Viet L’Amour and Wassail

December 2012

  • John McGrath

What’s happened to Prospect? It used to be skeletal remains of shops that could be open but probably weren’t.

The revolutionary star on Prospect Road was and is the fruit and veg shop with the striking sign and handsomely displayed produce. Adelaide Fresh Fruiterers isn’t all apples and oranges. Under the sign there are dry goods, ham off the bone, chickens, beef, even a bakery. Why doesn’t one pop up at the end of your street?

Not much reason to go any further North. Retreat immediately back to one’s Fitzroy mansion. No. Go forward to Prospect’s centre where Prospect Road has been bottle-necked, streets closed off and traffic lights put in for the odd pedestrian. At night, curious conspiracy theorists can marvel at the Martian sperm sacs that have been shot directly at the Prospect Council and are whirring ever so slowly into the flesh of Mother Earth. They are made from an unknown metal and glowing pink flares. I have heard a story that the Council commissioned the artefacts. This may be so. However, they are unmistakeably Martian in design and execution. Someone on the Council may be from the red planet…

After avoiding what could be nasty clouds of primordial isotopes around possible clusters of pink semen; golly: A Wine Bar. Glossing up the faded heart of Prospect is a wine bar called Wassail. I know what ‘Wassail’ means because I am supposed to. ‘Glug’ (or similar) would have been my pick. Maybe the owners wanted something to suit the Prospect aspirational classes. Wassail feels as if it is learning how to be itself. The staff is tasting strange wines along with the guests. Rosa Matto has got them off to a fast start with an apt, simple, do-able, menu.

I tried a Pindarie 2011 La Femme Barossa Savagnin. There are plenty of other curious wines on the list. Stephanie Matto, Rosa’s daughter was on the floor at my first visit to Wassail, disguised in her mother’s spotted top. This was enough for vague me to talk to the daughter like the mother. I didn’t say, “you white-hot spunkerina, you”. But there are things you say absently to old friends. Blush. A brass quintet will play there on December 2.

Next door is a large Vietnamese restaurant which is having a crack at fusion cuisine. Don’t stamp your feet if your favourite classic made with water imported from the Mekong Delta, isn’t ‘just so’. Vietnamese food is already fusion-a-fied.  Influenced by the French, hence beautiful bread and even beautiful pâté, minus ‘de foie gras’ perhaps, but beautiful pâté none the less. Even their wonderful standard-bearing dish ‘Pho’ may owe its name to the French ‘pot-au-feu’.  The Americans left behind whole pork chops on top of rice – or the dish may have been already in Vietnam.

Start off with a Buddha roll each ($5 for two). As you would expect of Buddha, there is no meat inside. What is inside is adorable. Lettuce, mint leaves, white noodles direct from the steamer, finely cut carrot and bean sprouts. All exceptionally fresh and crunchy ingredients.

If you wish to show off those fast little fingers order Do- It-Yourself rolls ($20 for two people). The sizzling sirloin version is finely sliced, marinated in soy sauce, garlic and lemongrass, tossed in a wok with lettuce and smoked onions and left for you to wrap up in a pliable circle of rice paper that you have dexterously spun in a bowl of hot water to soften, flipped it in a perfect circle on your plate, then filled the wrapper with the freshest lettuce and herbs.

Or flipped in a half circle on your plate, which is impossible to un-stick, fiddled with it until you’ve lost your temper, and stuck the whole lot in your mouth before anyone notices. They all do. What would Buddha do? Thrown the wretched mess on the floor and stormed out with his monks in tow? If you look up a dish called ‘Buddha Jumped over the Wall’ you will see he’s got form in this area.

You should stick at it. Your first effort will be disturbing. #3 will be perfect. Stick with salads if you want to be sanctimonious. King prawn and lotus stem salad? Naturally Ms Duck-Breath wanted ‘Duck L’Orange’ ($19.90 for a sharable serve) with an orange and ginger glaze. Lovely dish, much better than any version of the truly bastardised highfalutin ‘Duck a l’orange’ served in posh places.

If you are going to cook this dish yourself with at least a cursory nod towards tradition, try using Frank Cooper’s Oxford fine cut marmalade. It is made with Seville oranges. Tinker with that and Cointreau in the gravy to make a sauce bigarade. And serve the sauce on the side for pity’s sake. Take a hint from the Orient.

There are many other dishes to try on Viet L’Amour’s menu. Two are ‘wicked’. Wicked Winglets and Wicked Wonton Soup. There are a couple of steamboats, too.

I have to give a gold sticker to the person who is responsible for the glowing doohickies. I think they are awful. But they might have worked.

Wassail
95 Prospect Road 
Prospect SA 5082
83422548
Thursday: 4pm-10pm
Friday - Sat: 1pm-12am
Sunday: 3pm-9pm

Viet L’Amour
93 Prospect Road 
Prospect SA 5082
83442888
Lunch: Tuesday – Sunday 11am-3pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Sunday 11am-late

 

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