One may not automatically associate a casino with Vietnamese food, but the Crown casino has a Vietnamese eatery called Tia To located on the ground floor.
Having been here a couple of times previously, I can say that I like this place for it's ridiculously close proximity to my front door - a mere five minutes or so walk; it's not too pricey, and service is welcoming.
This place is an open eatery, meaning diners can sit and look out onto the gaming floor which is great for those who like to people watch and believe me, it really is fascinating watching gamers. If I were to go back to my university days to write a thesis on the psychology of people, I would consider the subject of gamblers.
Nevertheless, educational degrees aside, this place offers a generous array of sauces and dippings which sit neatly on a tray that adorn each table. There's fish sauce, soy sauce, chilli sauce, chilli flakes, pickle, hoisin sauce and satay sauce. Oh and not forgetting, a holder of toothpicks that all good Asian eateries offer. Useful for picking out any awkwardly caught pieces of food, namely green herbs - not a good look if on a first date.
My companion and I ordered a prawn rice roll each ($6.50 for both). They weren't huge which was good, but they seemed pretty fresh and the sauce was thick and sweet with broken up pieces of peanut on top. We both enjoyed them and looked forward to our mains.
As is typical with me, I wanted the beef pho noodles and those we got. It took a while for them to come out, which didn't bother us too much. But had we been starving, we probably would have been getting pretty cranky with me cursing expletives whilst picking my teeth with toothpicks for something to do...
Apologies for the blurred photo, but the thin slices of pink beef can be seen. The rare paper thin beef slices were cooking naturally in the heat of the broth as they arrived. Mmmm....
We mixed in the beansprouts, basil, chopped chilli and lemon juice which arrived before the noodles actually. The beef was lovely, only I wish there had been more of it. The soup was more beefy than aromatic though which was a little disappointing.
It could have done with more oomph - I would have liked to have tasted more of the lovely spices that go into a good pho broth. Pho-tastic it was not. But it didn't stop me from gobbling up the beef, noodles and beansprouts splashed with spoonfuls of chilli sauce (which I think was Siracha - yummy!).
If I'm honest, I've had better pho broth elsewhere, but the rare beef slices are to die for!
The other dish we ordered came from Tia To's speciality dishes - 'Stir fried eggplant with dried shrimp and mince pork'. All the speciality dishes come with a serving of white rice. I rarely eat white rice (only when out and no other choice; even then, I eat only a couple of spoonfuls), but today, did I tell you I was famished? Well, I was. I had a good session in the gym and I needed to fuel back up, so I had four spoonfuls of rice...ooh, I was really pushing the boat out today!
Calories aside, this dish was lovely. The eggplant pieces were deliciously soft and weren't bitter tasting at all. The dried shrimp turned out to be fresh shimp, but we weren't complaining. It was served on a bed of fresh iceburg lettuce and it wasn't too oily. Overall, a great ratio balance of pork, shrimp and eggplant. This was just what the doctor ordered and we polished it off with no complaints.
Service was a bit slow today, not sure why as they weren't full. But it has been better on previous occasions. It may not be the best Vietnamese, but it's not bad and I'll definitely be back here for some more Tia To goodness.
Crown Entertainment Complex, Main Gaming Floor, 8 Whitman Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9292 6989