Londoners (myself included
) love to extoll the virtues of the Vietnamese restaurants in Kingsland road. However, the delights of Kingsland road pale in comparison when compared with the wall to wall Vietnamese restaurants that line Victoria street in Melbourne, Australia. Having travelled in Vietnam I can honestly say that the Vietnamese food you can get on Victoria street is just as good as the food I ate there, albeit more expensive. That’s not to say Victoria street is expensive, it is one of the cheapest places in Melbourne to eat particularly given that every restaurant is BYO.
Some Melburnians like going back to a tried and true favourite on Victoria street time and time again however I prefer to have a go at one of the restaurants I have never tried before (there are so many Vietnamese restaurants on Victoria street that it would take serious cash, time and appetite to make it to them all – although a journalist from The Age did attempt this feat
). So I was delighted when my friend Jo said that she had found a new favourite that had opened in the time I had been in London, Vi’em.
Rare beef salad
The great thing about Vi’em is that it looks pretty similar to the restaurants in Vietnam. It has got a big outdoor seating area under a verandah, a TV blaring, a shrine and even a water feature. Jamie Durie eat your heart out. It’s certainly not stylish but the authenticity of the decor gave me hope about the authenticity of the food. Service is smiles all round and we are quickly provided with water and a thermos full of tea to sip at while we select from the laminated menu. If we wanted to bring our own wine or beer a corkage charge of $4.50 was required. We decide to share the rare beef salad ($18.50) a monster of a serving size bursting at the seams with tender pink slivers of beef, hot red chillis, lashings of coriander and heaps of bean sprouts. The interplay between the different flavours makes this dish real party-in-the-mouth territory.
We also share the stuffed squid ($12.50) which is tightly packed with a mixture of minced prawns and pork and served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. Unfortunately the squid itself has been overcooked and so has taken on a hard rubbery texture. Still, I would go back to Vi’em on the strength of the rare beef salad and the smiling waiting staff alone. Given the bustle of the Vietnamese supermarkets, the myriad of restaurants and the community feel of the road visitors to Melbourne can’t go to too far wrong simply by turning up to Victoria street and randomly picking whichever restaurant they turn too first.
Details: 345 Victoria Street, Richmond, Australia 3121 (Ph +61 3 9421 5227)
Damage: Such a bargain even my mother would approve
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of the nearby cafe Three Bags Full
in Abbostford. For Londoners looking to replicate the Victoria street experience your best bet is Kingsland road – try Viet Grill