246 Springvale Rd
03 9547 7879
It has been quite some time since I have been here. The entrance at the rear of Springvale road faces towards Springvale shopping centre. The once old open plan car park that sat between the sunlit entrance of Hoa Tran and Buckingham Avenue is now a towering multilevel monster.
If I remember correctly, this must’ve been one of the earlier waves of establishments to be transformed from its former dilapidation to a cleaner and sleeker look – which is now very common place across Melbourne. With construction works still ongoing around the new complex, access is difficult, yet it is still pack full with queues stretching onto the cold wintery winds outside.
Inside the South-East Asian inspired décor, are at least half a dozen floor staff decked out in fluoro-orange, a couple more at the counter, and many more within the kitchen (which I must say takes up at least one third of the restaurant length). Turnover is fast here, so expect to be pushed out of the door when you finish your meal.
To start (actually that would be a lie, since we had this at the end when they were trying to push us out the door, haha) we had a Mung bean smoothie (Sinh tố đậu xanh), which is ironically freezing cold but absolutely smooth and creamy with the essential sweetness of condensed milk. The list of drinks here is really extensive!
Rice noodles soup with Cambodian soup (Hủ tiếu Nam Vang). The broth is sweet and well concentrated with savoury. There is ample amounts of bean sprouts and sprinkle of herbs. A scattering of juicy prawns, thin slices of chicken and pork, a golden-crispy cracker of prawn, and a few items of offal. Pigs’ blood curd and slices of liver are probably not for the faint hearted, but are delicacies across much of Asia. The Cambodian rice noodle for me is the main draw card for me, with a beautifully translucent body that gives a slightly chewier and bouncier bite than the Vietnamese / Chinese versions. I admit this is not something you’ll typically find at Vietnamese restaurants outside of Springvale, but given the large settlement of Cambodian ethnic Chinese here, it is common place to have such a mix of dishes.
Spring rolls and flamed grilled pork vermicelli & salad (Bún thịt nướng chã gìo) – I’m not sure if this actually exists on the menu, as they generally exist as two separate items – Bún thịt nướng (grilled pork) and Bún chã gìo (spring rolls) – but we always order it as a single item anyway =P. Springrolls are crispy with a decent filling of pork, vermicelli and mushroom. It is always disappointing not to have taro/yam in my spring rolls, but being expensive I doubt they will appear on menus anytime soon. I suppose I will have to ask mum to make me some. The grilled pork is moreishly crispy and juicy with the fats of pork partly rendered off. The nuoc nam is a tangy concoction, not too hard or heavy, with a good amount of salt and sweetness. Unfortunately they have eliminated much of the variety and sheer quantity of Vietnamese herbs, with a half lettuce mix. Sad to say this was one of the few places that provided the full range of herb colours – from Thai, lemon and purple basil, to mint, cucumber and bean sprouts. No doubt keeping cost down in a competitive market has won over.
Rating: Yummy and a bit. I have been rather critical here, given my very high expectations of this place. But objectively speaking it still ranks up there with other Vietnamese joints in Melbourne, but has certainly dropped its benchmark.
P.S. Thanh’s mum recently recommended us a super small, almost residential like place that is apparently her new favourite for Vietnamese in the Springvale area. Will hopefully trek South and get to try it soon… Shhhh I can’t tell you where it is yet!