This article originally appeared in the latest June edition of Foodie: The Foodie Forks. Read it here!
What is it? Following on from his hip eatery Chom Chom, award-winning chef Peter Cuong Franklin is making a return to a purer variety of Vietnamese with Viet Kitchen.
The place: Colourful masks from Hanoi line the walls as do photographs of Southeast Asian street-life to set the mood for the eating experience to come. An eclectic music mix of classic rock like Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones is meshed in seamlessly with Vietnamese rock bands creating a cool undercurrent admist the comfortable booths and sociable bar seating. A private area is available that seats ten in the wall to ceiling window-side space. The pretty porcelains that house the delicious eats have all been sourced from Bat Trang, the famous ceramics village in Northern Vietnam.
The drinks: A fruity selection of cocktails for $98 sets the scene for a refreshing opener to the meal. Mango Capriniha, Pineapple Freeze and Mekong Slings sit alongside the likes of $58 mocktails like the thirst-quenching Grapefruit Mojito, Mango Dream andthe beautiful combination of the Watermelon Cucumber Cooler. There’s also the in-house freshly pressed sugar cane juice for a sweet accompanier to your pho, obligatory fresh lime sodas and young coconuts or a selection of Vietnamese beers and a comprehensive wine list.
The eats: We began with a serving of tender and flavoursome roast duck rice paper rolls with a carefully measured ratio of duck to noodle in each roll and served alongside a sweet plum sauce that brought out the fragrant flavors of the meat. An enticingly aromatic steamed shrimp and pork ravioli followed, with tiny pockets of fish and meat in the center of the flour-based rounds swimming in Vietnamese fish sauce with a slight spicy kick from sparsley added red chillies.
Now, you can order a pho, a big one and slurp it all to yourself –or– you can go for the flight of pho and try all four flavours in miniature. The slightly sweet broth of the Saigon beef, thanks to cinnamon and star anise, includes both cuts of brisket and sirloin, you can then move on to a mini-bowl of rich Hanoi chicken before taking your taste buds to the extreme with the Hue spicy beef and pork and then bringing them back again with the roast duck pho. All are made with fresh noodles with a velvety texture that absorbs the Hanoi-style clear broth so each mouthful is full of flavour.
The caramel chicken wings are an easy pleasing order served with pickled carrots and dikon while the wok fried clams with lime butter sauce are a light and juicy sideline. The grilled lemongrass kurobuta pork chop was one of our top dishes of the night that came with a crunchy cabbage salad we adored. Fresh veggie options like the morning glory, crispy green beans and sweet corn and mushroom provide the required mindfulness to the meal and the ginger fried rice with garlic was full of powerful fresh flavours. They are also capitalising on the hurried lunch crowd with their set lunch menu of starter and main for $98 as well as their offshoot Viet Baguette, a takeaway counter serving up bánh mì sandwiches, fries and Vietnamese coffee to take back to the office and make co-workers drool.
Verdict: Another win for Chef Peter Franklin. The food is expectedly delightful, the prices reasonable and the concept covers enough ground for us to anticipate returning for hasty lunches, convivial happy hours and langorous suppers enjoying a flight of phở (because we could never choose just one flavour).
Viet Kitchen, G04 & G06, Nexxus Building, 41 Connaught Road, Central