Monday, November 22, 2010

Vivid Star

UPDATE:  This restaurant is now closed; Oriental Charcoal BBQ is now here.

Vivid Star 001

Vivid Star has recently opened on the site of the old Quan Hue.  It's a bold move, being between people's favourite Sapa Hills and reliable stalwart Huy Huy.  I refuse to segue with something lazy like (cue serious movie voiceover voice) "but is its star indeed vivid among the galaxy that is Hopkins St?"  Oh - guess I just did.

Vivid Star 002

Their menus are gorgeous - lovingly put together with careful formatting.  Don't bother bringing the paper with you - I was happy to browse the voluminous pages and ponder what my next meal or ten would be!  It spans everything from Vietnamese classics such as hu tieu mi and pho soups to Chinese-style stirfries and steamed whole fish.

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Loving this - an equation to deliciousness!  Vivid Star is a Vietnamese Chinese restaurant.  For a long time I eschewed the Chinese side of the menu of these places, assuming that it was an afterthought tacked on merely to appease Westerners.  I was totally wrong.  There is a large Chinese community in Vietnam who have called it home for in some cases hundreds of years.  Many fled following the end of the Vietnam War, becoming "boat people" and eventually settling in Footscray and elsewhere around Australia.  They have retained their Chinese identity and Cantonese language, and their cuisine although Chinese at its origin bears the hallmarks of their life in Vietnam.

Vivid Star 005
Pork spring rolls, $6

Simon and Courtney on the FFB Facebook page had given Vivid Star the thumbs up with Courtney making the bold claim of best pork spring rolls she had ever had.  They were good - fat and golden cigarillos with quite a plain minced pork filling.  Wrapped in lettuce with a swizzle in the spicy nuoc mam cham - yum!  I do like more lettuce and mints though!

Vivid Star 007
Tom yum soup, $5

My mother was on the hot & sour soup trail but had to settle for tom yum soup.  I know it's not very Vietnamese but it was delicious, a perfect combination of sweet, sour, fishy and spicy, with fat and juicy tofu, a freshly cooked prawn, tomato and pineapple.

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Salt and pepper quail, two for $12

Oh, so crispy, yummy, rich and juicy quail.  You squeeze the lemon into the salt and pepper mix to make a delicious dipping sauce.  I think my favourite part of salt and pepper dishes, though, is actually the lightly wokked sprinkle of chilli, garlic and spring onion that goes on top.  Halfway through I found my daughter eating the wing tips, bones and all, like chips.  Talk about calcium!

Vivid Star 009
Ga xao xa ot - Chicken with lemongrass and chilli, $12

This was excellent with juicy chicken chunks and crisp vegies.  There's such variation in "chilli and lemongrass" dishes, I find, and in some you can taste neither chilli nor lemongrass.  Not so Vivid Star's version.  The lemongrass was clean and fresh, not at all gritty and there was just enough chilli to keep it interesting.

Vivid Star 010
Com chien Duong chau bo luc lac $13.50

Bo luc lac or "shaking" beef is so called for the way you shake the wok when you cook the small cubes of beef.  It's a genuine Vietnamese dish, traditionally made for celebrations due to the high price of beef, but also a great option for people unfamiliar with Vietnamese food.  It is most traditionally served with red tomato rice but I was intrigued by the Yang Chow fried rice on the menu.  This turned out to be Cantonese-style fried rice made with a little BBQ pork - simple but very good.  The beef was great, garlicky and tender.

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Hu tieu kho Nam Vang, $9

In traditional Anglo-Australian cuisine, soups tend to be merely a prelude to the main meal.  It is definitely not so in Vietnamese cuisine where there is a whole repertoire of soups, all made unique by special stocks, noodles and toppings.  This is hu tieu kho Nam Vang or Cambodian-style noodle soup.  This dish has a really interesting history which Viet World Kitchen has explored in typically excellent fashion, but basically it is a Southern Vietnamese take on Cambodian noodles (Nam Vang is Vietnamese for Phnom Penh) which are in turn, a local version of Chinese noodles. 

