197 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 5781
Does the Vietnamese food found in Melbourne’s restaurants lessen in yumminess the further it gets away from Footscray, Sunshine, St Albans, Victoria St and Springvale Rd?
Sadly, based on our mid-week jaunt to Tai Hoong, it is tempting to draw just such a conclusion.
This is doubly disappointing.
For one, we’ve had some cracking meals here in the past.
For two, one of the dishes we’ve enjoyed most is one we order to share on this occasion.
The bo luc lac ($13) seems a pallid version of the lively dish we’ve enjoyed previously, even if those visits were a while back.
The runny fried egg is good, as is the rice.
The beef is tender but a tad gloopy with some sort of soy sauce, one that seems to have a vinegary flavour to it. Mind you, for all we know this could be a proper and authentic variation, and it is quite tasty. The onions are a little under-done.
There’s a complete absence of garnishes, cucumber, tomato or any sort of greenery. Perhaps we only realise how integral such items are to a dish such as this when they’re missing.
We’re mighty hungry, so wolf the lot – but this falls into the category of just OK.
The chicken curry with rice – also $13 – is considerably better.
The bowl holds a surprisingly large amount of tender, boneless chicken pieces and – so pleasingly – an even greater number of luscious potato cubes.
Still, despite the inclusion of a handful of curry leaves, the flavour and taste factors are so middle of the road as to define blandness, putting this also into just OK territory.
Tai Hoong remains a pleasant suburban eating house, and while the prices we pay are $3-4 higher than those in Footscray for the same fare, we hope the ordinariness of our meal is an aberration.
After our meal, and still feeling a mite hungry, we head along Nelson Place with the idea of indulging in a sweet crepe and coffee hit.
We are shocked to discovery the crepery has been replaced by a Croatian restaurant.
The menu is of mouth-watering nature and includes all sorts of seafood, wild boar and apple strudel. It’s pricey, but we make a mental note for future reference.
We make do with a cone apiece – choc caramel for him, chocolate gelati for me – from the Ice Cream Shoppe next to Tai Hoong.
As we window shop the other end of Nelson Parade, Bennie comments about the number of joints hereabouts that have signs advertising “$17 specials” for the likes of parmas, steaks and the like.
Hmmm, moving right along … and homewards bound.