Adam and I were craving for Vietnamese yesterday afternoon so we trekked to Victoria St Richmond for lunch. We settled on Minh Minh, a supposedly popular restaurant on the city-end of Victoria St which serves Lao and Thai cuisine in conjunction with Vietnamese. I had originally wanted a steaming bowl of pho but after skimming down the menu, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and try some Lao dishes, despite Adam saying that they weren’t all that exciting from his experiences of eating the food when he was backpacking in Laos a few summers back.
We started off with a plate of mini prawn spring rolls (8 pieces for $6.50). I know a lot of Asians like to laugh at gweilos who spend $6-8 on a plate of spring rolls that one can produce at home for $2 but hey, I do like eating spring rolls at Vietnamese restaurants and particularly enjoy the whole ritual of wrapping them up in lettuce leaves and dipping them into nuoc mam. Anyway, the spring rolls we had weren’t any different from any random Vietnamese restaurant on Hopkins St, Footscray and I thought that they were being a bit too tightarsey on the lettuce and mint leaves but still, 8 for $6.50 was the cheapest I’ve seen for a very long time.
I ordered a lab nua (more commonly known as larb) $12.50, a Lao-style grilled beef salad which consisted of bean sprouts, onions, shallots and mint leaves. The dressing was a very tasty mixture of lime juice, galangal, mint, shallots, fish sauce and chilli. It was a very pleasant dish, very light but so full of flavour and zest. Mmmm. I can definitely see myself ordering it again when I’m here next (yeah, good enough to warrant a return visit I reckon). From the basis of this one salad, I reckon that Lao cooking isn’t dissimilar to Thai cooking but Thai cooking is more richer and spicier. Apparently, Lao cooking rarely uses oils and other fats such as coconut cream/milk so it’s a healthy option for dieters wanting their Asian fix. Not that I’m on a diet, of course. Who me?! Never!
Adam ordered the Thai red duck curry ($15, I think plus $2 for rice) which I wasn’t initially happy about. Our plans were to share the mains and I didn’t really feel like a duck curry, especially since we both had rich creamy dishes the night before at Laksa Me. Adam, however, was really keen on the duck so I gave up trying to convince him otherwise. Anyway, the duck curry was actually quite nice. There were a generous handful of sliced duck meat (not too fatty either) in a rich broth of coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves, accented by red chillies with gave it a kick without being too overbearing. Although I liked this dish just fine, I think that this dish was not the best dish that the chef could make and I know that there are other places in Melbourne that could make a better red duck curry.
It was dead quiet when we were there (11:30 on a Sunday, I guess people were still recovering from last night’s trashy pub crawl or whatever) but apparently it gets busy in the evenings. Overall, I thought that it was pretty good value – the bill came to just over $40 but the lady was nice enough just to charge us $40 (she must’ve saw me taking photos of the food and writing notes, and thought that I was one of John Lethlean’s minions or something!). I would definitely come here again to eat the lab nua and possibly try some of their Vietnamese dishes.
(Outside Minh Minh just after lunch): Seeing Adam go ballastic over an SMS THANH 19 10 10 poster in a nearby shop window before ripping it off the window and chucking it into a bin: PRICELESS. And so unlike Adam too. Heh. (Can you guess who he can’t stand on this year’s Idol? )