"So what's the plan for tonight, where do we want to eat?"

"I really feel like a Vietnamese soup, let's try the place on the corner of William and Brisbane st"

"Are you sure, I never see anyone in that place, pretty sure it's just a front for drug money"

I was assured that it wasn't and in fact as it turned out it wasn't even the place I was thinking of, Tra Vinh is a few buildings further down Brisbane st. I'd actually wanted to eat in this place for ages, it's nearly always packed, that's a good sign.

Tonight though it was only 3/4 full so the three of us managed to get a table. 60 seconds after we sat down a waitress thrust herself upon us asking us if we wished to place our order? I was still getting my coat off, Gaz had actually opened his menu and Waz was staring at the cover of his. "Probably gonna need a few more minutes" I said. No doubt she figured us as amateur Vietnamese soup eaters, surely we'd know what we wanted before we got there.

We then made a bit of a mistake, Waz and I decided we'd have an entree. Gaz declined, it was as if he had eaten here before and he knew, he simply knew. Tra Vinh is simple Vietnamese fare and the entree section in places like this are really only put there to appease the stray Anglo client who happens to wander in. Entrees don't really feature much in Asian cuisine, at least not in the same way as they do in western cuisine, this is reflected in the standard choices on offer of wantons, spring rolls and satays.

Being very Anglo we soldiered on with the charade, I chose the chicken satay and Waz the wantons. Now the wantons arrived first, pretty fair to say that they had been "fried the shit out of". Two minutes later out came my satay....


You can see from the pic that I was unsure if I had ordered satay sticks or satay soup. It really didn't matter in the end as the only resemblance to satay in this dish was....well there wasn't any. The sauce was tasteless and I'm really not sure what it was actually made with, gel like in consistency and impossible to wipe up with a paper napkin, strange! The chicken itself was dry and overcooked and why there were slices of tinned mango on top, well I'll never really know. It wasn't off to a good start. But you really shouldn't judge a place like this by their crappy Anglo orientated entrees should you?

Within 60 seconds of my satay floater arriving the soups came out, the idea of a gap between entree and main just doesn't float here, however, my satay sticks certainly floated....okay enough of the satay jokes already. It's not that we were surprised by the immediacy of the mains, we 3 eat out a lot, we're used to it and in fact tonight we welcomed the speed of their arrival. Now this is where Tra Vinh gets it pretty alright. Waz chose a crispy skin chicken noodle soup, Gaz I think a meat and noodle soup (correct me if I got that wrong Gaz, I know that piece of something or other you chose not to eat was definitely offal of some sort) and I had the braised duck noodle soup.

365 Days | Day 227

That's my braised duck soup in the foreground, it was served with a rather dry and crusty looking leg of duck which once attacked fell away from the bone beautifully and really had a lovely flavour. I chose to break it up and add the meat to my soup. Waz chose to throw his chicken straight in, bones and all. He decided soon after, that he'd chosen wrong. Gaz had no bones. That deadly looking bowl of chillies mid frame looked so deadly that I wasn't game to add any of it to my food, nor was anyone else for that matter.

Tra Vinh

The soups are good, the broths tasty and the ingredients fresh. At $44 for all of the above it's pretty cheap as well. Would I head back? Yes definitely, would I order an entree? Hell no!

Tra Vinh on Urbanspoon


mooiness said…
Try the stuffed chicken wing next time, or the fresh/fried spring rolls. Definitely gonna be better than the swimming-in-sauce satay that you have.

Typically, you only ever want to order satay in a Malaysian or Singaporean restaurant because it came from there and they do it proper. :)
Stu said…
agreed, it really was a "what were we thinking moment"
Stu said…
that reminds me, I once worked with a Malaysian student (back in my chef days) and he gave the most amazing recipe for a satay sauce. Made with galangal and a whole pile of interesting ingrediants, sadly I lost it when my house was robbed and they grabbed a back pack of mine which had my recipe book in it. 10 years of great recipes GONE!!
tiff said…
Holycow, that satay entree! It's so bad i laughed out loud. Sad to say in my 10 years here i haven't tasted an authentic satay sauce. I think i stopped trying 5 years ago. I leave the satay cravings to when i'm back home. :)