Entering into Mai Kitchen, we were welcomed by Tien (Mai and Vinh's daughter) who firstly provided us with a choice of seating arrangements (bookings not required). We chose to sit at a table for two, next to a window looking out onto Vinh's beautifully landscaped pathway fronting the ample car park in this peaceful suburban backstreet of Ferryden Park.
(clockwise from left to right) fresh pennywort drink; Hanoi style spring rolls & Vietnamese pancakes; Mai Kitchen's brilliant menu; Mai's signature dish: Vietnamese spiced quails
My friend and I were intrigued by the menu which showcased Vietnam's Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences which are part of Vietnamese culture.
For starters, we dined on Hanoi-style spring rolls, Vietnamese pancake (we chose the pork and prawns filling - vegetarian or chicken fillings are alternative options) and Vietnamese spiced quails.
The spring rolls and pancake were accompanied by lettuce leaves, Vietnamese herbs and dipping sauces - the quail was accompanied by Mai's own lemon pepper dipping sauce.
Tien guided us through the traditional Vietnamese custom of placing the spring roll (or pancake) and herbs on the lettuce leaf and rolling it up before dipping and eating.
We instantly felt healthy and fulfilled - eating with our hands (the most suitable 'cutlery' for our starters) served to connect us to Vietnam's cuisine and culture. Our waitress, Oanh explained the health benefits of the fresh Vietnamese herbs which included mint and red perilla.
Mai Kitchen also offers diners the opportunity to make their own cold rolls from a variety of fillings which I aim to try on my next visit.
Mai Kitchen - main course: clay pot rice; salt & pepper squid. For dessert: coconut flan (crème caramel infused with coconut flavours); banana sago
For mains, Tien recommended clay pot rice and salt and pepper squid.
The clay pot rice consisted of steamed rice, served in a piping hot clay pot with a combination of Chinese sausage, mushrooms, BBQ marinated pork and chicken, topped by egg which was mixed through prior to serving. The salt and pepper squid was tender and the batter was crisp, golden and light.
By this stage we were happily sated - as a result Mai's generous serves of delectable quality produce but we just couldn't pass on a dessert of coconut flan and banana sago. The coconut flan (pictured above) is a Vietnamese crème caramel, infused with coconut flavours.
Keen to taste a traditional Vietnamese beverage, I settled on a freshly made pennywort drink (best described as the Vietnamese equivalent to wheatgrass juice) and can honestly say I enjoyed its unique flavour - especially given its medicinal uses include purifying the blood, curing nervous conditions and improving memory.
Mai and Vinh's son Dan is proud and passionate about his Vietnamese heritage and happily provided us with a tour of the restaurant where subtle and tasteful attention to detail was evident inside and out. Ensuring Mai Kitchen stays true to its roots, mementos and beautiful paintings of Vietnam's regions can be viewed throughout the restaurant and there's a tranquil rear courtyard where guests can relax and unwind.
Group bookings are welcome - if you're planning celebrations of any kind, I recommend you visit Mai Kitchen. BYO is available at $2.50 per person (no limit/charge on number of bottles).
Mai Kitchen succeed in delivering the complete package of Vietnamese culture (not just cuisine) - I've never travelled overseas and must say that after visiting Mai Kitchen, I walked away feeling like I had!
For those of you who have travelled to Vietnam and are longing to reminisce and regain the flavours and culture of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, I highly recommend Mai Kitchen - where you will be welcomed and attentively treated as a valued customer.