Starter - Mixed Platter @ Viet Grill
Last night, I went to the mecca of Vietnamese restaurants, Kingsland Road. Despite having lived in London for nigh on two years now (and additionally, where on earth has the time gone?) I rarely venture east of Bank/St Paul’s unless I have good reason. However, with work colleagues around and an American amongst us, we decided to bravely go where many have trod before us and head off for a Viet feast.
Our location du jour was Viet Grill, one of the swankier restaurants on the road. Owner of both Viet Grill & Cay Tre, another Viet finest, this restaurant aims to offer both Viet street food as well as fine dining. I was a little doubtful as to whether it would be able to pull off both ends of the spectrum but after reading reviews from other blogs (GourmetChick being one of them), I decided to book five of us in. First impressions aren’t great but then they rarely are, a big neon sign proclaimed the name of the restaurant and inside it was packed with dark wooden tables, fish tanks and quirky palm tree wallpaper. All quite kitsch but surprisingly homey which made me happy. We were quickly ushered to a table to peruse the menu which offered everything from pho to shaking beef (no points for guessing which I had).
Summer rolls @ Viet Grill
This restaurant had a decent wine list and after picking a reasonably-priced Malbec (£26.50) we decided to have a few options as we had some people at the table who had never eaten that kind of cuisine. We took our cue from the set menu and had the mixed platter plus 2 portions of summer rolls (£4). The mixed platter had imperial spring rolls, a lotus salad, chillied salt & peppered squid and leafy la lot dumplings (£7.50pp). There was more than enough food for a starter and it was all delicious - The winner amongst our table was definitely the dumplings, they were amazingly savoury and the leaves didn’t detract one little bit from the flavour. A personal favourite was the squid - No boring calamari rings here, the squid was in large chunks and the batter was more-ish to say the least. I enjoyed the lotus salad although it was a little fiddly with chopsticks and the pork was a bit dry & now I’ve re-looked at the menu, there were no prawn crackers with it. Quel horreur!
Shaking luc lac beef - Sadly not shaking!
For main course, we pretty much did our own thing. I ordered the ‘cognac luc lac shaking beef’ (£10), another girl ordered the ‘sitting duck curry’ (£8.50), two of our party ordered ‘crispy seabass fillet’ (£9.50) and the sole male lucky enough to eat with us had ‘flamed wok chicken’ (£8). My steak came and was indeed cubed and cooked with whole garlic - The sauce was a bit of a non-entity but the steak itself was delicious. Not massively authentic, I thought though. My favourite dish was the sitting duck curry which was sauce-tastic after being simmered in lemongrass and coconut milk. It tasted oddly like a chartinard but the duck had been cooked perfectly and there were huge amounts of it. I got assured the sea bass was crispy and light, exactly as it should be, and the flamed wok chicken was quite a violent colour but was very tasty.
A rather bad photo of the sitting duck curry - Very tasty!
Pudding was in the form of a mixture of coconut ice-cream, banana fritters and a pudding known as ‘diurnan(?) and tapioca cake’. I had a jasmine tea and watched with some amusement as my fellow diners wolfed down everything but the cake which was the colour and consistency of Flobber (remember that film?). I’m sure it is probably some kind of delicacy but when I tasted it, it had nothing to recommend it in the way of taste.
If I was being picky I’d say the dessert menu wasn’t hugely strong and that the beef needed a better sauce, something with more of a kick, but that’s me being particularly precious. The service was average but I never expect much in a busy place like that where they’re turning tables so quickly all evening. Overall a very tasty meal and I’d love to go again at lunch to try some of their supposedly fabulous pho. It was around £38/head including wine for 3 courses.
Address: Viet Grill, 58 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, E2 8DP
Telephone: 020 7739 6686