March 18, 2012
It’s starting to get a little scary how quickly new food ventures in Melbourne are jumped on with enthusiastic gusto by the food-conscious populace. A while back I noticed a roller-door on High Street in Prahran emblazoned in big red spray-painted letters with the words “Hanôi Hannah”. “Hmm, that looks like it might be something interesting,” I thought. I later found out through some internet noodling that it was to be a new Vietnamese restaurant. “Oooh, south-side Vietnamese, that’s a savvy move, I hope it’s going to be good.” A few weeks later I drove past on the way to trivia and saw it was finally open. “Oh yay, I’ll have to give it a peek.”
Then on a day very shortly after, I was doing some internet doodling, and *ping!* up on Twitter popped up a new tweet from Broadsheet… reviewing Hanôi Hannah.
Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. I messaged Muffin. “We have to go have dinner tonight at a new Vietnamese place in Prahran because Broadsheet’s just reviewed it and now the trendies know about it and from now on there’s going to be queues and I hate queues and waaaaaah…”*
“Alright, alright! Vietnamese it is.”
Hanôi Hannah is in a teeny tiny space, easily picked out from the street with it’s halo of red and yellow stringed lights, and my prediction of queues was bang on. Make sure you get there EARLY. Muffin and I arrived at a little past 6.30 and got some of the last seats in the place out on the pavement. A queue formed very shortly after, and existed for the remainder of our visit. In the weeks since our visit, I have never been past it without seeing a substantial number of people waiting to get in, so beware fellow folks with a dearth of patience!
We pretty much ended up ordering all the vegetarian dishes available on the menu to share, bar the spring rolls. Our waitress, who was a bubbly delight, said “That’s pretty much what I had for lunch today, you’re going to love it!”
The tofu and shiitake rice paper rolls were filled with julienned pickled cucumber and carrot slices, and Vietnamese mint. Served with them was a thick, brown dipping sauce reminiscent of hoisin. They were very fresh, there was no hardening or crusting of the rice wrappers, which is a good indication that they are made to order.
The winner dish of the evening was the steamed bok choy with ginger and sesame sauce, topped with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds. Sometimes there’s no other phrase to use for one’s enjoyment of a dish other than an exaggerated and ridiculous OM NOM NOM. So simple, and yet so freaking delicious.
We also had the peppered tofu with carrot, cucumbers, mint and what I think were the sliced up fleshy parts of either bok choy or gai lan. This had a nice little kick to it, with the tofu chunks nicely charred and peppery.
The last dish was a vermicelli noodle salad with tofu, carrot, cucumber and mint, in a light dressing that was probably mostly rice vinegar based. This was quite a plain dish, although light and reasonably refreshing on the tongue. It definitely could have benefited from some chopped up fresh chilli, though, or a whack of ginger. We did notice (too late) that there are jars of that outrageously spicy Vietnamese chilli paste available to spoon over dishes, but I am a little surprised that there doesn’t seem to be much fresh chilli going on.
As you all know, I find it hard to not to finish on a sweet note, so I ordered a pineapple and lychee slushie off of the drinks menu. Freshly blitzed up in a blender at the bar, it was sweet and refreshing, and I particularly liked that there was still the occasional little chunk of juicy lychee to be found in the mix.
While the vegetarian options are admittedly very samey when it comes to ingredients and I’d love to see a bit more variety developed in the future, I really can’t sniff at the freshness of everything we sampled at Hanôi Hannah, and especially it’s cheapness. It’s a tightly run ship with some very nice and engaging staff, and seems to have hit on a market for cheap Vietnamese that the south has been missing. Although whether I’ll have the patience to brave the queues in order to sample seconds, well, we’ll just have to see.
180 High Street, Prahran
Ph: 9939 5181
*I am well aware of the irony of a food blogger complaining about people wanting to get into new food places first. I make no claims towards us being a logical breed!