180 High Street
Windsor VIC 3181
+61 3 9939 5181
I’m kinda over overpriced hipster-ised cuisines but when the cuisine in question is Vietnamese, well, it’s hard for me to say ‘no’ to it. So when Daisy suggested that we catch up for dinner at Hanoi Hannah after work, I was there faster than the time it takes my maniac Vietnamese boyfriend to drive to work.
I love Hanoi Hannah’s tagline, ‘sex, drugs and rice paper rolls.’ If I hadn’t read up the origin of the restaurant’s name prior to my visit, I would have also thought that it was a famous Hanoian prostitute’s name. Rather, Hanoi Hannah was the name given to an English-speaking radio broadcaster in Hanoi. Given her anti-war messages, though, I bet a lot of GIs would have muttered names not far removed from ‘prostitute’ whenever they heard her voice on the radio so my guess probably isn’t so far-fetched.
We didn’t come with a booking so we were lucky to secure a table for four by the window, overlooking High Street. With Daisy, Dave and I having settled down quickly with the menus, we only had to wait for Ricky to rock up before starting. Unfortunately, he was stuck in traffic but gave us the go ahead to start without him.
While Dave had a beer, Daisy and I ordered young coconut juice. At $6, I thought the coconuts were a bit of a rip-off especially given they sell them for around $2 at the supermarket. However, there was seriously no other drink that could make me happier on such a warm evening.
We started off with some classic prawn and pork rice paper rolls. Hanoi Hannah sell them in pairs for $5 so we ordered two servings. Dipped in hoison sauce, these rolls were light yet full of fresh flavour, giving me the health kick I so desperately needed.
We also shared a plate of Hanoi spring rolls ($8). If you’re not too familiar with them, they’re pretty much like normal Vietnamese spring rolls but instead of the flour-based wrappers used in most Vietnamese restaurants, rice paper sheets are used. As the results, the skins are airy and crispier. The spring rolls were delicious and I loved the pork and wood ear fungus filling. What did let me down was the nước chấm dipping sauce. Bland, bland, bland – it was like they forgot to add the all important fish sauce in it!
We couldn’t resist ordering some pork belly sliders (two for $8; we ordered two lots to give us four). Slices of tender pork belly, lettuce, pickled carrots and cucumber rested between two brioche buns. A deliciously tangy sauce, which Dave reckoned tasted like McDonald’s Big Mac sauce, brought everything together. Pretty, pretty good.
We each ordered our own mains. Daisy ordered the Vietnamese slaw with tender chicken ($11), a vibrant mix of cabbage, carrot, mint, basil and shredded chicken. It was a fresh and light dish, but by no means lacking in taste. I mentally added the dish to my list of ‘must make for lunch’ dishes.
Dave ordered the vermicelli salad with lemongrass beef skewers ($11). While it was good, the general consensus was that the same dish from any dime-a-dozen Vietnamese restaurant in Springvale was better in that it was tastier and had more soul.
Those of you who know me would not be surprised by my order, a bowl of beef pho ($9.50). There was also the option to go vegetarian with the mixed mushroom pho ($10.50). While I do love mushrooms, I just couldn’t fathom the idea of a mushroom pho (whatthehell, man?! Whatthehell?!) so beef, it was. Now, I couldn’t decide whether to give the pho two thumbs up. It definitely didn’t taste ‘authentic’ but it wasn’t bad. It actually tasted like the pho I once made at home using the slow cooker. Now, whether or not that is a good thing is open for interpretation. Suffice to say that I prefer a gritty bowl of no nonsense pho from Springvale or Footscray.
Ricky never ended up arriving in time for dinner – the staff kicked us out because we were hogging the table for too long and there were heaps of people waiting. Fair enough. Otherwise, they were lovely throughout our entire meal and offered to doggy-bag Ricky’s food for us. The three of us agreed that when it comes to Vietnamese food, nothing beats a meal from a ‘legit’ Vietnamese restaurant. However, Hanoi Hannah would be my first preference for Vietnamese if I wanted Hanoi spring rolls at 10pm before a clubbing session on Chapel Street.