The Year of the Monkey
By Franz Scheurer
Minh nien khai but, but khai hoa
Van su giai thanh, phu quy da
Da tu Da ton, Da phuc loc
Dac tai dac loi dac danh gia
In the New Year we wish you
That ten thousand of your wishes may come true
That you will be healthy and happy
That you will prosper and success would be with you
“Tet” (New Year) is the most important celebration in Vietnam and Tri and Lanna Tran’s New Year’s Banquets do it justice. (You might as well try and reserve a place now for next year; it’s the only way you’ll get in… if you’re lucky!)
Last night’s banquet started with ‘Goi xoai thit bo’, a salad of green mango, kohlrabi, beef and Vietnamese mint, topped with deep-fried shallots. Perfectly balanced, this sweet, salty, sour and mildly hot salad convinced with its freshness and, although rather challenging for the wine, (I brought a Clos Clare Riesling to start with) it started the juices flowing. This was followed by ‘Banh cuon Ca Hoi’, a steamed rice paper roll, stuffed with fresh salmon, basil, and mushrooms and served with coconut milk, salmon roe and ‘nuoc mam’. What a fabulous dish! Soft, alluring, mild, yet full of velvety textures with impossibly long-lingering flavours.
The next dish is a ‘Tom ram’, consisting of braised prawns with their tomalley served with tiny, fresh snow peas on a circle of steamed Jasmine rice. The rather feral aromas transform to strong, yet approachable flavours in the mouth and prepare you for the ‘Chim cut’, the marinated quail served with salad. Now this has to be the ‘Kentucky Fried’ poultry dish of Vietnam. It’s obviously naughty, full of fat, covered in a crisp, deep-fried coating and served with a little salad to make you feel less guilty.
The traditional main course of ‘Thit mo dua hanh ben banh Tet’, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf, very slow cooked then sliced and pan fried and served with caramelised pork and Vietnamese pickles is a wonderfully rich and satisfying dish with the pickles cutting through the richness and leaving you happy and sated. Our bottle of Picardy, Tête the Cuvée didn’t work with the food (and I suspect that the generally ‘flat’ flavours we experienced, which is not at all what this wine is normally like, might have been due to very mild cork taint) but a Mudgee Shiraz from Huntington Estate did the job admirably.
Finishing with fresh fruit we rolled out of the place after having put our name down for next year!
Tri, you have earned a ride on your Harley Davidson and Lanna, anyone who loves pushbikes as much as you do must be a masochist, but please keep up the good work! Thank you and congratulations on a terrific night!
For more information or bookings:
Tel.: 02 9969 9275