28 May An Uong, Richmond
So much of a country’s culture is based around food – the rituals around family meals, the display of warmth and hospitality, and even the greeting ‘have you eaten yet?’, rather than a simple ‘hello’. An Uong translates to ‘eat, drink’ in Vietnamese. What better way to understand one’s story and culture than sitting through a meal with them?
Three friends, Richard Nguyen, Le Nhat and Zico Lu, each hail from different regions in Vietnam. Lu, the head chef at An Uong, is trained in European cuisine, but his real passion is Asian food, and particularly that belonging to his heritage. Memories of travel, family and childhood have culminated in a menu based on authentic Vietnamese food and cooking methods, presented with a modern twist. With experience at Grossi Florentino, Donovan’s and Quay, Lu is well-placed to create dishes based on such a vision.
First, some drinks. The An Uong Espresso Martini is smooth, with nice balance of vodka and coffee. The cocktail even includes some Vietnamese espresso in the mix. As a non-alcoholic alternative, the Watermelon Sorbet Soda Bomb Mocktail is a fruity and refreshing thirst quencher.
The dinner menu at An Uong is based around sharing. We start our food adventure with the Tofu Betel San Choi Bao with lemongrass, chilli, and lime. The tofu topping has a firm and crunchy texture, and the shallots and galangal provide punch.
Bo La Lot are skewers of beef mince wrapped in betel leaf, grilled on the Japanese konro barbeque at high temperatures, rather than taking the short-cut deep-fried route. Grilling releases the natural oils in the betel leaf, creating moisture without the need for too much additional oil. The tightly rolled Bo La Lot are topped with a crunchy mixture of peanuts and shallots, and go well with the tangy chilli dipping sauce.
Spiced Turmeric Squid is grilled and seasoned with turmeric, cucumber, and lemon oil. The cephalopod is so tender, and packs plenty of charred flavour.
Pulled Pork Banh Mi also comes with pickles, herbs, and shallots on a toasted brioche roll. The pork belly used for the pulled pork is succulent, and the meat flavours is intense, delicious and moreish. Cucumber, spiced mayo, carrot and daikon combination cuts through the richness, and provide added crunch.
A new item on the menu is the soft shell crab with black pepper sauce and carrot puree. The crustacean is deep-fried using a tempura technique, before being tossed in the peppery sauce to retain the batter’s crispness. Smooth and creamy carrot puree mellows the pepperiness of the dish.
Banh Xeo Nha Trang is a Vietnamese-style crepe. Like a clam displaying its treasures, is filled with blue eye, squid, prawns, and bean shoots. The rice flour batter remains crispy for an incredibly long time, which is quite a feat, and allows us to enjoy the contrast of its crunchiness with the generous amount of seafood. Refreshing herbs, seasoned noodles, nuoc cham and lettuce for wrapping, accompany the banh xeo for some mixing and matching.
Our final savoury is the Steamed Blue Eye Fillet with glass noodles, shiitake, soy sauce and spring onions. Cooked in the parcel, the blue eye retains its moisture, and both it and the noodles soak up all the goodness of the herbal-tasting broth.
Desserts are of a lighter nature to complement the food menu, which is less oil-heavy due to a lesser emphasis on stir-fried dishes. The Banh Flan, Vietnamese crème caramel, comes with burnt figs and a shard of peanut praline. The creme caramel itself, which sports a caramelised top, is not too sweet, which balances the natural saccharinity of the figs. The Coconut Lychee Sago is a dessert of lychee pieces, creamy sago, a cream-coloured vanilla sorbet and crumb underneath. It’s a refreshing end to the meal.
Cuisines can be as diverse as the regions and towns that make up the nation. Take a journey through Vietnam by simply stepping through the doors at An Uong. It’s a small venue, and with the standard of food here, it should be packed in no time.
Disclaimer: I was invited to An Uong as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
378 Bridge Rd
Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9428 6528