12 Apr Uncle, Melbourne CBD
Uncle has long been a favourite for Vietnamese food in St Kilda, so when news broke of a second location in the city, much anticipation was building as Melbourne eagerly awaited its opening. It’s located on the top end of Collins Street on the first floor of what was once an office building, making it a convenient place for pre- and post-theatre meals. There are large fold-out windows, which tonight are closed to block out the chill. A mixture of small and communal tables are arranged in different sections of the single-level restaurant, as well as a handful of booths to cosy into. Come nighttime, the lighting dims and the room takes on a multicoloured hue, accentuating the laid-back and fun atmosphere.
Chef Dai Duong is overseeing both venues, and whilst some dishes are the same at both locations, most here in the CBD are new. Smaller bites include a creamy mixture of Lime Cured Hapuka, coconut, pomegranate and chilli, nestled on betel leaves, and the very textural cold dish of Black Wild Rice, with nuts, grains, chilli, herbs, pomegranate and oozy panko-crumbed hen’s egg. The wild rice makes for a good accompaniment for the other dishes too.
For something a bit different, there’s the Burrata. The smooth ball of goodness sits on an an arrangement of sliced and wedged heirloom tomato and pickled papaya. Thai basil makes an appearance, completing its categorisation into Euro-Asian fusion. The mozzarella skin is pierced and its innards spill out, causing us to become giddy with excitement. It’s a simple preparation, but the burrata is indulgently creamy and smooth, the house-made barrel aged fish sauce awakens the palate, and the rice creates a pleasurable variety of texture. Yum.
Another interesting dish is the baton of Tongue and Cheek wrapped in crispy bean curd skin. Slices of tongue, nicely charred, lie on top. It’s a tasty eat.
We try a variety of banh mi: the Young Rice Prawn with avocado puree and tangy sriracha mayo, the Tofu and its punchy sweet and salty sauce, and the spiced, smokey and incredibly crunchy Pigs’ Ear.
Pan-seared Barramundi comes with sweet potato glass noodles, tamarind caramel, tomato and grilled pineapple salad. The fish is perfectly cooked, and its broth is tangy and homely.
Grilled Sher Wagyu Brisket is topped with vibrantly coloured turmeric green bean fritters and a disc of Cafe de Paris butter. The brisket is soft and tender in parts, slightly dry in others. Be sure to slather that butter on and scoop up the black salt for maximum impact. They completely transform the dish into something truly droolworthy.
The Modern Vietnamese cuisine at Uncle St Kilda hasn’t been popular without reason. Thankfully for us, the food at Uncle is now more accessible for all.
Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to Uncle. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.
Uncle (CBD branch)
Level 1, 15 Collins Street
Melbourne CBD, VIC, 3000
(03) 9654 0829