Saturday, August 4, 2018

15 Days: Breakfast in Little Saigon

I love living in Little Saigon (or Little Ho Chi Min City if you want to be up to date). Other than it is the cheaper side of a rather exclusive inner city suburb, the food is excellent.

Little Vietnam sports an incredible number of Vietnamese restaurants. Off the top of my head there is the:
  • Loi Loi (crawling distance from the front door)
  • Mihn Tan (where you go when you have big groups who aren'foodies)
  • Vihn Vihn (wrong side of the road)
  • Vung Tau
  • Tran Tran
  • Tho Tho
  • Thy Thy
  • Thy Thy 2
  • Vinh Ky (They have this incredible Dry Chilli Beef - a go-to dish I've introduced many to over the years)
  • Pacific BBQ House
  • I (heart) Pho
  • Bun Ho Hue (Another noodle soup place)
  • Pho Pho Pho
  • Lee Lee (Bakery)
  • Nhu Lan (Another bakery)
There is also a number of vegan restaurants to cater for the hipsters, quite a few Thai and Korean places, a superlative pizza joint that does excellent wood fired pizzas and a number of bakeries of various quality and a couple of hipster bars. Oh, and two hipster pubs - and one other one that you only go near if you want to risk getting stabbed down near where the junkies hang out.

Victoria Street is also well known for Bahn Mi - or what a friend of mine calls Salmonella Rolls. I tend to call then Vietnamese Rolls - and they are awesome.

If you haven't had Bahn Mi, try one - and disregard my comments about the salmonella thing - my friend just had an unfortunate experience.

Bahn Mi are awesome. Take a freshly baked white crusty roll, split it open, spread generously with butter and pate, then add some barbequed pork or chicken (for me, I really don't do pork - only having it if chicken is not available). Then add some lightly pickled carrots, onions and cucumber, a few sprigs of coriander and Vietnamese basil, some crispy fried shallots, a bit of fresh chili to taste, and top it off with a bit of hoisin sauce. All for around $5.

Not any more for me. Gluten. Bah. But I miss them.

Down my end of Victoria Street there is a cafe which I've passed every day since it opened about two years ago. It used to be the Brotherhood of St Lawrence's op shop - and it was a great op shop. Now, it's a hipster cafe. From the outside, it looks like a bit of a barn. It always has. After it was an op shop, it became a furniture shop for a while.

This morning, after a sleep in, I made a trip to the post office to collect a parcel. Rather than go home and cook my own breakfast, I made my way down to this, the Holla Cafe. I mentioned to Em last weekend that I've always wanted to try the place.

I'm glad I went in.

Okay, it is VERY hipster, but you don't live in Richmond without growing a tolerance for this bearded, tattooed, man-bunned,  dread-locked brigade of Millennials.

This place is also on the wrong side of Church Street. Tt's away from the junkies that hang out near Lennox Street, but since the bank closed on the corner, few people stray past the Church Street crossing, unless they want to go to the guitar shop, the drum shop, the post office, the halal butcher, the tyre shop, the Indian grocer or the brothel. East of Church Street, Victoria Street is a hotchpotch of strange, eclectic and often empty stores that change ownership regularly (except the post office and the chippy).

My server was lovely - pleasant and nicely chatty. She found me a seat up the back for me and my parcel. It is a bit noisy, but not unpleasantly so. I remember when the oversized barn like building was filled with people's unwanted clothes and shoes. This is better.

I was overjoyed and dismayed to find they stock my favourite cranberry and pistachio gluten free bar which I have as a monthly treat from my work cafe. I really didn't need to know they are only a five minute walk away.

I still feel a bit strange ordering a decaf almond latte, but my server didn't bat an eyelid. I was told, with some earnestness that they make their own almond milk on the premises. For me, this could go two ways - it will either be awesome, or the mylk will split and taste like something out of a toilet bowl. My regular Sunday breakfast joint makes a wonderful decaf almond latte - this one wasn't quite up to Adrian at Krifi's efforts, but it wasn't bad either.

Then, for breakfast. There was a reasonable selection which could be adapted to the food wanker plan.

I chose the Saigon Scrambled Eggs - substituting sourdough for gluten free toast. Basically Bahn Mi with eggs. It had to be done.

I was happy. Scrambled eggs, on buttered toast with pate, a bit of chilli, some spiced pork, fried shallots, spring onions and fresh herbs. It was pretty bloody good. The gluten free bread was lovely - and thankfully not the cardboard substitute it can be.
Will I go back there? Yes - but I would love to take some friends for breakfast. It's menu is interesting - the guy sitting next to me had to smash his own avocado in a makeshift mortar and pestle. Waffle made of croissants, lots of ingredients like edamame, kasundi, beetroot walnut creme (vegan), quinoa and candied bacon.

Some would call this playing with your food. Some would say this is what happens when you give Millennials some of grandma's money to go be pretentious. I just think it's showing the best of what it is to be a hipster and what it is to live in a vibrant, interesting and somewhat colourful part of Melbourne.

Today's Song:

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