Go Viet

by Nick Harman - Wednesday July 26, 2017 4:07 pm

53 Old Brompton Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 3JS vietnamfood.co.uk/go-viet

Go Viet! someone said, and not being averse to Vietnamese food that’s exactly what Nick did. But was it worth voyaging all the way to South Ken?

‘I’m outside the Lamborghini showroom,’ texted J, ‘deciding which one to put a down payment on.’ I thought he might be joking but you never know, he does like his cars.

I was on the bus myself, part of my new austerity programme which not only cuts costs but makes it possible to work whilst travelling as well as, in this case, see into the bedrooms of people far richer than me. This is less edifying than I had hoped, an awful lot of swags and flounces, it appears.

Go Viet is just next door to the Lambo showroom, which is where I found J busy misting up the windows with the hot breath of lust. I can’t see the attraction myself, they are gaudy, showy things that are defeated by even the smallest of speed humps and wider than most London streets.

Unsticking him from the glass I got him inside Go Viet, which is decidedly unshowy. Simple tables, simple decoration but a menu I’ve been told that takes Vietnamese food into ‘fine-dining’ territory. Danger, danger Will Smith!.

Chef/Patron Jeff Tan has made a success of VietFood in Chinatown, perhaps not surprising as he has worked at Hakkasan so is clearly no amateur. His Soho restaurant is classic Vietnamese, but at Go Viet his intention is to serve a modern interpretation of a Vietnamese menu and that means, amongst other things, pricier ingredients and stylish presentation. The menu is arranged as starters, meat, seafood, vegetables and a special pho section

We intended to forego the pho, thinking it would fill us up, but then decided to share one. This was a kind of mistake as it’s pretty hard to share a pho, particularly the noodles, but I wanted was to get a taste of the broth.

It was a delicate one, made the menu said from sixteen hours slow boiled beef-bone-marrow. Those who like their ramen or Kingsland Road phos would, I think, find this broth too subtle, but I found it to be like a fine French consommé and not a street food kick in the face.

Wiping ourselves down from the inevitable Pho splashback, it really is a most undignified dish,  we ate the  bi-Mat tomatoes described as “Vietnamese olives”. These were basically small plum tomatoes that had been marinated for 10 hours in ten different Vietnamese herbs. Whoever has the job of skinning these boys has our massive respect, what fiddly work that must be. They’re very addictive nibbles though and deeply flavoured.

Everyone likes ribs, or so we’re told, and we liked our Saigon Pork ribs, the meat falling off the bone and very well flavoured in a way that lifted them above those predictable USA style ribs. The herbs and sauce also helped make them special.

The flavour in fact was so good it spoilt us for the carpaccio scallops, which were so delicate it would probably have been best to have eaten them before anything else. Spankingly fresh and thinly sliced, they were certainly very sophisticated - you wouldn’t be eating this dish at any old street stall, except perhaps South Molton Street.

We also succumbed to the lure of the mini appetizers platter, Vietnamese summer rolls clearly assembled to order, perfectly chilled and swollen out with lots of prawns that could be glimpsed pinkly through the pearly translucent skin. Also very good  were Cha La Lot, grilled betel leaf wrapped around beef, and a Vietnamese spring roll that was super-crispy and very happy to be dunked into the bowl of accompanying sauce.

Prawns made a star appearance in another dish, large grilled ones that had been robustly skewered on lemongrass ‘sticks’, these had an endearing smokiness and were coated in crunchy shallot and garlic, which made for a fun texture contrast. A sweet-and-sour plum fish sauce was perfect with them

Star dish though was the one of lamb chops, marinated, rolled up tight and then seared on the grill, these were just perfect. To make them even better, or ‘take them to the next level’ as people annoyingly say nowadays, each had a pipette of fish sauce ready to let you deploy even more salty, umami goodness onto the meat. If you try nothing else, you should try these.

Dessert was no let down. J’s Shades of Green was something to behold, a coconut shell filled with a green something. I say ‘something’ as I didn’t taste it and J could not name it, but he did say it was creamy and delicious.

My own ‘Go’ Brule was not remarkable but it was enjoyable. Get the top crisp and the custard creamy and I’m happy.

For those who like to bore on about their gap year in Vietnam, boasting how they knocked the locals down from 50p a meal to around 5p, ‘because we’re not tourists, yeh?’, the food may be too finessed.

I liked it a lot, so I’d say, as you probably predicted, ‘Go!’

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