Dinh Son Quan

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1/17 Nicholson St Footscray. Phone: 9689 3066

Knowing I’ll be flying solo on Christmas Day, with my partner cavorting with cousins in Queensland, I’ve loaded the fridge and shelves with all sorts of tasty stuff.

But by noon, a great urge to be out and about is upon me – despite being 150 pages into a 900-page tome by the remarkable Clive Barker and a bunch of freshly arrived packages containing cool sounds of the cajun, Tex-Mex, jug band and Yiddish pop flavours.

So out I head, although not with any great optimism about what I’ll find.

As I enter Footscray’s Vietnamese quarter, I realise how wrong I am.

There’s people everywhere, food everywhere.

With joy, I realise that not only am I going to be fed, but I also have a wide variety of choice – in fact, almost as many as on a regular weekend day.

So it is that I finally get around to tackling the bain marie goodies at Dinh Son Quan.

This is one of a handful of eateries that adjoin Little Saigon Market.

We’ve been in here heaps of times previously, but always for the non-pho soup noodles or a very excellent diced garlic beef with tomato rice. I’ve also had the banh xeo – a coconut/rice flour crêpe filled with prawns, pork and vegies – that went down well with Ms Baklover at Footscray Food Blog. I found it a bit dull and squishy.

No matter – I’m here today to sample the fascinating array of mostly braised dishes that fill the bain marie section.

There’s stuffed bitter melon, a couple of funky looking pork numbers and several fish dishes – that seems a grand way to go, with notorious fish-hater Bennie out of the state.

Doing Dinh Son Quan this way costs $8 for a choice of two dishes with steamed rice.

I pick a dusky cutlet of mackerel with a black pepper sauce and a simple stir fry of baby octopus, zucchini, celery, capsicum, tomato and coriander.

When my food is at table I am also presented with a bowl of clear chicken soup – always a good sign! In this case, though, the soup is too sweet for me.

The fish is nice enough, but fails to really excite and lacks much by way of pepper quotient. Likewise, the stirfry is lacking zing or, really, any kind of flavour punch at all.

I’ll try the Dinh Son Quan bain marie again – there’s plenty on which to experiment.

And I’m happy to accept my meal selections may be to blame for a disappointing lunch in this lovely place that always rolls out a warm welcome.

Besides, just being among the throng has put a skip in my step.

I even discover that Cavallaro’s, too, is open, so snag a single ricotta-jammed canoli for an afternoon coffee-time snack.

Dinh Son Quan on Urbanspoon

Huy Huy’s head-turning window display.

Cavallaro’s was open for Christmas, too, doing a roaring trade in canoli. I only bought one!

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