Hoa Sen, 8 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9078 5448
Well, that was certainly quick …
Consider The Sauce has become used to new eateries taking an eternity to reach fruition – stop-and-start fit-outs, the legal need for more loos, booze licence problems, proprietors doing it all themselves; there are any number of reasons.
Hoa Sen has gone about things very differently.
One day Yarraville had a Nando’s shop, the next day it didn’t; then – just a few weeks later – this second Vietnamese restaurant for our suburb had opened.
Hoa Sen is a whole different thing from Friend or Pho, its Viet cousin around the corner in Ballarat Street.
Where the latter is all about groovy cafe-style, Hoa Sen is straight-up Vietnamese eatery – sit inside and you could be sitting in Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans.
But they both have excellent food.
Hoa Sen’s front area is all about seating, including some larger tables and street-gazing seats at the window.
Past the serving/staff area, the kitchen takes up much of what is left of the premise’s space, so the rest of the customer seating is effectively in a long corridor with many tables for four.
We’re told the menu (see below) will gradually expand but in the meantime there four starter and four main dishes available.
And that’s fine by us – taking a new Vietnamese place for a spin is always going to be about trying the fundamentals, both by choice and because it’s the food blogger thing to do.
Bennie loves his com ga rang mui ($13.80, rice with salt and pepper chicken spare ribs).
The chooks bits are big, fat and delicious, with a whiff of garlic – they seem more like whole wings rather than the abbreviated version.
The trimmings are all good and the tomato rice better than that.
Ahh, that first, all-important slurp of pho ($12.80) broth – yes, this is very good, a little sweet and with bucketloads of lusty flavour.
Instead of brisket I get beef ball chunks; and the sliced beef is cooked through when it arrives rather the advertised rare and still cooking in the broth.
But I care not – this is excellent; a 9/10 pho.
Be warned, though: This serve is huge – no way I can eat it all.
This could pass muster as a sharing meal for two, especially if combined with one of the entrees.
Is there room for both these fine Vietnamese restaurants in Yarraville?
Yes, very much so.
It almost seems like the people behind both have intuitively chosen different yet complementary styles.
Yet the important things are common to both – terrific food and happy, smiling staff.
We’ve been quipping for years that we love living in Yarraville but dig eating everywhere else.
The arrival of these two Vietnamese joints changes that equation considerably.
They’re scratching a profound itch of which we’ve paradoxically been largely unaware.