56 Alfrieda St, St Albans. Phone: 9364 3872
Is there a dud eatery on Alfrieda St?
Even the charcoal chicken shop looks worth a go.
Truth is it’s still an adventure for us – and lots of fun.
But we really have little or no idea what we’re about when we’re there – it’s hit and miss for us, and that’s a kick all on its own.
For this holiday Monday lunch, once again we take our time, enjoying the sunshine as we stroll the full length of both sides of the street, just taking it all in.
We got lucky last time with the Chinese roast meats at Just Good Food – and we’re hoping our luck continues.
We veer away from the several restaurants that are jam-packed, with every table taken.
Likewise, we shun the single place we spot that has just a single table of customers.
We choose Kim Quynh based on the simple if unscientific premise that it’s busy and crowded with enough locals to guarantee a good feed while also having a few spare tables – which we hope means we’ll be welcome and not receive the sort of sloppy service and food that sometimes emanates from restaurants operating at fever pitch, with staff rushed off their feets.
We do good and a fine lunch ensues.
Kim Quynh is a mixed Viet/Sino joint that is across all the usual soups, noodles and rice dishes, with a menu that as usual has more formal sharing dishes of the Chinese variety towards the rear of the menu. Unlike most such places, it does pho, too.
After some reckless ordering the previous week at Dong Ba in Footscray, resulting in a meal unsatisfactory for us, we keep it simple and conservative by both ordering dishes we’ve had many times elsewhere.
Bennie goes for the tomato rice with stir-fried marinated diced beef (com bo luc lac, $10).
It’s damn fine.
The beef is lovely – so tender! The onions do that clever trick of being both crisp and sweet. This dish can sometimes be really heavy on the oil, but this is not such a one. The rice, laced with eggy bits and a few peas, has a nice nutty flavour.
The accompanying bowl of chicken broth is only lukewarm but good, while Bennie loves judiciously using the seasoned salt and lemon slice as his meal disappears.
Stupidly, though, when I photograph his meal I include the fish sauce/chilli/carrot concoction that is actually meant to go with my banh hoi bo la lot (grilled beef in vine leaves with fine rice vermicelli, $12).
My lunch looks a little on the dull side at first blush, but it, too, is fully satisfying.
It’s all there – crunchy peanuts, lettuce, herbs, spring onions, cucumber, carrot, bean sprouts.
The stubby bullets of beef wrapped in vine leaves are a little smaller than I am familiar with, but they are of delightful chewiness and pronounced cow flavour.
Substitute non-meat spring rolls for the beef and I reckon you’d have a perfect – and supremely healthy – vegetarian meal.
As there are options for these dishes closer to our Yarraville pad, it may be that visits to Kim Quynh will be rare for us.
But if we lived in its vicinity, we’d be steady regulars.