Is this the West End's best Vietnamese restaurant?
Hardgrave Road in West End has three Vietnamese restaurants along that short strip of restaurants, but the award-winning Trang Restaurant stands out from the crowd. Serving a combination of Vietnamese, Chinese and fusion dishes, most people will find something that suits their tastes or mood.
I think most readers will know about Hargrave Road in West End, but if you don't, it is a strip of restaurants set away from the main and more famous area of restaurants. Not only are there are great selection of restaurants here, but as it is away from the rest of the action, parking is always easier.
The relationship between Vietnamese & Chinese cuisine
Many Vietnamese restaurants in Australia serve both Vietnamese and Chinese food, with some fusion cuisine as well. The reason for this is complex, but it comes down to the fact that many Chinese people, especially from Guangdong province, also known as Canton, migrated to various parts of Asia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They took with them the delicious Cantonese food and established restaurants in countries like Vietnam.
At the end of the Vietnam war, many of the Vietnamese refugees fleeing the country were Chinese/Vietnamese. So when they arrived in Australia, they set up restaurants. In addition, in the early days, they were advised by banks and business advisors to call their restaurants Chinese restaurants, as Australians didn't know what Vietnamese food was. So it has long been the case the Vietnamese restaurants in Australia also serve Chinese food.
Of course, both Vietnamese and Cantonese food is delicious, so of course, many Vietnamese restaurants serve both. Patrons to Vietnamese restaurants also expect to find those Chinese dishes in the restaurant. Vietnamese people will often make variations that include Vietnamese influences in the food.
About Trang Restaurant
The restaurant has been a Hargrave Road staple for many years, but in the last few years, it has been taken over by new management who have raised it to new heights as a family run business that involves three generations, from the 84-year-old grandmother Ly, two sisters and three sons. This is a family that is able to combine tradition and innovation in running the restaurant, with Huyen running the kitchen, Maria/Huong running the business, and the sons not just helping, but bringing new ideas to the business.
I talked to one of the sons, Phong, who explained how they try new ideas to see what works with their patrons. They are interested in experimentation and innovation to constantly develop the business. If you are returning to visit the restaurant, I would suggest asking about what is new on offer.
So what's good in the restaurant
Patrons in the restaurant go for about a 50/50 mix of Vietnamese and Chinese food. During lunch, the Vietnamese food is much more popular, with light meals like noodle salad, rice paper rolls and of course bowls of Vietnamese pho noodles.
Visiting in winter, they recommended one of the hot pots. For those who haven't tried Vietnamese hot pots before, they are a hot and sour flavour, a bit like (not the same as) a Thai tom yum. For Brisbane tastes, they are served mildly hot with a side serving of chopped chilli. You can add the chilli to the pot, or if you are sharing it with someone who doesn't like their food too spicy, then you can just add it to your own bowl.
The other dish I tried was the black pepper beef sizzling plate. This Vietnamese/Chinese dish uses beef marinated in a more Vietnamese style than you would find in a Chinese restaurant. In winter, of course, the best advantage is that it is served hot on a hot plate.
Another dish that both the owners and a friend of mine recommends is the deep-fried salt and pepper quail. Something that goes well with a beer on a summer's day.
Speaking of beer, they have ordered both Saigon and Hanoi beers and they should be available soon. I would recommend the Saigon beer as I am not impressed by the Hanoi one. They also have a selection of common Asian and Australian beers on offer. Wine is BYO. There are a wide range of Asian and local soft drinks, and of course, Vietnamese drink coffee.
Breakfast coming soon
They are considering adding a breakfast service. None of the restaurants on Hardgrave Road do breakfast, despite it being a good place to eat food before jumping on the bus to the city in the morning and there are plenty of businesses around the area. So breakfast should prove to be popular.
Function, event & entertainment space
They have also acquired the space next door and have expanded the restaurant to include a second room which can be booked for events or is open to diners when it is not booked. This area is accessible for the main restaurant, but also has its own entrance for private events. It has its own little bar and is beautifully decorated.
Decorations in the function room at the Trang Restaurant
Trang Restaurant is a great option for Vietnamese, Chinese and Vietnamese/Chinese cuisine run by a family that has been running restaurants since in the 1980s. They are always innovating and developing their menus based on customer tastes. The number of regular customers is proof of the quality of food and service.
I'm envious Roy. Victoria Street in Melbourne was famous for its Vietnamese restaurants having about ten with quality food at reasonable prices. Now spoilt as the area has become the drug centre of Melbourne. Neil.