Having been fairly healthy and watchful over my food all week, I was looking forward to eating out tonight. Seeing as my dining companion and I were opting for something light and fresh, we unanimously agreed on Vietnamese.
We took a short walk to take the 109 tram from Collins Street in the CBD and we were on Victoria Street in less than twenty minutes.
Having been to the area twice before myself, I wanted to experience a new place tonight and boy are there a lot to choose from. Walking up Victoria Street to choose a place to eat in, is a bit like being a kid in a candy store. There is restaurant after restaurant, and unless one knows what they are looking for, it can be hard to decipher the good from the bad.
So if a restaurant was packed, we saw that as a basis for 'it must be pretty good'. I mean, who would eat in an empty restaurant during prime dinner time!
We passed a few that we thought looked good and decided to go back to 'Thanh Nga Nine'. It was heaving (which we of course saw as a good sign) and once we entered the restaurant, we were shown a table for two by the front counter.
Sitting down, menu's were placed on the table for us to peruse right away. As is the case in many (if not all) Asian restaurants, there was an overwhelming abundance of choice. Feeling rather hungry, we quickly narrowed it down to a couple of things we were familiar with.
We started with a 'King Prawn rice paper roll' ($8), followed by 'Beef Pho Noodle soup' ($8), 'Chicken in chilli and lemongrass' ($13) and 'Water spinach with garlic' ($12).
After having placed our order, we poured ourselves some tea from the flask that had graced our table when we arrived. I also asked for a glass of tap water - which I have to say took a rather long time to arrive (and I had to ask twice for it). When it finally arrived, it turned out to be hot water in glass! Hmmm, never had that before when I've asked for a glass of 'tap water'. Does 'tap' mean hot in Vietnamese?! I don't think so....
Anyway, I didn't bother to make a fuss, I didn't want another long wait with the potential to get the wrong thing again.
The condiments for our food arrived first - beansprouts and basil with lime wedge and fresh chilli slices for our beef pho noodles, and dipping sauce (nuoc cham) for our king prawn rice rolls.
The rice paper rolls arrived looking plump and well made. Although they looked good, they were rather thin on the king prawn. Those three pieces of prawn that you see in each one were actually halves as opposed to whole and the rest of the stuffing was cabbage, rice vermicelli and basil. The dipping sauce was thick and gooey, and tasted pretty nice. I've had better though and I guess you can tell I was pretty dissappointed with the small amount of king prawn. In fact, we both were.
The beef pho noodles arrived in a big bowl. We loaded in the beansprouts, basil and chilli with as much lime as we could squeeze. Mixed the whole thing up and bravo, a yummy bowl of beef pho.
We both agreed that the beef probably wasn't the 'raw slices of beef' that the menu had described, but rather more like pre-cooked slices of beef that had gone a bit tough. The broth however was tasty and full of flavour.
The 'chicken with chilli and lemongrass' arrived next and the waiter, who we think was actually the manager (due to being dressed in his own clothes as opposed to the dark red waiter uniform of the others) seemed a bit put out that he had to place the dish down, and then remove the finished prawn rice paper rolls plate.
Back to the dish though, the veggies tasted lovely with a subtleness of lemongrass. Although I couldn't find any hint of chilli - in the dish or on my tastebuds. The chicken was a little fatty for both our liking. This was OK, nothing special.
The 'water spinach with garlic' arrived in the same manner by the same waiter as the previous dish. The guy was obviously having a bad night or else is permanently rude. Nevertheless, this didn't stop us from eating our meal. Unfortunately for us though, these veggies were slightly overcooked and didn't have the crunchiness that they should do.
The food didn't blow us away, but then at $41 for the lot, I guess we couldn't expect it to. Service was also off, which doesn't entice me to want to go back there again. Unless they win an award for an amazing dish or improve their customer service with gold stars, this place isn't a winner dinner for me. I thought it was only average. And for a girl who loves to eat and likes to experiment in the kitchen, what do I know...
Thanh Nga Nine
160 Victoria Street, Richmond, VIC 3121
Tel: +61 (0)3 9427 7068
Hours: 10am-10pm Daily