I love the little strip of Vietnamese restaurants along Kingsland Road in Shoreditch and came to the realisation that I hadn't visited any of them for yonks when an email regarding the relaunch of Viet Grill popped up in my inbox.
Along I went with Thomas on a dull Thursday evening, there's nothing quite like a Vietnamese feast to inject some zing into your day. It being a healthier and fresher version of Chinese cuisine. Perfect for trying to beat the January bulge.
I asked for the recommended chef special dishes, eliminating the difficulty of choosing from the extensive new menu. The wine list too has had a revamp with the help of wine aficionado and 'champion of the ordinary wine-drinker' (I guess that would be me?) Malcolm Gluck. We went for the Hunawihr Gewurztraminer Reserve d’Alsace 2007 which I cannot get enough of since first sampling some before Christmas.
First up came the mango salad, which is far more interesting than it sounds and comes from the recommended chef's special section of the menu.
The flavours were vibrant and fresh, a nice chili kick, julienned vegetables and fried crispy bits of squid made for a lovely amalgamation of flavours and textures. Very enjoyable and a great start to the meal.
The second starter was the beef vinh. A charcoal grilled skewer of rolled beef served with a fermented soy dressing and a side salad. The meat was perfectly cooked and wonderfully charred with a fabulous flavour. I would not have ordered either of these dishes had I chosen for myself but both were great.
Main courses again whilst perhaps not what I might have selected myself wowed us and I am now a catfish convert. Slow cooked catfish with a caramelised fish sauce served prettily in a clay pot which was set ablaze once it was placed down on the table, you can just about make out the blue flame to the bottom left of the bowl.
The fish itself was very meaty in texture, I've never had catfish before and am now a firm fan. The sauce was sticky and rich, perfect poured liberally over the sticky rice side dishes.
The second main course was the quail curry with aubergine and okra. The curry sauce was rather fruity and sweet, something well suited to my palate but I think perhaps a bit too sweet for some. I loved it though and again the sauce was excellent with the rice.
We also sampled the wokked bo xoi greens with garlic and rice wine which were quite excellent. Crunchy and packed full of flavour with so much garlic.
We were pretty full but decided to sample a dessert between us, the banana fritters which were better than the usual, this place is not about pudding though. We both also had Vietnamese coffee which again is very sweet due to the condensed milk. Thomas reminisced about his days in Australia where he often ate Vietnamese and I dreamed about when I will visit far afield places and experience the real deal for myself.
The menu is varied and remarkable value for money, they serve excellent Ph ò and Bò cu n bánh tráng, beef which is cooked at the table before you. Service throughout was very attentive and food was delivered swiftly. The same guys also run Cafe Tre and I will definitely return when that oh so familiar craving for Vietnamese hits, Viet Grill is head and shoulders above it's competitors on the same strip and I highly recommend it.
I dined as a guest of Viet Grill and received a complimentary meal with a bottle of wine
58 Kingsland Road, E2