Is there a more perfect cuisine for summer than Vietnamese? Crunchy salads, sprigs of mint and splashes of sweet dressing, I know what I'm craving for whenever the mercury hits 30C.
We turn up at new Vietnamese restaurant Yen for Viet to find a modern airy restaurant, the wall painted a cheerful cherry red, and hung with minimalist line drawings of cyclists and motorcyclists in Vietnam.
The telltale signs of its former existence as a Korean restaurant can still be seen, with the original tables sporting grill plates once used for barbecuing meats.
We start with banh xeo ($12), a lacy rice flour and tumeric pancake that is cooked to a crisp and folded over a filling of pork, cooked prawns, mashed mung bean and crunchy bean sprouts. We douse the lot with nuoc cham, the national dressing made from fish sauce, lemon juice and chilli, and savour the contrast between the delicate pancake and the accompanying salad of Vietnamese herbs, pickled carrot and daikon.
The best part about banh xeo are the frilly edges which should be thin and crisp. The version here is commendable.
Coconut juice $3
Goi hai san $18
Our glasses of coconut juice come in handy when we hit the goi hai san seafood salad, a combination of squid curls, prawns, capsicum, cucumber and celery that is spicy enough with chilli to make you break out in a sweat.
Ca kho to $15
Ca kho to caramelised fish in clay pot is a bubbling molten lake of sweet and fishy caramel sauce holding thick fillets of cod. Our bowls of white rice soak up the sauce greedily.
Canh chua ca $18
Our final dish is a cavernous bowl of canh chua ca, a sweet and sour tamarind soup that is refreshing, even in the heat. The clear broth is flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass, chilli, sugar and fish sauce that is sweet, sour and salty all at once. It comes packed with fish fillets, mushrooms, wedges of tomato, sweet pineapple and angled slices of elephant ear stem, a crunchy vegetable that acts like a sponge, soaking up all the flavours of the soup.
Elsewhere on the menu we spot an abundance of wagyu beef, offering a optional upgrade on the usual $10 beef pho noodle soup to a more princely $16. Bo luc lac salt and pepper beef can be $12 or $18 depending on whether you choose the wagyu.
I'm more intrigued by the muc don thit chien don, squid stuffed with prawn, pork mince and black fungus ($12 for two).
It finally feels like summer. I'm ready to get my nuoc cham on.
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Yen for Viet
296 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
Tel: +61 (02) 9558 2819
Lunch Saturday and Sunday 11am-3pm
Dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5.30pm-10pm
Closed on Mondays
Licensed and BYO wine only (corkage $2.50 per person)
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1/02/2011 03:27:00 a.m.