Viet Hot Pot and BBQ, 6/68 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 8578 1763
This interesting new addition to the Footscray scene is at the parking lot right at the end of Hopkins Street, facing Franco Cozzo and Centrelink.
It’s an unlovely location; a couple of previous businesses here made little impression, with vast interior of the room seeming rather gloomy.
The new owners/proprietors are trying very hard to make it otherwise, with a substantial makeover finding the space much brighter and livelier.
As for food, well they’re keeping their bases covered there, too.
Yes, as the name implies, there’s hot pot and Viet-style BBQ.
But for lunch there’s a $15 line-up of pho and hi tieu soup noodles
And there’s even a short list of Viet-meets-West steak, chips and salad, mostly also priced at $15.
We leave the BBQ option – which appears to operate in the same fashion as the excellent Phi Phi 2 in St Albans – for another time, presumably a night visit when we’re prepared to spend a bit more freely than for a quickie mid-week lunch.
We – CTS Thing 1 and Thing 2 and our good pal Justin – go instead for the lunch deal on the hot pot buffet.
This costs $32 per head for dinner, $35 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights – and $25 for lunch.
We figure, or hope, this will be a tasty bargain.
So it proves to be – though we have a few quibbles.
The way this works here is a new one for me.
They use a conveyor belt – familiar from the sushi trains around Melbourne – to deliver the hot pot items.
Each diner has their own adjustable hot plate, on which is placed their soup of choice.
I go for the spicy. It has the same deep and mysterious seasoning I am familiar with from other hot pot joints, but is only mildly spicy.
Justin and Bennie go for the laksa and enjoy it.
We are also provided our own individual bowls of seafood – a couple of good-sized prawns, a won ton, a scallop and a big chunk of blue swimmer crab. The crab and prawns are pre-cooked, but still good.
From there, it’s on to the very many conveyor belt goodies.
There’s green veg of various kinds, as well the likes of corn.
Straight-ahead meat is down to sliced beef and pork.
There’s fungus of several varieties.
There’s surimi of various shapes and sizes.
There’s more seafood – I find the mussels, which look like they may be chewy monsters, are actually nicely tender; and the small pipis are good, too.
There are many things that appear to be starchy and carby.
And there is offal.
Because when it comes to many of the offerings – notably those of what we presume are of the starchy, carby and gutsy variety – we are very much left wondering.
We ask for help, but not even the staff member who appears to be the floor manager offers much by way of enlightenment.
This is a bit disheartening.
Justin is his usual affable self; Bennie is still practising his serial killer stare. Kudos, though, for his laksa-proof attire.
But we do eat well and very affordably.
Though the overall impression is of quality that’s not quite up there like a more ritzy, and pricey, hot pot night out on the town.
But that’s what you get for $25.
And I have more than enough confidence in the adaptability of Vietnamese cooking to be looking forward to trying one of this place’s steak ‘n’ chips meals.