Quietly opening late last year, this suburban secret is slowly but surely gaining a delicious reputation.
I’m going to share a little secret. Just promise that you won’t tell anyone else. It’s not that I don’t trust you. I just don’t trust them. Word spreads in this town. My little secret actually belongs to someone else. Two diminutive Vietnamese cousins named Tien and Kieu.
Both are born in the Chinese calendar’s year of the Mouse and both have such a voracious appetite for food that it drove them to open a Vietnamese-Australian restaurant in order to share their gastronomic story.
Quietly opening late last year, this suburban secret is slowly but surely gaining a delicious reputation. Yes, there are some cutesy little plays-on-words in the menu that I might usually balk at, but these people are just so lovely, it really does suit the mood.
The space is separated in two, with a kitchen and bar towards the back and a quite random, yet homely assortment of dining furniture including grand tables fit for a feast of grand proportion. Decorations are minimal but kitsch and verging on retro, and they certainly add to the quaint feel of this gem of a place. Cartoons sketched on walls and menus are playful enough without being too cheesy.
On the topic of lovely, you’d be hard up to find better service than this. Our waitress is cute as a button, but has a firm hand on operations. She’s one of the Mice. The other is in the kitchen, whipping up our dinner.
Tonight we’ve asked to be fed from the chef’s choice menu. Four courses, designed to share. The first course is a simple basket of fried delights: crispy spring rolls, wonton and meaty ‘nem’ sticks, served with a sweet chilli sauce. Then starts a procession, each dish landing as we finish the one before.
An Asian ‘slaw is topped with apple, adding a sweetness to complement the crunch. Pieces of golden brown squid is salted and peppered but only ever so lightly. A clay pot with a side of rice arrives. Opening it reveals succulent pieces of pork belly and side ribs swimming in a meaty soy broth sprinkled with torn herbs.
A boiled egg bobs along strangely beside the pork, but broken apart and mixed together this makes sense – the hard yolk glazes each mouthful with a delicious creamy texture that thickens the broth. The Mice have fun with noodles, or ‘scnoodles’ as they are listed on the menu. Then there is also the boon.
Potato glass noodles with thinly sliced beef piled high between a simple combination of freshly sliced carrots, lettuce and herbs, along with sprouts and a scattering of crushed peanuts. The nuoc cham sauce is poured over the top, this one is fragrant more than fishy and an absolute delight. It’s the simple things in life that are often the best and this rings true with the finest of Vietnamese cuisine.
Relying on fresh ingredients and minimal intervention is a recipe that works so well, and the mice have it spot on. We don’t get to try the bogo burger but see a few delivered to diners nearby and make a mental note for next time. And there will certainly be a next time.
And a time after that, no doubt. As the two Mice like to say, food is best dressed with good company. But only a few friends at a time okay?
Make sure you save a seat for me and mine.
50 Unley Road 7226 8501
Photos: Jonathan van der Knaap