[HK] 邦美蜀越式工房 | Ban Me Thout Viet Bistro

Friday, October 05, 2012

Vietnamese cuisine ranks pretty high up on my priority 'eat-list' for it is reputably one of the healthiest cuisine in the world. Charmed by its minimal use of oil, Vietnamese cooking is admired for its fresh ingredients and reliance on herbs and vegetables such as lemongrass, mint, long coriander and basil leaves.

It took us quite a bit of effort before locating 'Ban Me Bistro' and after asking a few passer-bys, we finally managed to locate this inconspicuous eatery. With a really packed interior, the bistro could probably only seat about 15 people with just 5 tables. With sheer luck, a table was available without a queue, probably owed to us visiting just past the peak dining period at about 8.30pm.

Extra Spicy Chicken Feet Salad

Vietnamese salad is commonly regarded as 'Goi', and this cold appetizer was first served. It scored points on our checklist primarily for its array of 'ingredient colours'. Unfortunately upon tasting, it lacked severely in terms of offering that much desired burst of flavours expected. There was the option of choosing how spicy you want the dish to be, and we chose the spiciest of the lot. The dressing to the salad tasted little, if any, of the heat expected and quite frankly, it is only eating the sliced chillis that provided somewhat more of a kicker. Being an acquired taste itself, the boneless chicken feet coupled with the fresh vegetables provided a good disposition of texture and flavours. The only letdown was the lack of chilli heat to give that punch, as would have been expected from 'Extra Spicy'.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Savoury Lemongrass Boneless Pork Chop

The lemongrass pork chop certainly won me over. Notwithstanding a somewhat lacklustre serving appearance, the fragrance and flavours were overwhelming in a good manner. Sprinkled with some fried shallots, it can only enhance the dish. The pork chop was not overly cooked and tasted tender on the inside with a lightly pan-fried surface. 

The side offering of the white rice was no ordinary rice. Commonly referred to as 'Co'm Tam' (meaning broken cooked rice), cooked rice from fractured rice grains was served. Broken rice grains were obtained by sieving out from the whole grains. The fractured rice grains were owed to the transporting and processing of the rice from the field to the pot. Though offered usually as a cheaper alternative to the poorer consumers, the use of broken rice in this context provided a varied texture due to the different size and shape of the grains.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Beef Pho

One thing for sure, the serving size of the beef pho was massive! The usual condiments such as basil and spring onion were present but what made the dish commendable was the semi-cooked beef. It was served as stated, meant to be cooked subsequently by the hot broth. The rice noodles were cooked to al dente and  tasted smooth. It was how a beef pho should have tasted, with a solid beef stock to give that oomph. It was good but nothing too exceptional to wow us over.

Verdict: 7.0/10

Signature Vietnamese Baguette - 'Banh mi'

My last experience of a 'Banh mi' dated back to almost a decade ago when I visited Vietnam, so quite frankly I did not have a lasting impression. The baguette was well toasted, giving a light crisp crust which complemented the softer textures of the cold cuts and vegetables on the inside. Traditionally served with pate and Vietnamese mayonnaise, these were critical components found lacking in this standard Vietnamese dish. The usage of white pepper was abundant (and I meant this in a negative fashion) which made the aftertaste overwhelmingly 'peppery'. The baguette with the fillings standalone tasted above average but if you are after authenticity, then there was certainly room for improvement.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Mixed Platter

The mixed platter pretty much summed up the basic typical Vietnamese appetizers, with rice rolls, cold cuts, lemongrass pork chop (same as the rice dish above), prawn cake on sugarcane and deep-fried vermicelli roll. To be honest, you can never really go wrong with ordering deep-fried dishes, well maybe for the calories-conscious. Individually, we felt that we had a better rice roll at Cafe East in London, for this was a tad too sticky for our preferences. The deep-fried vermicelli roll was crispy yet not overly greasy, which similarly goes for the prawn cake on sugarcane. The only cold cut served alongside was ham, but it was not anything too impressive.

Verdict: 7.0/10

Signature Vietnamese Coffee

In my personal opinion, no Vietnamese cuisine could be considered complete without a cup of strong coffee. Traditionally served with sweetened condensed milk, I opted out of it in my order for I was never a fan of additives to my fresh brew. The coffee was strong, rich and fragrant but it was not as dark roasted as expected. My first experience of a Vietnamese fresh brew was in Vietnam itself. A cup of plain water would be served alongside the coffee as a standard issue, so you could imagine how rich and dark roasted it tasted. This unfortunately failed to bring me the flavours I so wanted, albeit it being a smooth brew. It might perhaps draw better fans with the traditional serving method by adding sweetened condensed milk, but that would certainly not be me.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Grass Jelly with Sweetened Condensed Milk

Well, it tasted sweet though not overly done, but was not impressive enough to give a lasting impression. Plainly phrased, it was an 'okay' drink.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Lemongrass Longan Drink

Of the three drinks ordered, this could arguably be the winner. The flavours of the lemongrass were well infused into the drink, giving it a refreshing boost. The downside though would be the longans, which to me appeared to come straight from the can, though there was plenty in the drink to go around sharing. Like the above drink, this was not too sweet, which suited our liking.

Verdict: 7.0/10

If you are on a tight budget, yet looking for some good eats, this would certainly fit the bill. Do expect crowd and queues during peak dining periods, especially during lunch due to their deals. Overall, it was an enjoyable dining experience, though the company certainly made all the difference.

Ban Me Thout Viet Bistro 邦美蜀越式工房
Shop 57, Hung Wan Centre
19 Fung Kum Street
Yuen Long

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