Dec 17, 2012

Co Do

Great Vietnamese place!

Prices Entrees $5.50-$9; mains $9-$20.
Daily, 9am-10pm.

Location

196 Victoria St
Richmond, VIC 3121
Tel: 03 9421 2418

Got great review from The Age by Matt Preston.  See below:


THE best meal I ate in 2007 was in the old Vietnamese imperial city of Hue. The dinner was a culmination of three days of hiring dragon boats to cruise the Perfume River, and the contrast of fighting the tourist hordes at the temples and summer palaces, then exploring the derelict abandoned tombs of the lesser royalty.

We ate endless pho and hunted down the address of a suburban hotel where, in the basement, a local woman cooked us dishes from the old imperial cookbooks — strange intricate dishes with names such as phoenix rising and gems such as rice paper rolls that all came impaled on toothpicks like some sort of Vietnamese version of the '70s cocktail party favourite, the cheese and pineapple "hedgehog".

It was a meal in a private garden restaurant where you eat in garden rooms filled with Vietnamese antiques that blew us away. Here we ate such eye-popping dishes as pork braised in a fish sauce caramel and a local take on "ba lo lop", the thin slices of beef cooked at the table on a terracotta tile resting on hot embers and then wrapped in what were translated as lemon myrtle leaves.

The sight of Hue's famous pagoda at the Buddhist temple of Thien Mu on the cover of the menu at Co Do brought this flooding back. Inside this cover there are neither swatches of beef cooked over coals, nor any strange mythical creatures. Instead specialities range from Vietnamese vermicelli in a broth flavoured with preserved fish or beef loaf served in a chilli soup, to classics such as good crispy spring rolls to wrap with hot mint and iceberg lettuce leaves, Vietnamese salt and pepper calamari that is springy under a crunchy batter golden from cornflour, and a number of predictable suburban Chinese favourites.

The look is like many along Victoria Street, with '80s chairs, white Laminex table tops worn grey from wiping, and faux parquet floor. Designer touches include an orange-panelled ceiling, the pink and wicker pendant shades and the sort of art depicting Vietnamese scenes that might be found in a Vietnamese Rotary amateur art show. The walls are a colour that once was called ox blood, which is fitting as their Hue version of pho comes with the option of pork blood in the clean tasting broth, alongside a sort of rice flour spaghetti, swags of beef and pork, and slices of a sort of meat loaf made from both.

Other less usual specialities here include little white steamed and starchy pancakes. These are topped with a crumbly dust of fried prawns and what tastes like neutral yellow split peas. Even more unusual are Co Do's pork and prawn cakes, which are as far removed from a CWA sponge as you could be.

Little parcels of banana leaf are filled with a translucent and bouncy filling around whole shrimps.

"You won't like it," says the owner when we order it, and certainly it's a fairly stinky representation of the world of the orangey-pink crustaceans, and one that needs a copious dunk into the accompanying salty hot syrup to pull the shrimps' funkiness into line.

These are unlike anything I tasted in central Vietnam, which makes me think that I need to get back there soon to find out what sort of other culinary treasures I missed. I suppose "there" could be either Co Do or Hue!

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