Monday, January 28, 2013

Bia Hoi pop-up Vietnamese @ Small Block, Brunswick

After reading the tongue-in-cheek blog post tweeted by @JohnandNecia on Twitter this morning, and seeing timing is of the essence, I thought I would wax lyrical about the Cohen's of Brunswickistan impromptu dinner last night at the über schick pop-up eatery at Small Block Café on Lygon - Bia Hoi.

You see, 18 months ago, the Cohen's ventured off to Vietnam for a month long trip south to north, eating everything from crickets to rats to little un-born ducks still in their  egg - thank God I ticked that off my bucket list!! Yes, Vietnam, seems so long ago.

So, to last night. I only really found out about the joint yesterday afternoon, and seeing it is located at Small Block, owned by the always busy Mr Brunswick himself, Michael Hole, I thought the only thing to do was drag the family down for some flavour. And seeing the restaurant is called Bia Hoi, what else would a world famous blogger wear to said eatery then their very own 'Bia Hoi' t-shirt all the way from downtown Hanoi. Classy hey?

We walk through the door and the place is full. And walking out of the kitchen resplendent in her Vietnamese flag t-shirt is the all round good chick Chantelle, formerly of Vue de monde (along with me), Cutler & Co. and numerous other fine eateries. After a big old bear hug in the middle of the place and ruffling of hair by said Chantelle to the little Cohen's, we were seated out back with three lemonades and a glass of Brunswick's finest Thunder Road Brewery Kolsch;  so Vietnamese and so Brunswick.

So, the food. It's a short menu. It's actually a shortish piece of brown paper with menu items scribbled on. Remember, it's a pop-up restaurant. With a confident 'yes' from Erin, we ordered everything on the menu; Roast Pork Rolls, Prawn rice paper rolls, steamed eggplant, Green papaya salad and chicken ribs (chicken wings?) with sponge laffa. And only one photo of the dishes all splayed around the table. I cannot stand the incessant shutter bugs constantly trying to get the best angle of a lamb shank - its food people.

The pork buns were more like pork sliders, but even so they were awesome. oursum. 'Tastes yum' quote unquote from my almost 8 year old daughter Imogen. So yum in fact that I had to go and pay a visit to the always smiling Tommy in the kitchen; Tommy of St. Judes, Albert Street Food & Wine (with me again) and recently The Middle Park Hotel where he was charring meat fame. After a few minutes of blah blahs it was back to the table to take Henry to the toilet for the 3rd time and continue on with dinner.

The green papaya salad was as authentic as I remember from the numerous times ordered on our trip to Vietnam. Crunch and heat and crunch; that's what you want. That's what we got. The rice paper rolls, well I'm not sure. These were hoovered up - two plates worth (three per serve) by Imogen and her brother Henry. They looked great so you'll have to take my word for it, or ask the kids; just don't freak them out is all.

The steamed eggplant for me was the most surprising. On the plate it looked just like eggplant; poor eggplant. But when you stuff it in your gob and get the texture of the fried bits of prawn and a touch of heat it turns in to this flavour mash and explosion that quite rightly sexes up the appearance of it on the plate. You get that?

Bia Hoi is the brainchild of Peter - your amiable host -  and I assume others who are working there too. I don't have the chutzpah like other bloggers to corner the proprietor and ask them 20 questions ranging from where'd you get your inspiration to where'd you get your fabulous pants??!! So get on down I say. Bia Hoi is only open on Thursday and Sunday nights from about 6ish running till March 24th - perfect timing for all the food sycophants coming for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. And they only accept the folding stuff - no cards people. (All food and bevvies were duly paid for by and on behalf of the Cohen's of Brunswickistan.)

So seeing I'm blogging about Bia Hoi, I think I have to give it a gold birk.

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