First published in Bangalore Mirror

Even without demonetisation there are times in a month when one feels the lack of currency, and ATMs aren’t really of much help. On such occasions, the stretch of 80 feet Road in Indiranagar after you take a left at the bottom of the Domlur flyover can be a source of comfort (food) thanks to quite a few small eateries on your left that serve decent fare. The double use of ‘left’ in the previous sentence wasn’t a coincidence, it’s because the pricing here is very socialist! Vietnamese Kitchen is one such space, and despite its name, a lot of its food remains comfort Chinese at heart. (map) That’s not to say it doesn’t serve Vietnamese dishes, but it’d be wise to temper your expectations in terms of authenticity and setting. As I told my dinner guests, if you take ten steps from the door, you’d hit the kitchen! But there’s a charm about the tiny place, and they have used the space well – functional yet elegant seating, warm red lamp shades and a wall that’s completely covered with a collage of life in Vietnam.

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A hot soup seemed like a good place to start and we shared a Mixed Seafood Mushroom bowl. Thick, with mushrooms, fish and prawns, the smile of satisfaction on everyone’s faces meant that it did as much for the soul as it did for the stomach. In a contrarian move, we asked for the Summer Rolls (Goi Cuan). The Vietnamese rice paper rolls had vermicelli and vegetables filling, a tofu touch and was served with a peanut sauce. Crunchier vegetables would have helped.

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The Smoked Chili Oil pork was fantastic, and though it scored high on the spice scale thanks to the generous amount of chillies in many forms, the meat was cooked really well and got the texture absolutely right. Shaking Beef (Bo Luc Lac) had medium done meat that was by itself a little bland, but the surprise package was the greens that came with it – the sautéed vegetables had a nice tangy flavour that really upped the quality of the dish. Our renewed faith in greenery got us to order the Hoi An salad, though we played it safe by ordering the Chicken version. This time though, the chicken was the saviour, as the sweet and spicy dressing in celery/tomato/green papaya/shallot mix didn’t really deliver.

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We began the main course with what was foremost on our minds – Pho! A spicy beef version was available. I’d have liked the broth to be a tad stronger but it was flavourful and much better than the faux versions I have tried elsewhere in town.  We debated on whether to go with the Saigon or Viet Kitchen Fried Rice, and finally decided to go with the latter. Ironically, it was the house special fried rice that gave us a Saigon moment because even the combination of prawns, chicken egg and ‘secret spices’ couldn’t save the dish. The Tau Pan Cheong Chicken had seemed like a good sidekick but really didn’t do much either.

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And if the Kwey Teow (flat noodles) weren’t dominated by the soy sauce, it might have given us some respite. The Pork Stewed in Clay Pot finally evened things out a bit. We wished they had gone easy on the lemongrass, it could have actually been a great dish otherwise.

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Darshan (sic) with Ice Cream was the only dessert that was related to the restaurant’s cuisine but the spelling got us to agree that this wasn’t a challenge we wanted to accept. So we tried the drinks – the ground dark roast coffee and the condensed milk combination of the Vietnamese Coffee worked significantly better in the cold version than in the hot. The promise of coconut cream (with vanilla ice cream and milk) made me order the Cocobela thick shake, but it was a powder attack. Ugh!

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A meal for two would be possible for around Rs.1000. What they  might lack in authenticity, Vietnamese Kitchen easily makes up in earnestness. It may not have the finesse of its competitor on 12th Main, but is still a great place for a no-frills meal. There’s something about it that conveys comfort, and for that, and the reasonably good food, you might want to give it a shot. May the Phos be with you!

 

Vietnamese Kitchen, 225, Bhagyasri, 1st Main , 2nd Stage, Domlur Service Road, Indiranagar, Ph: 080 41566008/9