Setting up shop in the space formerly occupied by our Foodie fave Viet Kitchen, it was always going to be tough to put in anything that could reasonably compete with Peter Cuong Franklin's casual and affordable Vietnamese dishes. Cue Australian-Vietnamese celebrity chef Luke Nyugen, known for his prolific cookbooks, various television shows and popular Aussie restos Red Lantern and Fat Noodle, and all of a sudden you've got a good fighting chance. Helmed by Luke and his brother, Leroy Nguyen, who bears a striking resemblance to Luke, these two will no doubt be a dynamic duo in this launch if the flavours at our lunch session are anything to go by.
As for Moi Moi's new look, the interiors have got a nice, glossy gleam to them, with a more sophisticated vibe than the previous occupant, yet they still retain a rustic, bamboo-accented charm. There are some comfy booths and high tables around the back.
Let's start with the most ubiquitous Vietnamese export: the pho. Luke's version is an 18-hour pho broth that makes for a rich, complex, hearty bowl that we kept sinking our faces into to further inhale the aromatic scents. The pho is available only on the lunch menu as they make the broth from scratch, as well as the noodles, so they are unable to cater to dinner diners as yet. Never fear – the pho may be beautiful, but it's a mere drop in the bucket of offerings on this eclectic menu.
The fresh spring rolls offered a light, clean bite with tiger prawns, Kurobuta pork and the sharp accent of perilla that's hard to fault.
The crispy fried spring rolls wrapped in lettuce were a more indulgent starter, with a light, flaky exterior that crumbled expertly when bitten, revealing an inner layer of pork, crab, wood ear mushroom and taro.
The lemongrass chicken appeared in all its glory with its butter-yellow sheen and heavenly scent, with juicy, plump meat that was delicately flavoured and cooked to perfection.
We oohed over the salad with sweet lychee-like hits of rambutan and Australian spanner crab and tucked into the in-house-baked bahn mi baguette stuffed with pork patties and topped with pork floss, chilli and Vietnamese pickles. This was our least favourite of the dishes; the pork patties was slightly too rich and thick as a sandwich interior for our particular preference, but the combination of flavours worked well, so it might well be the favoured filling for others.
We weren't lucky enough to get hold of the avocado tart at our lunch but instead were delighted by a banana fritter with tapioca pearls and shavings of toasted coconut. But the real dessert was the insanely decadent Vietnamese coffee – which we are addicted to from trips to Vietnam – and the offering here is the real deal: sweet and spiked with enough caffeine and sugar to get you through any challenges your day may hold.
The lunch set menu is a reasonable $168. There is also a full (and quite different) dinner menu, along with a separate vegetarian menu (veggies, rejoice!) and a tasting menu for $428 per person.
Lobby, Nexxus Building, 77 Des Voeux Road Central, Central, 2808 1086