ETA 30/05/2010: rumour is that this restaurant is no longer veg-only, and that the chef is selling up and will be opening up and trying again later in the year, in St Kilda or Brighton.
Last night I braved the cold with intrepid diners Kristy, Toby, Craig, Cindy, and Michael to venture out to St Albans to try a new Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant.
It was easy to find, with its giant green sign. We ventured in past the churro fryer (we think they coshare) to an empty restaurant. We hoped that the emptiness was more due to its newness (two and a half months) than any sort of problems with their food, and given how full it seemed to get later, and the quality of our dinner, I'm willing to believe it was the former.
Although originally there were some plans to share, the discovery of wonton noodle soup on the menu meant that I leapt upon that, and most of the other dishes came with rice, so we decided to share some entrees and order individual mains.
We started with a serve of spring rolls and a serve of rice paper rolls. The spring rolls were crispy and fresh. The rice paper rolls were also fresh, but a bit too coriander-y for me.
I didn't get a photo of everyone's meals (my photo of the dish that Toby and Craig both ordered was blurry, and I decided Michael was too far away down the far end of the table), alas! However Michael has a review of his dish (and others) up, so you can read all about it.
I both got a photo of Kristy's meal, and got to try some of that mock chicken. It was delicious! And the rice was flavoured just right, cooked in ginger, sweet soy sauce and a little bit of stock. The mock chicken had a beautiful ginger flavour to it, too. This was a great dish, I would love to order this for my own. Michael's meal was served in a similar style, rice with some bok choy, but he had lemongrass tofu (which I did not sample).
Cindy ordered a pulled pork with noodles. This came out as a dry noodle dish, which I think was accompanied by a sauce (but I may have to be corrected on that). Everyone said it was tasty, but I declined, as I was waiting to try my noodles.
They were delicious. The flavour of the soup was just right, a light stock with ginger undertones. The beancurd skin was crispy to start with and soaked up the broth, and the wontons were my preferred proportion of wonton skin to filling. This came with a plate of raw beanshoots, which I threw in immediately so they softened slightly. There were just enough noodles hidden under there to make this meal just the right size for me. I sipped the broth almost to the end, up until I cast it aside for my jackfruit smoothie.
Alas, no picture of my jackfruit smoothie, as I was too busy scooping it out of the cup. The jackfruit had been frozen, but retained enough of that jackfruit flavour to make it a delight. It was awesome, and at $3.00, totally worth it.
The whole menu is quite cheap, at about $8.50 for a main, $6.00 for the entrees, and $3.00 for the dessert smoothies. Although St Albans is a bit further afield than I would usually go, for a good wonton noodle soup I'm willing to travel the distance.
They also have congee and yao chao guai on the menu, so you better believe I'll be returning to try that out.
I feel I should note the entertainment in the restaurant. In the corner is a television with a variety of shows, but it does seem to be primarily consisting of using gruesome animal death to convince you to become vegetarian. I found this very easy to ignore, but Craig suffered somewhat. Don't let it put you off from visiting!
Tinh Tam Chay Vietnamese Vegetarian Restaurant
13 Alfrieda Street