IT was one of those miserable winter days, where black clouds hung over the city like a bull’s scrotum.
In need of a gastronomic cuddle, my buddy recommended we head to Viet Hoa, a restaurant he’d frequented for 20 years after first visiting with his mother in the days of grunge and AltaVista.
“The décor’s exactly the same,” he said, as we walked past cracks and sallow wallpaper.
The large eating area was chock-a-block and a queue spilled out the door onto William Street, so I assumed it was one of those places where the décor was irrelevant.
The no-nonsense laminated menu had a huge array of dishes—everything from sweet and sour chicken to Scotch fillet with lemongrass—and included satay, beef, poultry, seafood and noodles.
The type of restaurant where you go cross-eyed and end up ordering a prime number.
My friend said Viet Hoa was renowned for its soups, so for mains we ordered wonton ($12.50), roast duck egg noodle soup ($13) and combination laksa ($12.50).
Service was super-fast, almost instantaneous: perhaps the waiter had created a wormhole with the nib of his cheap pen.
We tucked into beautiful pieces of golden fried squid ($8.50)—non-greasy and light—and beef skewers in wine ($8.10).
The skewers had a pungent, smoky aroma and I initially thought my jocks were on fire, but was relieved to find all the smoke had been siphoned into the delicious cubes of beef.
I enjoyed the subtle addition of wine and the dry, beefy kick in my mouth.
The last entree was the most interesting: huge, boneless fried chicken wings stuffed with minced chook, spring onions, bean shoots and coriander ($9).
Imagine perhaps a demented love child of King Arthur and Colonel Sanders.
They were strangely addictive and the batter was light and crispy (no translucent patches on my serviette).
It wasn’t long before a huge bowl of fragrant loveliness arrived. My wonton soup was deeper than the River Styx, crammed not with lost, wailing souls but with beautifully steamed parcels of pork, spring onion, bean shoots and fired shallots.
The broth was light, delicious and teeming with subtle flavours and spices.
It’s rare that I cannot finish a dish but this was so large I waved my tartan Y-fronts in surrender.
The food at Viet Hoa is faultless, the portions huge and all at a price to make a Scotsman smile.
Just watch out for those dangling black clouds.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK
349 William St, Northbridge