Thien An, 32 Irving Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 0398
Bennie’s dining desires are frequently over-ridden by more pressing imperatives in terms of Consider The Sauce.
He always takes this with good grace and a sense of adventure.
This Saturday, however, with his chores satisfactorily and even cheerfully done, I agree to humour his oft-stated plea: “I want tomato rice!”
Off we go, navigating the twists and turns that take us to the top of the Footscray market building.
We take in the amazing views and then head to Thien An.
In its previous carnation, across the road in much smaller premises in a row of now-demolished shopfronts, we once were regulars.
I ask Bennie if remembers those visits.
There’s two kinds of tomato rice, we discover – the regular and one on the “Chef Recommended” list (see below).
He goes for the latter ($11), which is a bit of twist on the usual, featuring beef ribs instead of cubed beef.
It’s a very good example of his heart’s desire.
The meat comes away from the bones easily and is a little bit more chewy than the typical melt-in-your-mouth beef served with tomato rice.
The rice is fine, there’s seasoned salt and those yummy, lightly pickled vegetables such as cabbage and carrot.
It’s a winner.
My own rice vermicelli with grilled pork northern style ($13) is good, too, though not as explosively so as a similar dish served at Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine.
This one has no dipping sauce accompanying and the mix of pork slices and meatballs are bathing in a sort of broth/soup.
Still, with the assistance of much greenery – including regular mint – it does go down a treat.
Thien An is, it appears, still a good, reliable in Footscray institution – and certainly has one of one of the lovelier dining rooms around here when it comes to Vietnamese eateries.