Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Binh Minh - a Hasty Tasty Review

Binh Minh
40 Victoria Street, Richmond

Hello Cucina-rs everywhere!

I was recently talking to one of our fraternity who opined "You must be made of money with the places you go out for meals". And indeed, I admit myself guilty of the crime of putting only premium eateries in this tome to date. I'm sorry, it's true! Guilty as charged! Hands up, I'm a snob!

But what about the every day affair? What if I've got $20 and a need to feed? Surely we don't have to resort to fish n chips or Maccas? Relief is at hand! I'm now doing my version of Cheap Eats - though for the purposes of plagiarism I'm calling it "Kit's Cucina Hasty Tasty!" And to celebrate, I'm even including a video!

I know, a video, on the computer? Qu'est qu si que ca? Well apparently there's this thing called You Tube, and I've included a trial video review of Binh Minh. Just like having a meal with me, without the calories (you lucky thing)!

But first a couple of notes about Victoria St and Binh Minh. Victoria Street, alleyway of Asian delights, has been a long established centre for Asian food in Melbourne - particularly Vietnamese food. The range is wide and prices modest. Many people new to the area are drawn to the glamorous looking establishments such as Tho Tho and the recently renovated Tran Tran with their brushed aluminium, white walls and Western sensibilities. Walking past you'll see predominantly white people eating, many after the football or cricket at the MCG and I like to think of these venues as the out of towners destinations.

The other extreme of restaurant are the "pho" (pronounced "fur?") shops - where you can buy noodley soups for about $7 which are probably the equivalent of a vietnamese hamburger. Great for brunch, lunch or afternoon tea after shopping, probably best avoided if you're out to impress.

In selecting a venue, I'd encourage you to take a few things in mind:

* Is it new? If so, go there! The old maxim "We try harder" is certainly true and you'll find yourself getting not only a new menu to look at but discounts, free soft drinks and super keen service!

* Is it packed? This could go either way. It won't assure you of good food, but will ensure long waits. If there is a heavy asian contingent (of customers, not waiting staff) inside, the signs are good.

* Is it clean? Enough said.

I find my preference for eating along the strip is to pick a place that is bright and cheery that smacks of up-town cafeteria. Plastic benches and tea cups are fine, so long as accompanied by fast service and a chatty atmosphere. Thy thy 1 is an old fave upstairs - the food is average to fair, but the staff are all related (to each other), and have been working there for at least ten years. I feel like I'm going to visit my uncles!

I've chosen Binh Minh to review predominantly because I like the owner Minh, an extremely personable man. Their menu is consistent, is a blend of vietnamese and malay food, and does have some gems for the gourmets. A recent highlight I discovered off the back of an Age food review is the prawn stuffed eggplant - a highly popular item on their menu since the review, and quite toothable. You'll note in the video that the food we ordered was mostly deep fried and pretty retro, but I think when dining out it's nice to follow your mood.

Apologies for the sideways view of the street shots. This is my first time, so we're all learning. Hopefully it doesn't make you sea sick! On the hasty tasty scale, I rate Binh Minh 6 tentacles out of 8, 5 on a bad day. Bon apetite!!

Binh Minh on You Tube!

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