Halal Status: Halal
Vietnamese is one of my most favourite Asian cuisines. What I love about it is its rusticity – how it originated from the streets yet have so much more to it than a simple street food. There is a lot of sophistication that people underestimate about it.
Craving for that warming and comforting feeling for my belly, I was looking up for a halal Vietnamese restaurant around London – around Brick Lane actually since we had plans over there that day.
And so I came cross this place call Hoi-An. It is located at Hanbury Street, which is right off Brick Lane. It isn’t a particularly big restaurant and the setting is quite simple lined with wooden tables. It was quite eerily quiet that day we went for lunch. Fair enough it was a week day but still.
There are lunch set menus available where you get two courses at a good price.
To start with, we ordered the Cha Nem Chay (Vietnamese spring rolls) and Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Summer Rolls).
The Cha Nem Chay is basically mixed vegetables in a thin crisp wrapper and served with sweet chilli sauce. I must say they looked rather small in size. It is very crispy on the outside with a nice golden colour but I find it a bit oily to my taste. The vegetables are supposed to balance the grease out but since it’s rather small, the greasiness took over instead.
As for the Goi Cuon Summer Rolls, they are basically rice paper rolls consisting rice noodles, fresh mint, lettuce, cucumber, mango, carrots plus your choice of filling. You can choose from tofu, king prawn or duck – and we chose the king prawn.
I was never much of a fan of summer rolls despite its popularity to a lot of people. It is quite a refreshing and appetizing dish to start the meal. I’ve always see it as a salad roll (and I am not a fan of salad so you kind of understand why I don’t like it much). Due to biased impression, I don’t feel I’m the best judge for this dish and all I can say about it is it’s very herby.
Anyway, let’s go to the exciting parts, i.e. the main dishes.
An absolute must-order at a Vietnamese restaurant is their pho. Other than being one of my most favourite Asian food, I feel that a bowl of pho can tell a lot about the restaurant itself. I feel that pho is the best representation of sophistication in rustic street food.
I ordered the Pho Tai Lan which is pho topped with Hannon Stir Fried Beef with garlic.
The essence of pho is all down to the broth. A good authentic pho broth takes hours or even days to make in order to extract the best flavours from the meat bone and all sort of spices and seasonings.
As I took a sip of the bowl of pho in front of me, I could be wrong but I feel it’s more artificial flavour than real meat broth. It’s not particularly herby or spiced up either so it was a bit of a let down.
The amount of beef topping wasn’t particularly generous either so it was quite a mediocre bowl of beef pho noodles in my opinion. I did taste a subtle hint of the garlicky flavour from the beef but other than that it wasn’t anything memorable or impressive.
As for the other main dish that we ordered, it was the Bun Ga Nuong, i.e. Grilled Chicken rice vermicelli noodles.
This is also a favourite type of noodle dish of mine and is perfect for summer because it doesn’t come in a bowl of hot soup but served separately with a sauce to mix together.
Warm and soft rice vermicelli noodles with fresh bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, cucumber, topped with nicely grilled chicken and sprinkled with crushed peanuts – it is a perfect light but filling summer dish. It is not like a stir-fry or chow mein or whatsoever. Think of it as a tossed bowl of noodles with a special fish sauce.
The chicken was juicy and tender. While the other items on the menu that we tried turn out relatively disappointing, this gained our approval. The noodles were springy and the accompanied fish sauce adds a refreshing hint of flavour to the whole dish. Not like a ‘wow this is impressive’ kind of reaction but compared to the other dishes we’ve had, this is pretty good.
To sum up about this place, no it doesn’t really provide you an authentic taste of Vietnam at all. I personally find the meal rather disappointing and definitely overpriced for such quality of food. I rarely give a bad review to restaurants but this one may have to be the first. I feel that central London needs more halal Vietnamese establishments because it is an amazing cuisine that hasn’t been done enough justice. If there are any great places that you know of, please let me know!
My rating: 2.5/5
Address: 48 Hanbury Street, Brick Lane, London E1 5JL