245 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9650 3088
If I am craving Vietnamese food, I normally avoid the Vietnamese restaurants on Swanston Street. It’s not that they’re the most terrible places in Melbourne, it’s just that you can find much better Vietnamese restaurants if you’re willing to drive an extra 10 minutes that way to Footscray (points west) or an extra 10 minutes that way to Richmond (points east). As luck would have it, I don’t have a car nor could I be bothered PT-ing to either of those places this afternoon when my Vietnamese food craving hit at 2pm. So I ended up on Swanston Street.
I’ve been to both Mekong and Vietnam Noodle House many times during my years as an undergrad student (this was before I became a food snob, mind you) but I’ve yet to visit the newest Vietnamese kid on the block, Rice Paper. Until now.
According to Rice Paper’s menu, the bun bo hue comes highly recommended so I decided to go with that. They had the dac biet (special, the lot, combo, whatever) option available for $9.90 but because I don’t like pig’s blood jelly, I was extremely pleased to see that they actually had a non-dac biet option for $8.90.
The first thing that came to mind when my bun bo hue was presented to me was ‘man, this smells weird.’ The broth had a really meaty smell, which put me off eating it. Eventually, though, I got over the smell and dug in. While the serving was generous, they were a bit tight on the herbs and bean shoots – and I’m someone who likes a LOT of mint, lettuce and bean shoots in my BBH. They actually used rare beef in this dish, which was a big deviation from the usual brisket. As for the broth, it was severely lacking in the lovely lemongrass flavour that makes a BBH so good. And while I could see flecks of chilli swarming in the broth, it wasn’t actually that spicy. I should also add here that at one stage, I found a tiny grain of sand (or something) in my soup. Note to Rice Paper peeps: Please wash your herbs thoroughly!
Although it was 10 degrees outside, I decided to order a four-colour drink ($3.50). It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a three-or-four-colour drink and the combination of tapioca drops, coconut milk, red kidney beans, mung bean puree and shaved ice did not disappoint.
Unfortunately, my BBH did disappoint and I can’t see myself going back, even if I was desperate for Vietnamese food. It’s a shame because the service was friendly and extremely quick and I did like the ambience the colourful lanterns did bring to the place.