Monday, October 10, 2011

Phong Dinh Footscray

Phong Dinh 006

Phong Dinh, specialising in hu tieu mi (rice/egg noodle) dishes, has opened on the seemingly ill-fated site that housed the short-lived Thai and Korean restaurants.  Let's hope they have a long and prosperous future there, as the food is really promising.

LOVE the outdoor area.  It's not a "true" outdoor area in the sense that you can't smoke out there and probably couldn't bring a dog, but you still get lots of lovely fresh air and feel somewhat more comfortable making huge amounts of noise and mess (...whether you have kids with you or not!)

Phong Dinh 011
Hu tieu mi tom thit (kho) - rice & egg noodles with prawn and pork (dry) $9

Hu tieu mi literally means "rice/egg noodle" and are a subset of dishes that can be made with either rice or egg noodles (or my favourite, a mixture) with some sort of topping/main ingredient, such as a piece of crispy fried chicken, wontons, prawn and pork, seafood etc.  Some hu tieu mi dishes will say "soup/dry".  "Soup" means that broth will be ladled on top to make a full bowl of soup whereas dry means the noodles will come as a sort of salad with a small bowl of broth on the side.

Phong Dinh 019
after mixing...

The prawn and pork hu tieu mi is perhaps the most classic in my opinion and while I love the soup version, a good "dry" (kho) is excellent - as is Phong Dinh's version.  Here, a tangle of fabulously textured, pleasantly bitey clear rice and curly egg noodles are tossed with just a little dark sauce (I think dark sweet soy?) and then topped with good prawns, tasty sliced pork, a quail's egg, bean sprouts and a cracker "lid".  This is dressed with just a little judiciously-applied sweet chilli sauce.  Add a spoonful or two of their absolutely excellent broth, filled with pork mince, chips of pork fat and spring onion, and mix (Thanks Hung for the tip a long time ago).  Slurp slurp, moan...  Delicious!

Phong Dinh 016
Com tam bi suon cha trung, $9

Great com tam - a very generous serve of broken rice (rice once "broken" in two as a by-product of milling but now produced for its own merit, beloved for its different texture to whole rice) with a well-marinated, tasty pork chop, snipped for ease of eating with fork and spoon.  The egg was divine with a runny yolk just begging to be popped.  Great bi (shredded pork and skin) which I normally do not love, but this was really fresh, very meaty and you could really taste the intriguing, nutty flavour of the roasted rice powder.  Lots of vegies, both pickled and fresh, lighten up what can be a meatfest.

Phong Dinh 009
Goi do bien (seafood coleslaw) $18.50

The only down point of the meal was the seafood coleslaw.  These vary wildly in price and had been originally what I wanted for dinner.  We couldn't get a spot at Hao Phong, where the coleslaws are all around $10 (looking at old pictures, I think they are smaller serves though).  This was $18.50 and didn't really seem like a coleslaw than a mixed pickle with seafood...  There was well-pickled carrot, daikon and onion, very sweet, with very little contrasting greenery and not enough crunchy shallots or peanuts.  Still, the seafood was fresh and we did eat the lot.

Phong Dinh 020

A very promising new offering to the Hopkins Street scene.  They are licensed which is handy and take cards albeit with some surcharges (none for EFTPOS).  The menu does include all the classics like rice paper rolls, beef in vine leaf etc.  Other menu gems I want to check out are mi siu cao (egg noodles with big prawn dumplings, usually only an off-cart secret of sorts at yum cha), Hanoi-style rice vermicelli soup and some good-looking barramundi in a clean tank, ready for eating with tamarind sauce or ginger and shallots.

I believe Phong Dinh either have or had an original restaurant in St Albans.  I also saw what I think is a second Phu Vinh opening in Sunshine recently.  Hu tieu mi shops rock!

Phong Dinh on Urbanspoon

Phong Dinh
152 Hopkins Street, Footscray

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  1. Interestingly we went to this place on Friday night; we only had the chicken coleslaw and some vegetable spring rolls. It was alright but I put that down to the fact they're still getting settled in. Will give it another go in a month or so to see how they're coming along.

  2. Glad to see that the hu tieu and mi are good. Will have to head down for that soon. I stopped in here with Penny one morning for some hangover alleviating pho. I wouldn't recommend it; the broth is too sweet. It is, however, a ridiculously large bowl, and quite the meatfest.

  3. Yes, we've noticed the wide variations in coleslaw prices. It seems almost like some places treat it as a deluxe-style special and others as just a normal menu item. A good one is really good, though! Maybe this place and its approach signal a recognition that there's room for more regional variations a la the move upwards and onwards from beef and black bean sauce or sweet and sour.

  4. Hi Thomas, yeah, I reckon the coleslaw is not their forte. Let me know when/if you go!

    Billy, duly noted. Yep, the hu tieu mi are pretty unreal. I think even better than Tra Vinh (probably because they have no liver, unlike Tra Vinh. YUCK ;-)

    Hi Kenny, it is weird, isn't it? Dong Que have unreal coleslaw (big platter-sized plate) for $12. A great one in Sunshine recently was $18 (albeit with seafood). I don't really understand it. Anyway bring on the regional variations I say! That's my favourite thing to see at a restaurant, far more than some ginormous menu.

  5. Some mixed reviews of this joint obviously, but I must say your photo of the Hu tieu mi tom thit looks scrupmtious! And as alwyas I can't wait to try. Been meaning to ask if you knew how to pronounce these vietnamese names correctly? It would be great to have a cheat's phonetic guide of some decsiption. And thanks for listing me as your blog buddy ... super chuffed!!!

  6. No worries! I would love to meet you in person one day!

    RE pronunciation - you are asking the wrong girl! ;) I am ashamed to say I really have no idea. I try my best and often get good-naturedly giggled at... I do know you say pho like "fur" not "fo". Learn Vietnamese is on the to-do list!

  7. Actually, I haven't tried hu tieu mi before. Have always seen them and they remind me of wonton mee back home. Haha!

  8. Bryan we should go and you can try! I still have not tried the Malaysian wonton mee, with the noodles with thick black sauce - would love to. I think that was what they were sold out of at Coconut House that time?

    I do love Vietnamese "mi hoanh toanh" which I get as a soup with thin, curly egg noodles, wontons and some vegies like garlic chives and spring onion. MMMMMMMM, so good. I think both the Malaysian version and the Vietnamese link back to an original Chinese dish.

    I am sitting here procrastinating cooking dinner and SO just want to go out for Vietnamese now. *SIGH*

  9. The hu tieu mi (dry) looks fantastic! (Though I'm not too sure how to pronounce it =/). One of my fav things to order at Vietnamese restaurants cause it's such a light and refreshing lunch, almost like a salad but more filling? I'm never really familiar with areas too far from Hopkins St so this is easy for me to find, yay! =D Love the more open restaurant concept too

  10. Hi,

    Enjoyed reading your blog and restaurants review.We stay in Geelong so do not have much choices of Indian or Asian restaurants and I am forever looking for restaurants to visit in Melbourne.Will definitely be visiting few of the restaurants mentioned in your blog.

  11. I know a few ill-fated sites around where I live as well, it's funny how the places that flank them seem to thrive. Hopefully this will survive, if for no other reason than that hu tieu mi and com tam. I don't usually order the latter because the bi tends to be so dry!

  12. Hey Lauren, I love your blog! A group of my workmates and myself will be checking this restaurant out today for lunch. You should come down if you are around...

  13. Justin, thank you so much for the invite! I am reading this now though after just eating my pale-in-comparison lunch at home! Hope you enjoyed Phong Dinh :)


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