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

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

Viet­namese de­lights at Un­cle Collins St.


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.

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