Shop TG10 Goldsborough Lane
101 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9600 1088
Marty works with this Hispanic-American guy named Rick. Out of all the cuisines out there, Rick happens to like Vietnamese the most, which is understandable because it’s cheap, simple, fresh and so full of flavour. Now both guys live and work on the Gold Coast, where the freshest and cheapest lunch option is a California sushi roll from Sushi Delite at the nearby shopping centre. And even though the newest Vietnamese kid on my city block, Roll’d, could hardly be considered authentic or cheap by Vietnamese standards, I’m willing to bet that Rick would appreciate a place like this opening up in that very shopping centre. His name is Rick and he’d be getting ‘roll’d’ – har-har, geddit? No? Okay…
Roll’d is two blocks away from my work so it’s not too far a walk. However, if you want to beat the queues, you need to get there at a reasonably early hour or you’ll spend your entire lunch break in queue. The first time I went there (two weeks after they’d opened), I was lucky enough to be the eighth or so person in line so I got served pretty quickly. The second time, however, I was not so lucky and ended up waiting an extra 10 minutes. I guess everyone else in the city wanted to see what this new Vietnamese kid could do.
The space itself isn’t very big, with only a few slots available for diners but that’s okay given that most patrons order takeaway. The menu is also pretty contained. While they specialise in their namesake, rice paper rolls, other dishes such as bánh mì rolls, bún (vermicelli salads) and phở are available. Looking at the menu, it is obvious that the eatery aims to appeal to the predominantly Gen Y clientele by incorporating cute little graphics all over the place and by giving dishes ‘funky’ names. For example, bánh mì becomes ‘bun Mee’ (why is the ‘b’ in lower case and the ‘m’ not?) and the rice papers rolls here are known as ‘Roll’d soldiers.’ As for rice vermicelli salads? Don’t call them bún, call them ‘The B’ (groan).
In keeping up with the hip and modern image, orders are keyed onto an iPad and sent to the relevant mini-stations so that the food is prepared and dished out as quickly as possible. A far cry from the frantic and disorganised queues you get at places such as Nhu Lan.
The first time I was here, I decided to grab some rice paper rolls and a bánh mì (oh sor-ry, bun Mee). My order was wrapped up neatly in a brown paper bag so that I could enjoy it at my desk, while reading the latest attempts at workplace parody courtesy of my colleague, Sean (don’t ask).
I decided to get all dedacent by choosing the roast pork with crackling bánh mì (oh sorry, bun Mee). I’ve never had crackling in a bánh mì before so I questioned its authenticity, especially given I was paying $7.20 a pop which is almost double the price of a standard bánh mì. Although the bread is nowhere as near as good as what you’d get at a legit Vietnamese bakery (it was crunchy on the outside, but wasn’t as soft and fluffy on the inside), it wasn’t a bad roll. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender and contrasted beautifully with the super crispy crackling pieces. I did find the pork a tad salty, but that was balanced by the pickled carrots and fresh coriander sprigs.
There are four rice paper roll fillings to choose from and for each roll you buy, you get a complimentary dipping sauce (additional tubs attract an extra 50 cents). Being a greedy pig, I decided to get one of each. From left to right, we have the lemongrass pork and prawn ($2.80), the soft shell crab and avocado ($3), the BBQ chicken and sesame seeds ($2.60) and the tofu, carrot and sesame seeds ($2.60). All were fresh and delicious, though my favourite was the lemongrass pork and prawn. And because I was stupid, I got four tubs of nuoc nam dipping sauce when in hindsight, I should have grabbed some hoisin sauce or even the weird-sounding chilli mayonnaise for a bit of variety.
The next time I went, I decided to get the classic pork roll ($6.20). Marty’s parents, both born and bred in Vietnam, would never even consider paying that much for a pork roll, not even if they were desperate. But hey, I was hungry and I was desperate so I happily parted with my cash. While I didn’t mind the crackling pork roll from the other day, I didn’t like my classic pork roll as much. The bread was a lot less crunchy this time, and the filling was pretty plain. There was no flavour in the pâté and the egg mayonnaise was non-existent as far as I was concerned.
I also ordered a ‘classiqué Vietnamese salad’ on the side (er, what is wrong with spelling ‘classic’ the traditional way?). I like how you can order a main-sized salad for a healthy lunch ($7.90 – $8.90), those of you with smaller tummies can opt for a mini version. I decided that I only wanted a small portion of chicken salad that day so I happily paid my $4.20. My salad, which came with a bag of crab crackers (very much like the Indonesian krupuk udang), wasn’t too bad. While it was fresh and colourful, it was perhaps a bit too sweet – not the best chicken salad I’ve ever had. Hell, I’ve made better ones myself in the past.
Roll’d also claims to make the ‘best bowl of noodle soup’ but only on ‘this side of the border.’ I love how they added that little caveat at the end because although I’ve yet to try their noodle soups, I am reluctant to believe that theirs is better than anything dished out in Footscray or Richmond. I will, however, shut up if anyone can prove me wrong.
Roll’d definitely charges city prices for the city crowd and because of that, I don’t think the food is of awesome value. There are certainly better bánh mì and rice paper rolls to be found elsewhere – and at a much cheaper price. However, I wouldn’t mind popping by again if I feel like a bánh mì with crackling in it. And if I get over the free Nescafé coffee provided in my office, I’m glad to know that there is a nearby place that stocks Trung Nguyên coffee.
I’m sure Rick would be glad, too.