Viet Kitchen is a new Vietnamese restaurant at the ground floor of Nexxus Building next to the Heng Sang Bank HQ. Supposedly the chef is from Chom Chom, another Vietnamese shop on Peel Street, which I haven”t verified. Supposedly food will be good. We visited some two months after Viet Kitchen opened – when the restaurant should be past its initial stage of adjustments. So how did it go?
The setting of the restaurant was appealingly casual, with comfortable yet limited seating. The dozen or so tables lined three sides of the restaurant, probably seating 40 guests when filled, and a bar occupied centre stage with a further dozen seats. The remaining side of the restaurant is the semi-open kitchen in which the roaring of the stoves could occasionally be heard. The décor was modern, with a wall full of masks, patches of corrugated sheet steel on the ceiling, and a gate at the entrance that is likely decorative, yet nothing felt out of place.
The front of house was good. Excellent, in fact, for a casual diner. Service was quick despite being fully seated except the empty bar. Plates were taken away soon after they were emptied and the food was served at a good pace, almost unexpectedly – except for the two pho, which we did not share and threw them off a bit.
First to arrive were the two cocktails – “Saigon night” and “Viet Signature”. Both were passable. Saigon night (vodka, home-made kahula, drip coffee, coconut foam) tasted a bit like an over-sugared, spiked coffee and Viet Signature (rum, sugarcane juice, lemongrass, calamansi) was much flatter with the lemongrass needing more expression. Neither were bad, but at $98 per one would expect them to be amazing.
Then came the caramel chicken wings. Whilst it looked like much, these were three wings split in half. The wings were properly fried and remained juicy inside, but apart from a faint sweetness there wasn”t much in terms of caramel. Maybe calling this the fried chicken wings would be more accurate.
The sole fillet rice paper roll was overwhelmingly mediocre and unevenly flavoured. One piece was particularly sour without using the dipping sauce whereas the others were better.
Wok fried beef tenderloin. This was difficult to explain – the best part of the dish were the toasts on the right. I”m uncertain whether it is a good idea to use tenderloin, which despite being an expensive cut feels too soft, tender and lacking in texture for frying, in this sample at least. Somehow previous attempts of doing so with this cut at home yielded better results. The flavour and seasoning was also surprisingly superficial.
The beef pho, however, was the real disappointment. The restaurant is known for its “pho flight”, a selection of four mini phos, but this sample begs the question of whether their products are fit for a tasting platter. The broth tasted mainly of saltiness and lacked in any other dimensions – or my palate is completely dead. There were also no “raw” beef, as the Chinese name indicated, but only contained a small batch of semi-shredded brisket.
At $380 per head ($280 excluding drinks), none of the dishes delivered what the price promised. Better food can be had at lower prices elsewhere. Perhaps a large part of the price went to the premium location and décor? Not recommended.