The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 15 April 2011

Vietnamese @ Viet Grill, London

Most Asian dishes are meant for eating banquet-style, with the idea that sharing dishes can help bonding between family and encourage camaraderie amongst friends who come together for a meal. If you think about it, the often large portions of dishes in Asian cuisine make it rather impractical for anyone to dine by themselves, so one usually would sensibly look for dining companions (family, friends or colleagues) to enjoy a meal with. I personally love sharing food because it's a great way to get a variety of food in one meal, and I feel that sharing instills a certain sense of trust amongst those who eat the same food together. Towards the end of our 2-weeks in London, a small group of Rob's colleagues organised dinner at Viet Grill, and Zak and I were also invited. There were ten of us in the group, and after a short discussion on how to have the meal, we decided that everyone would choose one dish to order, and the dishes would be for all to share. To be honest, I was a little surprised when no one objected to sharing food, because in my experience, most of non-Asian descent wouldn't be very open to the idea of eating from the same plate (even if there was a separate set of utensils for serving on the dish). Although there was to be one dish per person, it seemed that we ordered more than that, and the food just kept coming that it was amazing there wasn't much leftover to take home. We must have been pretty hungry that night.

Viet Grill wasn't the trendiest restaurant, but I reckon it would be nice enough for a romantic date (for me, anyway; good food trumps appearances anytime). It got quite busy even for a Tuesday night, so I imagine the food at this restaurant has drawn a large number of regulars. Staff were friendly and tried their hardest to meet our requests (even bringing out a high chair for the 2-year-old without us having to ask for one). The food was pretty good, and I can't think of any dishes that I didn't enjoy. Here are shots of some of the dishes we ate that night (excuse the quality as lighting wasn't very good and I didn't want to use the flash).

Crispy bánh xèo (savoury pancakes) containing chicken and prawn in its filling. Lovely but perhaps most of our company found it a bit fiddly having to eat with using hands instead of cutlery:

Gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese spring roll) with fresh vegetables and prawns that was a bit too heavy with the coriander herb for my liking:

Grilled scallops - plump juicy scallops served piping hot fresh off the grill:

"Flamed Wok Chicken" - with bell peppers, scallions and lemongrass:

Viet Grill squid in lemongrass, tomatoes, celery and dill:

Ginger roast duck, wok fried with seasonal greens, garlic and a satay sauce - yummy!

Coconut Red Sea prawns:

Campfire beef - check out the blue flame under the claypot:

Sizzling seafood, wok fried with seasonal vegetables and garlic sauce:

I like the fact that vegetables feature strongly in Vietnamese cuisine because I love my veges almost as much as I love seafood and meat! There was no need to order a separate vegetable dish or salad because there were plenty of vegetables in most of the dishes at dinner that night (I find it's a waste having to spend extra money on a plate of vegetables or salad just to get some nutrition while dining out). I've made up my mind that I quite like Vietnamese food - there's definitely so much more to the cuisine than just phở.

Viet Grill
58 Kingsland Road
Shoreditch, London E28DP
Tel. +44 (0)20 7739 6686

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