
The flavours of Vietnam are both varied and complex. On the face of it, you could be forgiven for thinking that all Vietnamese food is a combination of garlic, chili, lemongrass and ginger. Amp up the heat and you have it right there. However, if you look at the offerings available here, you will see that it is far more.
I have been guilty of oversimplifying the Vietnamese cuisine in the past, but my fascination seems to grow with each new restaurant I visit. For sure I can’t comment on the authenticity of each place – having never visited the country – but I do know what I like.
Despite being already full on arrival, starters were a temptation too good to resist. There were so many that I wanted to try, but we settled on the Hanoi spring rolls. These were meaty, crunchy, deep fried goodness. Of course they were coupled with a fish sauce dipper, lettuce leaves and Vietnamese mint. And of course what better way to wash it down than with Bia Ha Noi. I am very fond of this lager, especially with Pho.
Unfortunately they were out of my first Pho choice: spicy beef brisket. I went with the suggested alternative XO Pho with crispy pork and prawn. Not the traditional choice, coming with egg noodles rather than rice noodles, but that broth… The addition of the prawns gave a pleasant fishy aroma to the broth and the rich, fatty, crispy pork was a delight. The subtle hint of the spices in the beef broth was a great match to the chili punch from my liberal use of the condiment tray. I always love to get some hoisin sauce in the broth too.
I will be back for the spicy beef brisket, as I think the more traditional version would be on a whole new level. And the starters… I need them in my life too. Hanoi Hannah is set to be a regular on my list, and with prices that let you afford to go there on the regular, it’s a win-win!