12 June 2009

I Did It My Hue..

My previous experience of Vietnamese food was limited to Pho, the well received chain dotted around Central London. Judging by last night's experience, however, I've got to say Pho is really rather dull. Is it just me? Did I miss the point? Or is that the authentic experience and Khoai Cafe the place doing the crowd-pleasing anglicised thing?

Working from home, my day is kickstarted by running Mrs L to the station. It means she can travel from a station further up on the Northern Line and improve
her odds of getting a seat, and the 10-15 minute round trip makes me feel like I've driven to work. I sometimes even stop to buy a coffee and recreate the whole commuting experience...

Anyway, a while back I noticed that we had a Vietnamese restaurant lurking just up from the Arts Depot in Finchley, Khoai Cafe. "Might be worth a try," I thought, and filed it away for future reference. Our first attempt to visit was a Monday... where we quickly discovered that they don't open on Mondays. Never mind, we found a decent local pizza and enjoyed the stroll. Last night though, after 48 hours of RMT enforced domesticity, we needed to stretch the legs so headed back down there. An hour later, sinuses cleared by some bird's eye chillis and shirt inevitably splattered with soup, we wandered back, content and energised by some seriously good food.

Next time, we probably won't bother with the Cha Gib (spring rolls), although they were delicious. It's just the Pho and the Bun Hue were so good, we really didn't need the extra course. We both opted for the special topping: instead of a choice of beef, chicken, tofu or prawns, you get the lot, plus an amazing grilled fishcake. It's a feast in a bowl. The spillage improved when I started decanting the noodles to a smaller bowl and scooping them, Japanese style, straight to the mouth rather than the lengthy, shirt-destroying slurp. Mind you, that's also when I was caught out by my over-eager sprinkling of the bird's eyes. But hey, it improved the snoring apparently, so it was worth the small amount of eye-watering I went through. The Vietnamese beer - particularly the slightly sweet Saigon - helped ease the burn too.

Best of all though? The Goi Xoai Xanh (green mango salad). Sweet, sour, soft, crispy... So many contrasts that pressed so many buttons. It's dangerous to know that it's just up the road. I suspect I may be taking lunch hours slightly more regularly when the cashflow improves...

1 comment:

Lizzie said...

I went to Khoai Cafe in Crotch End and was rather unimpressed by it, I thought it was a bit dumbed down. The Finchley one sounds much better!