Than Nuong means charcoal, which is the secret to great Vietnamese food. The Than Nuong Vietnamese Restaurant in Wollongabba uses a charcoal pit and goes way beyond what your cheap local Vietnamese restaurant serves to deliver Vietnamese cuisine as fine dining.
About the Restaurant
The Than Nuong experience has created by David, who was born in northern Vietnam but grew up in Adelaide and now resides in Brisbane. Realising that Australians have fallen in love with fresh and healthy Vietnamese food, he wanted to let Brisbanites experience what the food can really taste like when the best ingredients are used with care to create a wonderful experience.
Than Nuong Charcoal Vietnamese Restaurant is worth checking out
The restaurant and bar is located along Logan Road in Woolloongabba. It is a little way from the main area, but you can find plenty of parking, either in the private parking behind the restaurant or, especially at night or on weekends, in the side streets.
There is private parking just behind the restaurant
The place has already found a local following with some people turning up on a regular basis for their weekly fix of deliciousness. Others are coming from further afield to enjoy the experience.
Terms like Vietnamese street food are often thrown around, but in reality, most of what we think of street food in Vietnam has long since moved off the streets and into restaurants of varying quality, both here in Australia and in Vietnam itself; with many high-end restaurants serving the same food, only with better ingredients, compared with the vendor on the street corner.
The core of the food is cooked at the charcoal pit. Dishes range from $22 up to $38, so this is not the sort of cheap noodle place you might find in Inala. Dishes include favourites like lemongrass chicken, beef and even kangaroo and venison. There are also pork balls, betel leaf beef and a nice steak option. For vegetarians, there is great vegetarian tofu.
The mains can be served in several ways, including with rice, with cold noodle squares (a very common Vietnamese way to eat noodles) or with rice paper so that you can wrap it up yourself (also a common option in Vietnam).
There are also a range of entrees, from rice paper rolls, chicken wings and soft shell crab. I would highly recommend the mixed entree plate to be shared between two people. If you want something a little more exotic, then there are the charcoal quails. Be aware though that the mains are pretty big servings, so you may want to avoid eating too much for the entree.
The salads could be used to round out your main meals, but they are pretty substantial in themselves, so can serve as a light meal, especially in summer. The prawn papaya salad will definitely be something Vietnamese people will seek out in the restaurant.
Of course, given that Vietnamese people are such noodle lovers, they have a selection of the Vietnamese beef noodles, Pho. The house specialty is the Hoi An pho, cooked in the style of that popular tourist town in the Da Nang region of central Vietnam.
Street Market in the famous tourist town of Hoi An
A lunchtime, they have some cheaper and smaller versions of these dishes, after all, most people don't want a large plate at lunch, or they will just want to sleep after eating rather than return to work.
There is also a selection of desserts that come served with exotic fruit. Remember that the serving sizes are large enough that you probably won't want entree, main and dessert. I would lean towards having an entree rather than dessert, but dessert lovers might skip the entree to leave room (or skip the main and just have dessert).
My dining experience
I was invited by the restaurant to sample their food and write a review. So of course, I asked my good friend from Da Dang to join me, you know, to check out the Vietnamese authenticity.
David served us with both the mixed entree plate and the quail. The platter was a delight of flavour, without overpowering you with flavours, so that you can taste the key fresh ingredients. The quail was good as well and will please fans of quail, though I think that the mix platter selection really provides the best entree option.
Mixed entree platter at Than Nuong Charcoal Vietnamese Restaurant
For the mains, I was served lemongrass chicken and my friend was given the Hoi An Pho, as this is the food from her hometown.
First of all the chicken was amazingly tender and wonderfully cooked. The spices and flavour were applied with a light touch, so that you can enjoy the chicken as it is or dip it in the provided sauce as needed. It went well with the cold noodle squares and I think this is the best option over eating this dish with rice. Remember, Vietnamese people generally eat more noodles than rice, so it is also a little more authentic.
The pho comes in a huge bowl. Now to eat pho properly you are provided with a side plate of extra ingredients and flavours you can add to the bowl to give it your preferred taste. My friend, who is Vietnamese, felt the flavour was already so perfect that little else needed to be added in. Not only was the soup great, there was a generous serving of perfectly cooked, tender beef. A meat lover would enjoy this dish as much as a noodle or soup lover.
The restaurant also serves a wide range of drinks. The Vietnamese beer options are between Hanoi or Saigon beer. Neither are particularly great beers (especially when you know the great locally made beers you can find around Vietnam). However, this is made up with a great selection of beers, ciders, wines and sake.
There are a wide selection of beers, wines and sake at the restaurant
The dishes have all been professionally matched with wines, so ask for the right wine to go with your meal. Drinking wine, of course, enhances the flavour of your meal, which is why the spices and flavours tend to be a light touch, but of course, if you don't pair them with wines, you are still provided with side sauces that let you add additional flavour to your personal taste. I am a spicy food lover but I think most of the food is best enjoyed as it is.
Of course, you can enjoy coffee as well, and if you haven't tried it before, I would recommend trying the Vietnamese coffee selections. These are drip coffees unique to that country and made from beans grown in the highlands. They can be enjoyed straight or with ice and condensed milk.
For my Vietnamese friend, it is definitely the best Vietnamese food experience she has had in Australia. This is food that reflects modern middle-class Vietnamese tastes using the best ingredients.
Than Nuong Charcoal Vietnamese Restaurant is worth checking out
For myself, this was a genuine fine dining experience, that stays true to its Vietnamese traditions. It is a restaurant worth crossing town to try and somewhere to take people to impress them with the culinary experience that David has created.