Monday, 20 January 2014

Café Viet, Grey Lynn, Auckland


It’s a well-known fact that I adore Vietnamese food. After my trip across Vietnam in mid 2013, I can honestly say I would move there just for the amazing cuisine. I cannot get enough of the clean, fresh and beautifully balanced flavours. I had been bemoaning the lack of authentic Vietnamese restaurants within short driving distance of work (the ones I go to are in Otahuhu), and the culinary gods have answered in the form of Café Viet.


Café Viet has a very cosy interior, with murals harking to Saigon’s street scene, - (painted) exposed brickwork, trailing plants, dilapidated louvered shutters, faded yellow-washed walls and even a bicycle. There is seating in the front courtyard, and an area at the back for groups of up to 16. The plump, bright floral cushions invite you to relax into the seats.


The menu consists of staples, such as phở bò (rare beef noodle soup), grilled meats, salads and everyone's favourite spring rolls. I love that the owners have put the Vietnamese names of the dishes on the menu plus a guide to pronunciation.

My absolute favourite culinary experience in Vietnam was my daily glass (or three) of cà phê sữa đá, Vietnamese coffee served with sweet condensed milk and lots of ice. This is called café Viet on the menu ($4.50) and you can ask for this to come with ice. The coffee is even brewed in the traditional style, with a single-cup metal French drip filter (cà phê phin).


Darja, Barbara and I shared three dishes, and they were all beautifully presented. Savoury, sweet, sour, salty, all in one mouthful. The servings are more generous than it initially looked, and as much as we tried, we could not finish our dishes. We didn’t get to try the phở bò ($15) or the durian ice-cream sundae, which I will definitely get to in my next visit.

The bún gà sả (flame grilled lemongrass chicken, $19) was the most tender lemongrass chicken I have ever had. The chicken came with herbs and rice noodles that we sprinkled generously with nước mắm (dipping sauce made with fish sauce, lemon juice, sugar and chilli). It was also served with sweet potato curry puff and a lightly pickled salad which we ate on crackers.


Bánh hỏi thịt nướng ($19) translates to grilled pork (thịt nướng) on thin rice noodles (bánh hỏi). This dish also comes with three of the tastiest pork meatballs, and reminded me of the spectacular bún chả in Hanoi.


Bánh xèo (crisp rice flour crepe, $17) had a great crispy outside, and was generously filled with pork belly slices, prawns, mung bean sprouts, split mung beans and served with fresh Vietnamese mint, spearmint and coriander. You almost never Vietnamese mint in the restaurants or supermarkets here (even though they grow like a weed).


The food was authentic and delicious at Café Viet. I prefer the texture of the bánh xèo at Try It Out, but in terms of atmosphere, presentation and service, Café Viet easily trumps. This place is rightfully busy, so it pays to book if you're looking to visit for dinner.



Café Viet
2 Surrey Crescent, Grey Lynn, Auckland
Ph: 09 – 378 8738
Open 7 days, lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm, dinner 5:30 – 10pm


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4 comments:

  1. Yum! Looks very fresh and authentic. I adore lemongrass so I'm pretty sure what I'd order first. I like the idea of an area out back for bigger groups. Sometimes it's better for everyone to hide the noisy ones out back!

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    1. True, when I bring my Dumpling Group, we're can get a bit raucous... whoops.. :-)

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  2. When we came here in September, the bahn xeo had absolutely no herbs, and the only vegetables were a mesclun salad and mung bean sprouts. We also had to wait the better part of an hour for our dishes to arrive, at which point we still had no cutlery on the table! Sounds like they have improved in terms of food as well as service. I had written this place off, but could be tempted to come back based on your experience.

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    1. Wow, they have improved heaps. However, in saying that, we came on the first day they opened after the holidays, and there was only one other table (of one)! The cutlery were already on the table, and the dishes came out quite promptly. The owner said they get really busy for the evenings; so I can imagine there would be a wait when it's full.

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