lil nomnoms’ opening launch party, Rubix @ Tetris Studios, 36 Phoenix St, Brunswick
There’s some good and even very fine tucker to be had from Melbourne’s food trucks.
There’s some medicore and crap food to be had, too.
But food is just part of what is going on here.
As we found during last summer, grabbing some choice goodies from one of these mobile vendors and then adjourning to the parks adjacent to which they’ve parked is a sublime delight.
Yet even in mid-winter the many food trucks are hard at it.
The mostly youngish entrepreneurs behind all this activity know it’s about more than food, too.
It’s about creating a buzz, a vibe, a sense of occasion; it’s about branding and hipster-style marketing.
And it’s about creating a sense of anticipation.
It’s routine these days for a new food truck enterprise to start spreading the word weeks and even months before actually hitting the road.
I’ll happily admit to be as engaged with this process as anyone, even if I do wonder at times if yet another shiny new food van/truck blinds me to the fact that better and cheaper fare can often be had at real bricks-and-mortar eateries.
I didn’t, however, find out about Lil’ NomNoms through Facebook.
Rather, I received an email inviting me to their Saturday arvo launch party at a suitably grungy inner-urban venue down a Brunswick dead-end.
The 100 or so guests who front up on a chilly and wet day seems to be a mix of friends of the business, punters only too happy to get in on the ground floor and enjoy a seven-course feed for $15, and a handful of bloggers invited on a complementary basis, of which Consider The Sauce is one.
Roping in Nat Stockley for “plus one” duty is a no-brainer – he loves this stuff just as much as he digs hamburgers!
Given the venue, I am half expecting the meal to be a sit-down affair.
But no, the food is dispensed from the nicely-liveried Mercedes van and distributed to guests canape-style.
It seems clear after a while that the Lil’ NomNoms’ crew has under-estimated the challenge posed by feeding this many people … at the same time.
They’re working very hard, but the various courses are slow in eventuating.
As well, due to a technical hitch, there will be no pho today.
No matter – it’s a happy occasion, and in the end I try four of the seven courses promised.
So how is the food?
Well, even taking in to consideration this a showcase event and trial run, and that portions sizes, pricing and quality may vary when the van goes public … this is very good food.
In fact, it’s as good as any food truck fare I’ve yet enjoyed in Melbourne – and far, far better than most.
The key is the terrific freshness of the produce used.
Item: Goi cuong cha gio (rice paper roll with vegetarian spring roll, lettuce, Vietnamese mint, coriander and perilla). Fresh as can be and with spring roll crunch and texture that is as much about sound and sensation as flavour. Wonderfully tightly bound so they stay intact right up to the last mouthful.
Item: Banh hoi thit nuon (roast pork belly on a bed of cos lettuce, rice noodles, cucumber, coriander and mint). Oh, wow – a vividly fresh and brilliantly textured flavour bomb. Cursing that I only get one of these!
Item: Goi ga nuong (Vietnamese BBQ chicken salad). Lovely, tender and flavoursome chook over rustically chunky and beautifully dressed vegetables. Again, the freshness is noteworthy.
Item: Banh mi ga nuong (banh mi slider filled with grilled lemongrass chicken, cucumber, spring onions, pickled carrot/daikon, coriander, truck-made mayo and chicken liver pate). These are good without reaching the heights of the previous three courses we’ve been offered. The filling seems very similar with the ingredients of the chicken salad. Here’s one case where comparisons with any of your local banh mi joints are unavoidable.
Early on in the piece, Nat and I choose between rubbing shoulders with the gathered masses in the slightly warmer interior or hanging out at the venue entrance, getting cold but having first dibs on the food as it exits the van.
We choose the latter, and meet some fine folks in the process.
They include Henry and Mai, from Roxborough Park, paying guests and foodies to their cores.
These are my kind of food hounds. Why buy a kebab from a kebab shop when insisting on a sit-down plate of meats, salads, dips and more is so much more satisfying? Why get takeaway F&C when eating in helps ensure a repast of far greater excellence?
And we meet a couple of high-spirited types in the form of Stacy, who I take it is part of the extended Lil’ NomNoms family, and Lil, Point Cook resident and soon-to-be food blogger.
The Lil’ NomNoms’ truck is scheduled to be hitting the streets in a couple of weeks, with engagements at Brunswick Bowls Club among the plans and Maribyrnong one of three municipalities on the radar.
Check out their Facebook page here.
And check out Nat’s handy guide to Melbourne’s food trucks at Urbanspoon here.
Our meal was provided free of charge by the owners. The Lil’ NomNoms crew neither sought nor was given any editorial control of this post.