If the flavours at this smart little family run restaurant taste a little different from other Vietnamese restaurants about town, it’s because they’re from North Vietnam. Think a combination of the freshness of Vietnamese with cooking techniques from Chinese cuisine, all slightly tweaked for the Western palate.
As with most family run restaurants, the service is warm and caring. Parking is easy in the evening as you’re far enough away from the Westfield, and the only neighbouring businesses which are open are also restaurants. The decor involves a fair amount of bamboo.
The food begins with some complimentary tiny salted peanuts, and some carved pickled vegetables. One bite of carrot made me realise we were in for something good - the pickle flavour was complex, both sweet and savoury.
Our first dish Grilled Scallops with Lime Leaves ($12.90) had an interesting flavour profile, and the scallops were well cooked. However they were small (and almost certainly frozen at some point) and the shells showed chips and signs of having been run through the dishwasher. (This is not that unusual a practice - we noticed it on the snail shells at The Little Snail too, and one supposes hygienic in the sense that dishwashers run hot enough to kill germs on plates, and thus on shells also.)
If you’re after a great sharing entrée, try the Four Season Rolls ($14.90) which has four different takes on the humble spring roll – the Pho Cuon or fresh beef roll (bottom left) was the standout. Each type of roll is also available separately on the menu in serves of three rolls ($9.90-$13.90).
My favourite dish of the night was the Goi Du Du ($13.90) - a lovely salad of green paw paw, roasted peanuts and caramelised air dried beef served on rice crackers. We have had similar dishes at restaurants including Snakebean but this is the first time air-dried beef has been added, and it makes all the difference!
The Cua Rang Me ($20.90) or soft shell crab on a bed of fresh greens in a light tamarind sauce was a nice dish. It was nice to see soft shell crab fried but presented in a way that made it easier to eat - the greens and the sauce really helped, and didn't make the batter soggy ( I was fearful that it might) .
But perhaps the most interesting was the Vit Bo Lo ($24.90), a lovely dish of roast duck sliced off the bone served with shitake mushrooms in a plum based sauce. The duck was very salty, but when eating in combination with the plum sauce and mushrooms, it sang.
We tried a weird dessert - the Che Hoa Cau ($4.90) or palm flower pudding. It's made of mung beans, starch and coconut cream. It was heavily perfumed, served hot, and had a very unusual flavour.
By the way, it’s BYO, so take a bottle of your favourite wine.
Van’s Bondi Junction
96 Bronte Road, Bondi Junction
Ph: (02) 9369 1828