This soup was great, mild broth concealing square-cut, translucent rice noodles.  The bowl was dressed with plenty of herbs and I was somewhat shocked to find what I thought was parsley!  It worked surprisingly well, though, and I later realised it was Chinese celery (celery and flat-leaf parsley are closely related - look at the shape of the leaves).  While it had fantastic minced pork and freshly fried shallot, its other toppings let it down a bit - precooked prawn and bland pork neck.  I think Vivid Star's forte is its drier dishes - if you feel like soup (other than pho), try Phu Vinh or Dong Ba (review coming soon).
Vivid Star 003

Vivid Star have a really interesting offer - you can bring your own fish, crab or lobster and they will cook it for you and charge you a set fee i.e. just the cost of labour and ingredients.  Pretty cool I reckon.  Vivid Star can hold its own among the mega-menu set on Hopkins St.  Next time you are headed for Sapa Hills, give them a shot instead.  Three stars!

Vivid Star on Urbanspoon

Vivid Star
110 Hopkins St, Footscray (map)
Phone:  9689 1888
Hours:  9.30am - 10.00pm, 7 days

Wheelchair Accessibility
Entry:  Small step to enter.
Layout:  Could accommodate if not busy.

View Footscrayfoodblog reviews in a larger map


  1. BYO seafood!? Oh, this place demands a visit! And thanks for the oblique tip on Huy Huy - I've wondered about it, but have yet to try it.

  2. You know you've made the big time when you get a mention on FFB.....15 minutes starts now.

    Oh and I want some Salt and pepper quail really badly.

  3. That is one odd "Hu Tieu Kho" if it's swimming in soup. "Kho" meant dry. They bring the dry noodle all mixed up in sauce, with a small bowl of soup on the side.

    Was Vivid Star previously located near the Footscray train station?

  4. The menu looks interesting with the diagrams?? Ive never seen that before. I also love the prices of Vietnamese places, so affordable

  5. Hung - that would be my utter ignorance of Vietnamese rather than Vivid Star's fault! I probably wrote down the wrong name. :S

    I don't think it was located near the station. Thien An used to be on the station side and moved to bigger premises across the road.

  6. Ooo a new place to try out! I find the eatery's name quite *koff* silly, but will still def give it a go!

  7. I caught sight of this place the other day. I think because it is a very blue colour! I'll just have to add that to my growing list of eateries!! the quail looks delish!

  8. excellent resource. and awesome reviews!
    if you get a chance check my blog out too, living in yarraville and just shooting photos of stuff nearby, and afar... good for a bit of timewasting anyway.

  9. I'm glad someone else is as obsessed about quail as I am, esp when it's deep fried!I eat all the bones and all

  10. Hi all and thank you! Dale, thanks for the link to your blog and the compliment. Adrian, did you see Grab Your Fork's recent Filipino food adventures with the deep-fried goodies like chicken intestines and chicken skin?! Wow!

  11. So glad you gave them a try. Nearly pee-ed my pants when I saw my name and spring roll quote, how funny! Thanks Lauren

  12. just had dinner here as we always end up at hao phong or sapa hills and figured it is high time we try something else!

    had the vietnamese seafood salad - SO fresh and delicious, perfectly cooked squid, meaty scallops and gorgeous prawns. also tried the beef with chilli and lemongrass along with rice vermicilli stirfied with salted fish and chicken. what a gorgeous meal!!! thanks so much for the recommendation. glad we can add a new place to the repertoire.

    ps finished the meal with an amazing 10 minute neck massage at the cute new chinese massage place ("origins chinese massage") across the street from footscray market, on hopkins. give it a go! they are a lovely chinese couple from shenyang, they JUST opened in the past few weeks and they've done zero advertising.

  13. Danielle I am so glad. I wish they would take all the photos out of the window though, it is serious overkill - you cannot see out if you are eating in there now!

    How cool is the Chinese massage place - something different! I got their flyer. Next creche day, belly full of banh canh - I am SO THERE. :)


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