With the opening flower gifts still on display in their front window, Strathfield newcomer, VN City is already proving popular with the crowds.
“We make fast food, but not in the sense that it’s junk food,” owner Matthew Gale explains, steering me towards their signature Crispy Chicken ($12).
With glistening golden skin that crackles and spurts hot liquid fat into your mouth when you bite into it, this moist sliced, bone-in chicken gives Sydney’s Chinese masters of crispy skin a run for their money at a fraction of the price. “Asian food should be cheap,” Gale declares.
As a Strathfield native with Korean ancestry, Gale opened up VN City to give locals like himself a break from the suburb’s Korean food domination. To bring his vision to life, he’s partnered up with Cindy Mai, whose family are behind the Tan Viet Noodle House restaurants (you could say crispy chicken runs in her veins). To match the light, fresh food, the interior space has been kept clean, white and functional, with wooden tables, and Scando-inspired chairs.
Food photos form the bulk of the décor, with a lime green splash-back in the rear where the busy hum of blenders should clue you in that freshly made juices are the order of the day. Watermelon ($7) juice is blended with lychee and mint to make a frothy but not too thick juice that’s wonderfully refreshing. For something simpler, the Fresh Lemon Soda ($6) is sharp and enjoyable; or there’s the on-table pandan leaf (lá dứa) tea that’s brewed freshly in the restaurant every morning (and it’s free).
No sooner have we tried the juices, and our first dish is on the table (Gale did say it was fast food) - a nicely arranged Banh Hoi Combination ($28).
Accompanied by rice paper sheets with clever built-in warm water to soften them in, the platter allows you to build your own rice paper rolls using sugar can prawns, grilled pork, pork spring rolls, tasty, lean grilled Vietnamese meatballs, and nut-topped vermicelli bundles.
Team your protein of choice with pickled batons of carrot, lettuce, and Vietnamese herbs into a neatly wrapped bundle, dip it into nuoc cham, and you’re away!
While we’re wrapping our rice paper rolls, our table fills up with food - there's no distinction between entrees and mains here.
With rare beef, brisket, tendon, tripe and meatballs, the Pho Beef Combination ($15.50) is the dish that has half the room with their heads down slurping. Me? I’m reaching for tissues and trying to keep from looking like I can’t handle my chilli. The on-table sauces are great, just approach with more sensible caution.
The French-inspired Vietnamese dish, bò lúc lắc is served here as Beef Cubed with Tomato Rice ($16) topped off with a fried egg. The tender diced beef and onions is flavoured with pepper and soy sauce, and goes down all-too-easily with the accompanying rice, lettuce and freshly cut tomato.
With my local Vietnamese favourite, Marrickville’s Bau Truong, biting the dust, I reckon I’ve found a replacement for a fast, fresh and inexpensive Vietnamese meal.
27 The Boulevarde, Strathfield
Ph: (0457) 007 071