Vietnam House restaurant and café is located outside the Woden Westfield Shopping Centre, 20 minutes south of the city. It is on the same walkway as Chong Co Thai restaurant, Chinese Kitchen Dumping House and Au Lac Asian Vegetarian restaurant, so it is in good company with other popular restaurants nearby. This Vietnamese restaurant is one of the more casual eateries, so you can easily pop in for a delicious lunch whilst doing your shopping, or stop for a meal if you work nearby. I have personally stopped there a few times to read the menu, however, to be honest, it is a little overwhelming if you don't know what to try in Vietnamese cuisine. There are 113 dishes on the menu (yes, 113!) with the Vietnamese name of the dishes listed as well as the English description - and they all sound delicious!
On a rainy weekday lunchtime, I once again stopped to read the menu and wished that I had someone to recommend a dish to try. As if my mind had been read, a friendly waiter walked by, gave me a smile and said "Number 15 is the best seller!" That was all that I needed to take a seat, settle in and try something new...
I learnt that "number 15" was "Bun Cha Gio Va Thit Nuong" - which is "Rice Vermicelli with Spring Rolls, BBQ Pork and Salad". As I sat and waited, I noticed that many of the local workers who were coming in for lunch were ordering the same meal - the mysterious "number 15". The waiter had warned me that it was addictive and he was right - it clearly had the locals coming back for more.
Before long, my "number 15" arrived, looking larger and even more impressive than I had even imagined. The friendly waiter, who really made my whole dining experience, suggested I pour the entire bowl of dressing over the whole meal, which I did. He also put a small bowl of chillies on my table, so I could adjust the heat to my taste.
Enjoy the crunch of the fried shallots and flaky spring rolls
If you choose this dish on your visit to Vietnam House, don't expect to linger over every bite - it doesn't last long. The sweet Vietnamese dressing had just the right amount of light chilli, the fried shallots on top added a satisfying crunch, the BBQ pork was beautifully tender, the vegetables were crisp and the spring rolls were full of crunch and flavour. Although the amount of chilli was perfectly suited to my taste - I could still feel the chilli tingle on my lips and tongue long after I left - you can easily add more flavour to the meal if you like your meals to be hot. It is easy to see how this dish would be a best seller - I could eat this every day and never get bored. It is tasty, light, healthy and leaves you feeling full, without feeling uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, another popular dish amongst the locals was the traditional Vietnamese specialty Pho...
Pho - another popular option at Vietnamese House. Images: Original photos from Vietnam House Facebook
While sitting and enjoying the range of meals on offer, the restaurant itself is a happy and bustling venue to relax in. The authentic Vietnamese light fittings, hanging lanterns and flashes of green and bamboo create a fresh and light ambience to the inside dining area. Although I don't often sit and have lunch by myself in a restaurant, this venue is more like a casual eatery and I instantly felt comfortable at my corner table, looking around at the comings and goings of this busy local favourite.
When I left and paid, I thanked the waiter for his suggestion and he recommended that next time I come back to try the "number 21", or "Com Ga Nuong Xa Ot" (Steamed Rice with Grilled Chicken and Lemon Grass and Chilli) which sounded equally as good. With 113 choices on the menu, I'll be back to try more than just one...