I’m lucky enough to have some of Perth’s best Vietnamese (in my humble gaijin (what’s the Vietnamese equivalent of gaijin? (how many brackets within brackets can I have before it gets too confusing?)) opinion) within a short stroll from my doorstep at Phi Yen in Northbridge. My parents are in town this weekend, so I got to share this delicious knowledge with them for lunch today. After a nice walk up Lake Street, admiring the terrace houses and dodging the skip bins and flying brick dust from renovations we arrived and were seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant – perfect for eyeing off everyone else’s dishes and getting enough natural light for my photographs.
The lunch menu is different to the dinner menu and offers quite a range of soups, noodle dishes, rice dishes, and an intriguingly named “Delights” section which holds the entrée (appetiser for you North Americans) style dishes. There was no way I was leaving without having some sort of rice paper roll, so I started with the Delights section. Mum and I soon decided to get both the roasted duck and vegetarian rice paper rolls, while Dad chose the crispy wontons with minced shrimp and pork.
Dad enjoyed his wontons, which looked nice and crisp, but was not much more forthcoming with adjectives so I’ll leave my commentary at that.
The last time my sister was in town we shared a serve of the vegetarian rice paper rolls and could not stop exclaiming over the deliciousness of the dipping sauce (hoisin, with sliced chilli and crushed peanuts) served with it. We were almost in fisticuffs over the last dribbles, and I’m glad that the sauce was as giddily tasty today as it was when she was in town. The rolls themselves were so fresh, with refreshing crunchy innards, and the rice stick also made them quite filling.
I was a little sad when I saw that the roasted duck and vegetable rice paper rolls were not served with the addictive hoisin sauce, but after biting into mine I discovered why – they have their own internal sauce! Yeah! Okay so the term internal sauce may not take off in reviewing circles but these babies were tasty. Tender pieces of tasty duck meat, surrounded by internal sauce (woo!) and fresh salad, encased in soft rice paper.
Dad’s roast duck egg noodle dish came out while Mum and I were still making our way through the rice paper rolls, but luckily I managed to snap a photo before he got stuck in. It was a generous serving size, and packed full of slices of duck meat. He really enjoyed it, apart from a few large pieces of coriander stem, of which he is not a big fan.
I’m really glad that Mum and I decided to share a main dish after how filling the rice paper rolls were, and we were quite excited about seeing what the broken rice would be like. We were not disappointed when all three components of the dish came out – the main plate of food, a soup of broth, and a sweet chilli fish sauce. At first we were a little perplexed as to how we were going to share the pork chop, particularly as we didn’t have a knife, but it was so tender that we were able to tear it apart with our forks and spoons. The pork itself was absolutely packed with flavour. The pork strips and rice were also tasty, particularly with a drizzle of the sweet sauce. The egg was cooked very nicely, with some ooze to the yolk. The pate was also really tasty, with a strong yet not overpowering chicken flavour. Finally, the pickled vegetables were very refreshing. The dish is visually interesting, the flavours all worked really well together and I think $11.20 is great value for such a tasty, filling dish.
The Phi Yen website showcases a few of their dishes, and when I’d read about the broken rice dish on there earlier today it said “ask us how the rice is broken”. So, after telling our waitress how much we enjoyed the meals I decided to do just that. She couldn’t tell me! My Dad suggested that it’s lower grade rice, broken during processing/transport and just talked up to be an interesting ingredient. Initial googling seems to support this theory, though the broken grains would also have a different texture which would lend themselves more to certain dishes as compared with whole grains. They remind me of steel cut oats, my breakfast of choice, so lower grade or not, they’re alri
ght by me.
After finishing our meals we eyed off the dessert menu, which was filled with Azzura Gelati products, but we were all so full we couldn’t possibly fit any of the treats in. Next time, tummy, next time.
Phi Yen is a popular place, and although we didn’t need a booking for lunch it got quite full while we were eating. I’d definitely recommend booking if you were planning on going there for dinner.
Oh and one last thing.. Phi Yen have also recently opened up another store in the food court at the new shopping centre in the city – enex 100. Despite living within walking distance I don’t frequent the city all that often but I’m loving this food court already, and there are still more restaurants to join the party. No Hungry Jacks or Subway to be seen at this classy establishment, it’s actual “proper” restaurants such as Phi Yen, Cimbalino, Maya Masala and Matsuri that are opening up little outlets in here to offer a nicer food court experience than squeezing your way past teenagers lining up at Red Rooster (surely the school holidays must be over soon?).
205 Brisbane Street (cnr Lake St), Northbridge
Phone: 08 9227 1032
Hours: Open 7 days for lunch and dinner