Wednesday 21 March 2012

Busaba Eatviet

Just a little over two years’ ago Viet Hoa embarked on a total re-branding exercise and abandoned the canteen-for-the-proletariat identity it had thrived on for about eight years. Whilst the majority of its contemporaries on The Pho Mile remained faithful to this formula Viet Hoa decided to attract more of the Hoxton’s and Shroeditch’s hipsters to its doors instead and proclaim-

We proudly welcome fans of Aphex Twin and the Gavin Turk brigade to our family-run restaurant that serves freshly cooked ethnic food and a service which complies with your lifestyle and every whim.

IOW- free WiFi, music playlists, exotic Beerlao, and amongst other things, the loo…a latent one that is but cunningly executed.

If Alan Yau were to start a chain of Vietnamese joints then the above would be it right up his street but Viet Hoa have nipped it before he can utter Busaba Eatviet. Viet Hoa is divided into two sections, Café on ground level (where I have always dined) and the Mess in the basement, which adopts a plusher dining experience to take on the likes of Viet Grill. I must say that two years on it still looks pretty ok and almost none of the wear and tear that are normally associated with the use of cheap and compromised shop fittings
were evident.

I don’t care much now for the the rest of the food served at Vietnamese restaurants in London but at the very least the pho has to be good.

Banh cuon-
It was woeful and poor. Discarded strips of nondescript hor fun
noodles thrown in with a tiny amount of juliennes of Vietnamese sausage and a nominal ‘yawn yawn’ salad. A good and proper bánh cuốn should and always be presented like this (cannelloni form) and taste out of this world but sadly the above took the piss.

Chả cá Hà Nội-
Grilled fish Hanoi style (or for the occidental diners you’ll be offered sizzling salmon instead) served with a generous rice vermicelli salad.

The fish in question, like tilapia, is one of the world’s most intensively farmed varieties otherwise known as basa, pangasius or plain catfish. The dish whilst potentially good was beautifully seasoned and ‘herbed’ but badly let down by the fish that tasted as if it had been frozen and thawed over and over again.

The pho

A good visual test for a half-decent bowl of pho is that the broth should exhibit a hue that’s similar to jasmine tea. And when it comes to matters regarding the olfactory perception and tastebuds, the bowl should also possess a perfect balance of savoury-beefy yang and aromatic fresh-herbs yin. So good things abound; for there was the depth of flavour, good beef chucked in, al dente hor fun, freshness of the ingredients as a whole, wedges of lime instead of shortcuts like lemons…it was simply a dish worth slurping loudly and deliciously.

The pho at Viet Hoa is very good but that’s all.

70-72 Kingsland Road
London E2 8DP

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