Shop 15a, The Phoenician Building
24 Queensland Ave
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5527 6287
It’s fair to say that Gold Coast isn’t a mecca for fine Vietnamese food. Hell, I am quietly confident that if you were to tell someone from Nerang that you were Vietnamese, they’d give you a quizzical look before asking you if Vietnamese was ‘some sort of Chinese.’ Therefore, you can imagine the anguish my Vietnamese boyfriend and his family faced when they made the move to the ‘Coast several years ago, saying goodbye to pho, bun bo hue, banh mi and all the wonderful things that Melburnians who live around the corner from Footscray, Springvale and Richmond take for granted. While Marty’s parents do make their own Vietnamese food at home, it’s not the same as going to a Vietnamese restaurant and ordering a bowl of pho. Still, there are restaurants such as New O-Me-Ly in Broadbeach that are established to cater to homesick Vietnamese folk, while also introducing the previously foreign concept of Vietnamese cuisine to Gold Coast locals.
With a name that probably is Vietnamese but doesn’t sound like it, New O-Me-Ly is situated in the bustling epicentre of Broadbeach, Gold Coast’s Prahran to Surfer’s St Kilda. It’s a place that Marty’s family used to call home in their early years of residing in Queensland which is why Marty has a soft spot for it, not because the food is fantastic. Despite his opinion that the food isn’t authentic or anywhere near as good as Vietnamese in Footscray, Marty was, for some reason, keen on taking me to New O-Me-Ly (“Why would you want to take me to a mediocre Viet place when I can easily hop on a train to Footscray and tuck into a bowl of GOOD pho?” “BECAUSE!”) so last Saturday evening, I gave in.
A far cry from the laminex tables and sterile furnishings that often garnish a Footscray pho eatery, timber walls and dim lighting greeted us just after six. It was a lovely evening so all the diners (mainly Caucasian locals) were sitting outside, enjoying the weather. We decided to sit inside and once we were seated, we were shown the menu which was completely written in English (what, no Vietnamese?), something that amused me. What also amused (okay, more like annoyed me – and I don’t know why) was that the restaurant’s logo was written in that stupid oriental font that they use for Chinese restaurants in regional towns as well as posters for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song. But anyway.
We started off with a serving of prawn rice paper rolls, or ‘summer rolls’ as they call them here (they come in fours for $5.90, but we requested six so we paid $8.85). Marty once brought a Vietnamese friend from Melbourne here who declared that the skins on these rolls were too thick, thus rendering them inauthentic and bad. Marty and I, however, actually preferred the thicker skins which encased a generous smearing of cooked prawns married with a strip of pork, vermicelli and mint. They weren’t the best I’ve ever had, but they were better than most I’ve had as of late.
My Vietnamese beef salad ($16.90). Again, this isn’t ‘authentic’ – who the hell serves beef salad with prawn crackers and what’s with the sweet as Vitamin Water dressing?! It was a shame the dressing was so sweet for it could have been an amazing salad. Thinly-sliced beef strips were mixed in with paper-thin slices of red onion, fresh vegetables and accentuated by red chillies and roasted peanuts. If they had added a bit more fish sauce or even more citrus juice or vinegar in the dressing, it would have been perfect. As for the prawn crackers, I guess I spoke too soon. I might have initially scoffed when I saw them, but they did go a long way in diffusing some of the sweetness.
Marty ordered the decidedly un-Vietnamese crispy chicken with vegetables and sweet chilli sauce ($14.90). On that note, I was surprised to see a lot of non-Vietnamese dishes on the menu – chicken ragout and garlic prawns, for example. Sure, you get non-Vietnamese dishes in a lot of Vietnamese restaurants around Melbourne but such restaurants often advertise themselves as offering both ‘Chinese and Vietnamese’ cuisine whereas New O-Me-Ly is purely (and supposedly) Vietnamese.
Anyway, the crispy chicken may be just as Vietnamese as my boyfriend who grew up in Melton, talks with a broad Queensland accent and has an anglicised surname but it didn’t meant that it was terrible. The boneless chicken pieces were deep-fried to a perfect crisp, stir-fried and mixed in with vegies before being doused by a sticky, sweet chilli sauce. Not a dish that I would order myself (it’s sweet and I don’t like ordering sweet mains) but it wasn’t bad at all.
Despite the fact that you’ll be hard-pressed to find this sort of food in Saigon or Hanoi, it doesn’t mean that New O-Me-Ly should be overlooked. Okay, so I can think of twenty billion better Vietnamese places in Melbourne but when you’re living on the Gold Coast and there ain’t any decent Vietnamese places within miles of where you’re staying, you should just suck it up, eat it and enjoy O Me Ly for what it is, bastardised Vietnamese food catered to Gold Coast ignoramuses.