Monday, 9 August 2010

Restaurant Review: Viet Grill

I suffer from a very difficult and compulsive gastronomic affliction.  It's commonly referred to as food envy.  Its one of my main reasons for over-ordering, if I see nice food going past I want it.  You can, therefore, imagine my dismay when I couldn't go with some friends to Viet Grill on Kingsland Road because I was working.  It got even worse when I saw one of them for lunch at the Charles Lamb a few days later.  'Oh it was AMAAAAZING!  We had this delicious fish in dill and then a great beef...' and so on.  Thankfully after a couple of days of pacing around and waking up in cold sweats muttering to myself about pho I was in area and in need of dinner. 
Kingsland Road has a LOT of Vietnamese restaurants on it.  I normally go to Song Que because it gets consistently good reviews.  The Viet Grill is very different looks wise for those that know some of the other places.  Its fairly modern with a lot of black lacquered wood and no paper tablecloths.  The prices, however, remain similar to other places nearby, which means they are pretty reasonable.  The service was a little pushy at first, but then the waitresses switched over and that improved.

We ordered some summer rolls to start.  These consist of soft noodles, fresh herbs and grated carrot and a prawn, all cold wrapped in a chewy sticky rice paper.  I like these normally, but this rendition was a little bland.  Much better was the marinated monkfish slices, cooked at the table with lots of fresh dill, served on top of a small bowl of noodles, shrimp paste, peanuts, chilli and fennel.  It had all the freshness I love in Vietnamese food combined with a rich fish on top.  The dill enhanced the flavour, but needed to be cooked a little longer to stop it being bitter.  

The mains were also good.  I had a fried river fish in tamarind with a lot of fried onion and garlic.  This was decent, if not spectacular.  The star of the night was definitely my girlfriends crispy fried bass with thin strips of mango.  The fruit was still underripe which gave the dish a lovely acidity and cut through the crispy outside of the fish and the rich fish sauce liqueur.    

This was a tasty meal.  Not mind-blowing, but good all the same, and I would be happy to go back.  However, it probably wasn't so good as to stop me trying some of its competitors.  Though I might go back to have a really good looking beef dish that the couple next to us was having.

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