Top End chef David Taylor gives you a taste of the good tucker to be found in the Territory
ADDRESS: 11 Knuckey Street, Darwin CBD PHONE: 8941 5555 OWNER and CHEF: Mahn Hoang ENTREES: $8 to $10 MAINS: $22 to $40 LUNCH SPECIALS: $15 OPEN: Every day for lunch and dinner STAR QUALITY: 4.4/5
RECENTLY rebranded from the Bangkok Hut, Chef Hoang chose the iconic symbol of the conical hat worn by Vietnamese women, the Non La, as the new name for his beloved restaurant. Hoang is a seasoned and very experienced chef who hails from Ho Chi Minh City.
There he worked in the top ranking hotels in South Vietnam, the Caravelle and Continental in District One.
He also spent four years in Italy. He has formally trained in Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, French and Italian cuisines.
He has been wooing us in Darwin with his stunning food for awhile now.
We are starting to see more Vietnamese dishes appear on the offerings, and there will be more to come. Good change is like a slow moving caterpillar — just let it happen without pushing it and a beautiful butterfly will emerge.
I find myself returning here to recheck and retaste the chef’s incredible pho (pronounced “fur”). It is simply the best — bar none in my opinion.
In fact, friends who came up from Adelaide for the weekend insisted to return for a bowl of goodness. One of them was from Hanoi, and said it’s easier to get to Darwin than Hanoi for a decent bowl of pho. The lengths we go to for a good feed! What a testament to his craft.
On this day I decided to try the new spiced pork chops for lunch. Served with rice and a wonderful dunking sauce.
The chops were tender, lightly spiced as expected and a touch sweet.
In typical Vietnamese fashion, understated joy on a plate.
This is another exceptional value $15 lunch special.
Another had the renowned pho with beef and extra beef balls. Still the same, and that is comforting. Don’t mess with perfection. But then again, don’t trust my opinion — have some yourself and see what we are all on about.
Looking around us was clear confirmation that Chef Hoang is also very respected by the Vietnamese community who outnumbered “incidentals” two to one.
A dear friend was in town and was hanging out for laksa — he grew up here and finds the pretend laksas in Sydney brash and sickly sweet.
My friend travels the globe for work and always pushes his schedule to get into Darwin as often as he can. Laksa is one of the main reasons for his return.
So he held his own plebiscite and declared Non La and Chef Hoang’s laksa the best.
It was an honest and true vote of one, but that is all that is needed.
It is now official: Non La boasts the best pho and laksa in the whole universe. If you have any doubt, put your buds on the line and give them a go!
Owner of Non La Restaurant Marh Hoary and Thuy Nguyen with one of their dishes Picture: KERI MEGELUS
The best pho in town (above) and delicious laksa (left) and Non La Vietnamese restaurant