A reasonably priced Vietnamese restaurant with great deals has recently appeared on the Fulham Road within the last year. I finally got round to coming here in the hope of finding somewhere very close to my home, which would maybe turn out to be an undiscovered gem. Undiscovered gems is always what us foodies want to find (because we’re cheap) before the Michelin guide recommends it and prices shoot up. Sadly, that isn't the case here.
Prior to my visit the lovely TripAdvisor, (though probably the worst thing to look at) told me the restaurant was awful when it opened, but since then it is has become ‘absolutely divine’. It was packed when we arrived and i heard the table opposite complementing the staff on its great, fresh food. We had a cocktail to start - mine was awful, maybe even revolting - the rim was covered in thick sea salt as if i was about to down a shot of Tequila. Not even the flavours worked, or were balanced. I left the cocktail and ordered a glass of wine, it was also just as bad (and i’m very easily pleased), it was house wine, yes - but quality should not be forgotten, especially with what you can pick up from the supermarkets these days for less than £10.
I ordered the soft shell crab - the waiter tried to steer me away and offer me one of the specials, i politely declined. Now i fully understand why he was trying to steer me away. A muddled up, maybe even mutant like piece of crab which seems to have lost a few legs and half of its body arrived. It was coated in a crumb which was reminiscent to a frozen chicken burger and although it was rather meaty inside it still felt a little like it came straight from the freezer - i could be wrong but that’s what it tasted like. Accompanying it was some rather boring salad leaves.
The nam bo pancake starter was a depressing attempt to fill my belly. A tasteless crispy pancake revealed a mixture of small prawns (not at all tiger prawns like the menu suggests), sliced chewy pork and a beansprout with spring onion medley. All of it was tasteless and unexciting. Some rice paper sheets were served along side, they were straight out of the packet and you had to submerse in water yourself to make them useable - a bit fiddly, especially when you consider the process they make you go through to eat the things and they end up tasting not too dissimilar to a plastic bag.
The main of kho-tau pork belly was much welcomed after a bad experience with the starters. The belly sat in a broth of what tasted like five spice, lots of caramelised coconut juice and and a good dosing of black pepper. The belly was boiled as the flesh had became nice and gooey while the meat had all the flavour you’d expect. It was a good solid dish but when the accompanying rice came out it again let it down. The rice was slightly cold, a little overcooked and started to congeal together five minutes after resting at the table - a real shame considering that pork belly was very enjoyable and the five spice providing a nice sweet flavour sensation against the pepper.
Sizzling seafood main was served on a hot iron plate mixed with ginger and garlic. The seafood comprised of squid, prawns and scallops with some wok fried vegetables. They managed to overcook the squid till it became more reminiscent of an elastic band, the prawns were large but a little on the tough side, they at least tasted fresh. The kitchen had managed to cook the scallops beautifully so it was a real shame they didn't have much flavour. Event the garlic and ginger was struggling to show me much pizazz and enthusiasm - i think even they were bored.
We were handed the dessert menu but couldn't bare to waste any more of our money on the menu, what with its attractive prices it could have been a bargain - but instead your robbed blindly. Its a busy restaurant with a nice atmosphere and even nicer staff, its just a shame there is nothing else this Vietnamese discovery on the Fulham Road has to offer.