20 Mar Ba’get Elizabeth St, Melbourne CBD
When Vietnam was colonised by the French in the 1800s, the popularity of banh mi as a street food steadily grew. French baguettes were filled with local ingredients and flavours like Vietnamese sauces, chilli, coriander and pickled vegetables. Banh mi at Ba’get are created according to family recipes, which were formed when Duy’s father started to sell them back in Vietnam in order to support his family. Ba’get places an emphasis on freshness, balance and good nutrition. Whilst they could technically serve banh mi packed with meat, akin to meat-laden monsters-of-a-sandwich one might find in the USA, it would contradict their philosophies and break their authenticity.
As part of the launch of Ba’get’s tapas dinner menu, I was invited to their ‘Tapas and Tales’ dinner event. Owner Duy Huynh is keen to connect with his customers and this was an opportunity for his to do just that. He explained that in Vietnam it is common to go for after-work drinks and snack on tasty morsels, hence the inspiration for this particular menu.
To capture the vibe of Vietnamese street food, the space is fitted out with fishing baskets-turned-lighting fixtures and electric cables hanging across the ceiling. In a nod to the origins of some of these fusion dishes, decorative tiles feature the fleur-de-lis.
We began the night with a drink. The Mekong Breeze cocktail had mint, coriander, lime, ginger and ice added to a rum base.
Next was the hands on part – making our own rice paper rolls! Twice cooked lemongrass pork, vermicelli, herbs, pickled carrots and cucumber were carefully arranged on top of the thin sheets of rice paper, rough side up. Duy mentioned that often the rice paper sheets aren’t soaked long enough in the hot water before being filled.
I have to say, I expected my rice paper roll to turn out more like it had been disemboweled, but I was quite pleased with the result, thanks to Duy’s wonderful demonstration. These were enjoyed with a mixture of sweet sauce, sriracha and peanuts.
Other tapas dishes included crunchy, juicy and tasty Mama’s chicken wings, with a batter that wasn’t too thick, equally enjoyable salt and pepper calamari, and spicy prawn twists that contained whole prawns rather than a prawn mixture, which was nice.
In formulating the recipe, the pork and taro filling of the spring rolls had to be carefully balanced so that there was enough of it to be substantial, but not so much that they would become soggy and lose their crispiness. They can be enjoyed on their own, but Duy showed us another way of eating them when he snapped one in half and wrapped it in lettuce before dipping it in some nuoc cham.
I loved the Vietnamese chicken coleslaw with prawn crackers. The prawn crackers were there as both a textural element and serving utensil.
These sweet potato fries were seasoned with five spice (cloves, pepper, fennel seeds, aniseed and cinnamon). The fragrance of the cinnamon was particularly prominent and inviting. I finished off the bowl, trying to not to remember that the healthiness of sweet potato doesn’t outweigh the unhealthiness of the ‘chips’ part. They just tasted so good!
Our second cocktail was the Peaceful Dragon – a gin and lychee based drink with lemon grass and chilli.
We then came to Duy’s favourite – the grilled meat balls, or nem nuong. They were dense, juicy and flavoursome and a fitting conclusion to the savoury part of our meal.
This was my first taste of Vietnamese iced coffee and I loved it!
We were also treated to some sweets at the conclusion of the dinner. The dense and slightly salty, slightly sweet doughnut was very similar to ham chin peng.
The cassava cake was smoother, less sweet, and tasted less of coconut milk than the Malaysian ones I usually have.
Ba’get seems to have addressed their aim rather well, providing casual but tasty food for their tapas dinner menu. They are looking to expand, with two new stores already on the cards. With a focus on consistency you can look forward to enjoying their offerings in more locations!
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at Ba’get as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.
3/284-294 La Trobe St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9326 3449