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Oh my! *Viet Inn*

Pronounced "fuh," I first had the Vietnamese beef noodle soup as a student in the US. My aunt's family and I made frequent pho trips to Little Saigon in So. Cal. Whenever a new one pops up, we made a mental note to try it the next time. Though never a noodle fan, somehow I take to rice noodles in soup like a fish to water. I think it is that "noodle-soup" girl in me, but I really like pho instantly, connecting with the dish like a long lost friend.

Though the dish looks simple consisting of broth, rice noodles and a few slices of raw beef, the complexity of the dish lies in the broth itself. Long hours of simmering beef bones with a combination of spices is required to produce the clear broth. The dish is served with a plate of fresh toppings: Asian basil and saw-leaf herb, bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos and a wedge of lime, adding an additional cultural touch of novelty.

Since my return to Singapore a couple of years ago, I had given up hopes of finding good pho in Singapore. Frankly, I do not expect a lot, just good enough to par with the mediocre ones in Little Saigon. I have tried a few more well-known Viet places but really, they only serve as "okay" substitutes when the craving kicks in. Unauthentic to me means, the lack of flavour in the broth, or lack of knowledge what goes into the side dish of fresh toppings. Sigh, to find a really authentic one, is still in its infancy.

I accidentally stumbled Viet Inn one evening while J and I were around the area looking for an Indian restaurant. It was really an inconspicuous restaurant, for it only caught my attention when I heard the familiar Vietnamese language. Immediately, I thought, "If Vietnamese themselves patronise this place, then perhaps there is hope afterall!", and I made a mental note to try it soon.

Unfortunately, I do not have pictures, but after J and I finally went last week, on a weekday night, I felt compelled to share our experience.

We were seated instantly. A quick scan of my surroundings assured my choice. Simply decorated and minimalistic tables and chairs, each table has its own condiments tray consisting of fish sauce (a +), Sriracha chili sauce (++), soy sauce, pickled chili padi (+++). The only thing missing was the sweet seafood sauce, or Hoisin sauce. But I noticed the waiter bringing it upon request to the table of Vietnamese patrons (++++). In addition, I felt even more confident when a group of Vietnamese came through the doors.

I ordered the seafood noodle soup, which came with a side dish of fresh toppings, exactly the way it should be. My food came piping hot (another plus!), and the chicken soup was strongly flavoured without a trace of the artificial MSG, and topped generously with sprigs of green spring onions. The portion was generous, noodles and six fresh and shelled shrimps.

I had the honor of helping J choose his food, as he was not too familiar with Viet food at all. Since he had the dry vermecelli, or bun, before, I ordered the beef stew with french loaf. I believe the beef stew dish was a result of French influence, but I digress. The stew itself could be a bit more generous; it had only three rather large pieces of meat, with chunks of potatos and carrots and was slightly too watery for our liking. But I suppose the extra liquid was to be soaked and mopped up with the two hot and toasted french loaf halves, generous at almost seven inches long each. Together with the stew, J ordered a side dish of beef balls, 6 halves, with bits of tendon showing, in a bowl of beef broth, topped with onions and scallions. J thought the balls were slightly tough, which could be a result of overcooking. Otherwise, it was ordinary but the broth was good.

Sans the slow service, I have no gripes about Viet Inn. Instead, I have to admit of my renewed faith in hopes of good Vietnamese food. A return trip will definitely be made; I would like to try the grilled meat rice platter. Until then, I'll be selfish and keep the exact location of Viet Inn a secret.



isn't pho wonderful! while you're not in a "cold place" - i must say that it is a particularly warming meal to have where i am!

thanks for sharing - i hear you loud and clear on this one!

come visit!

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