Shop C2, Healeys Lane
550 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9602 3330
I just realise that the last couple of entries have been about eateries near my work, so I’m going to make a trifecta by talking about a third one to tide you lovely readers over for the weekend. And if we haven’t had enough Vietnamese food to last us a lifetime, here’s another one to add to the list: Cilantro Star.
The ‘gourmet phở’ café is one of many new eateries that are taking over the boring bain marie-type cafés that dominate Melbourne’s legal district. If I wanted a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup, Roll’d may be only a few blocks away … but Cilantro Star? Half -a-freakin’-block!
What struck me when I first entered the place was the row of cupcakes at the counter. It’s not every day you’d see pretty cupcakes for sale at a Vietnamese place. Sigh, if only I liked that stuff. I decided to give their phở’ a try so I ordered a bowl of beef phở’($10) at the counter and popped myself on a high stool by the window.
I wasn’t terribly pleased with the lack of condiments available (what, chilli sauce but no hoisin sauce?) nor was I impressed by the very little bean sprouts and basil leaves received. I did, however, warm to the steaming bowl of rice noodles and rare beef slices that I was about to devour. For $10, it wasn’t the biggest bowl of phở’ I’ve ever had but hey, we’re in the city here.
Taste-wise, the broth was pretty clean though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more depth. They weren’t overly generous with the noodles and the beef but I did leave the place feeling full. One other thing I would like to mention is that the salt content was a bit higher than what I would have liked so a bottle of hoisin would have been really handy, here.
The next time I went, I decided to have a vermicelli salad with spring rolls (can’t remember how much it was, but it couldn’t have been more than $11). I had heaps of work to do in the office so I decided to get my meal to go and it took them a little bit longer to get the vermicelli salad to me (as opposed to the phở’ which only took a matter of minutes). When I returned to the office, I opened my bag to find my meal literally deconstructed.
Putting everything together required splashing the noodles and vegetables with the nuoc mam sauce and scattering the five pieces of pork and prawn spring rolls all over. It wasn’t a bad vermicelli salad, but it wasn’t the best I’ve had. What made me go WTF was the choice of vegetables they used in the salad. Carrot, I understand; cucumbers, ditto. But iceberg lettuce? Raw beansprouts? Hmmm. Meanwhile, the spring rolls were more pork than prawn which made me wonder if they had incorrectly given me pork ones instead of pork and prawn ones. That said, it wasn’t a bad meal and I did get my Vietnamese food craving satisfied so I was less cranky in the afternoon when I had to deal with strange co-workers.
Cilantro Star does not make the best Vietnamese food, especially at the price they’re charging. Plus, I do think their claim to specialise in ‘gourmet phở’ is misleading. Cilantro Star is never going to lay the claim of being able to build this city on bowls of phở (oh, stop it!) and I certainly wouldn’t go here regularly. However, if I’m REALLY desperate for a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup during work, it’s good to know that there is a place that sells them