Ok ... its getting crowded over here in Little Saigon! But the hood can afford another intrusion if its serving traditional fare such as this - honest, uncomplicated (relatively speaking) and uncompromising.
Now that my erstwhile goto bible* of new happenings in the West has recently found its well worn blogging feet again, I clocked the opening of Quan 888 in the Little Saigon market soon after it set up shop.
In fact I do believe we visited this newly minted establishment on the very day the post was published. And now that I am a skilful reader between the lines of this particular blogger's nomenclature, I knew we were in for a good night.
And a good night we had ... in part. There are popular dishes on here that sell out fast as we soon discovered. So we had to settle for second choices.
Most of the dishes are prefixed with the words Da Nang, a city on the South Central Coast of Vietnam, which is where I gather the proprietors originally hailed from. There are a few familiar dishes like Niem and Bun Xiao, but most of the menu could prove a bit daunting to the western palate, especially the fermentary (is that a word?) condiments and some of the stock bases for their noodles.
In fact the initial mouthful of my Fish Cake Noodles (sorry readers I'm bad with noting down menu titles and descriptions!) was overpoweringly fishy, with a hint of monsoon drain ... HOWEVER, as the flavours started to mix and the bits of pumpkin (yes you read that right) started to soften into the stock, each successful mouthful became ever increasingly moreish. The bowl was dry when I finished with it!
M's noodles had roast pork and jackfruit in it and the mere presence of this well loved artocarpus (yes I know how to google!) is enough to illicit a sour lemon pout of the Zellweger variety from me, but I did have a taste. I think there was more artichoke than jackfruit, so I was able to savour the deliciousness of the dish. But you can already surmise that the combination of ingredients is a little unusual at Quan 888.
We also had the green papaya salad which like its neighbouring establishment is garnished with that addictive Beef jerky that now seems to be everywhere with the arrival of Co Thu Quan.
For liquid refreshment we had the curious Corn Milk which is exactly what the name describes. Cold milky corn in a glass. Jury is still out on this. I think I would have liked it a little sweeter.
And to finish off the meal, we had Ca Phe Sua Dam - strong iced black coffee - dark of colour and miraculously milky?! I'm still trying to figure this out!
On our second visit, we were able to sample the Bahn Beo - steamed rice cakes with toppings of pork and also shredded dried prawns. These were delicious! And well worth going back for.
I also tried the Niem which was a little tricky to negotiate. I wasn't quite sure how to actually eat it. There wasn't really much room to try and combine the noodles with the herbs and with the meat. So I ended up eating each ingredient a mouthful at a time.
M had the Bun Xiao which is served rather dramatically with a dispenser that lets you wet your rice paper - a kind of DIY spring roll of sorts. It's a fun dish, but we both agreed that the actual pancake was a bit lacking in the taste department. Yes my palate is not as sophisticated - my preference is for punch in the face flavour.
A very welcome addition to Little Saigon indeed!
*Footscray Food Blog