With a menu offering enticing Vietnamese fare, the CBD sibling of this St Kilda darling is one sequel that’s as good as the original
Vietnamese delights at Uncle Collins St.
UNCLE COLLINS ST: REVIEWED BY DAN STOCK
AFTER three years of blissfully plying St Kilda with chicken wings splashed with Maggi sauce, crispy pig’s ear banh mi and lychee-flavoured cocktails, Rene Spence and Dai Duong have doubled down and opened a second Uncle, this time in the CBD.
Located at the top end of town, this is no sophomore slump. Instead Uncle version two is polished and assured. The handsome space has just enough blonde wood and cane to evoke Da Nang, while the elevated vantage through wide open windows of the treetops of Collins St keeps things very Melbourne.
In the kitchen, Duong isn’t just trotting out the hits, either. Apart from the Maggi bottle, clever mini bowls of pho and a couple of other dishes, it’s all new. And great.
He’s barrel-ageing his own fish sauce, which gives tang to an alluring salad of burrata served with a rainbow of tomatoes. Puffed rice adds crunch and Thai basil provides aniseed heat. It’s clever, original and accomplished.
Even better, the “tongue and cheek”, where batons of rich pulled pork in curd skin that’s fried to a crisp are served with slivers of equally decadent charmarked tongue. A chilli and coriander salad keeps that cheek in check.
Raw kingfish gets a tropical makeover, with diced longan adding juicy freshness to tamarind-tempered coconut foam and crushed wasabi, while sesame adds nutty texture.
Candied anchovies are an interesting addition to a tumble of snake beans and green mango that comes with rounds of wobbly tofu. The hidden heat of scud chillies makes reaching for another cold can of Bia Ha Noi or glass of Boomtown White even easier, which Spence’s switched-on team delivers swiftly.
The culmination of lessons learnt over the past three years results in a CBD winner. Say Uncle.
From top: the exotic interior, the “tongue and cheek” with bean with longan.