Hu Tieu Go Ong Map, 2/203 Ballarat Road (actually on Gordon Street), Footscray. Phone: 9077 7099
How lovely it is to see the oft-times gloomy and unlovely group of shops on Gordon Street, as it meets Ballarat Road, finally hosting some food businesses that are surviving instead of lasting just a few months or weeks.
The latest addition – Hu Tieu Ong Map – is doing more than surviving.
It is positively thriving.
Our long-time buddy and fellow eats nut, Juz, spotted it and tells us every time he passes, it is brimming with happy customers.
When we finally get there ourselves – for two Saturday lunches – we find it equally packed with happiness.
The food quality is high and the service cheerful.
But what sets Hu Tieu Og Map apart is its menu (see below).
Here you’ll find many dishes that are otherwise unseen – as far as we know – in Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans.
They include quite a few featuring the likes of snails and clams.
The noodles are house-made – as is, I suspect, just about everything else.
We are encouraged to try the house signature “knock” noodles ($12).
They can be had as soup or dry with the soup on the side.
Bennie goes all porky with his.
While mine is all about sliced pork and prawns.
In both cases, our soups boast a meaty bone and the dipping sauce has a depth of flavour and lustre rarely seen in Vietnamese restaurants. We attempt to discovers its ingredients, but that mission gets lost amid paying and laughter.
We very much enjoy our knock noodles – the overall vibe is a bit like a cross between more familiar hu tieu dishes and pho.
Deep-fried prawn gyoza ($8 for five) are crunchy taste bombs.
The prawny innards are immersed in a mix that we find is akin to the gingery/oily/garlicky mash usually served with Hainan chicken rice.
It’s only upon revisiting the menu that I realise my curry chicken noodles ($13) we most likely meant to be served with a side dish of sprouts and greenery.
No matter at all because I love all of this.
It’s very mild in the Vietnamese way and has carrot chunks in addition to the chicken. Like poultry bo kho!
This is the familiar grilled chicken vermicelli ($13.50).
Except in several ways it is not familiar at all – the Hu Tieu Ong Map version explodes with more flavour and texture and joy than just about any other rendition we have come across in the greater western suburbs.
It’s fantastic in every way.
And there’s a stack of roasted peanuts.
We love that.