Quynh Giao Quan An Viet Nam
Truth be told, my knowledge of Vietnamese food is extremely limited, having seldom strayed from the safe path of the Indochine group of restaurants. A recent trip to Vietnam, my first, was an eye opener. Not only did I finally get to eat authentic pho (and bunh and cha gio and other staples), but I had my first glimpse into Vietnam's different regional cuisines and experienced a bit of local restaurant culture.
So when Philippe and I were in desperate search of a cheap, quick and tasty dinner on a late Monday night, we decided to try one of Joo Chiat's Vietnamese cafes, just slightly up from Koon Seng Road and smack in the middle of the neighbourhood's notorious red light district. We opted for Quynh Giao Quan An Viet Nam at 149 Joo Chiat Road, which seemed slightly busier than its similar looking neighbour establishment - which dubiously called itself a "family restaurant". Given that we were after good food, not family values, we settled down at 149 with only a flicker of acknowledgement from what I'm assuming are the restaurant's regulars - mainly young Vietnamese ladies dining together or with a male companion.
Decor was sparse, limited to the odd Tiger Beer lucky draw ad, while seating was plastic chairs, foldable tables, melamine bowls and toilet roll in a plastic dispenser for serviettes. No frills kopi tiam chic.
A simple photo album displays the restaurant's menu. Pictures of dishes are accompanied only by Vietnamese dish names, but the young Singaporean proprietor was friendly and patient in helping us figure out what was what. We both opted for something familiar - bunh with cha gio, aka rice noodles with deep fried spring rolls.
When it arrived, we found hidden under the noodles generous piles of roughly chopped fresh mint, Thai basil and beansprouts, crisp and refreshing. The spring rolls were beautifully browned and crisp on the outside, creamy and hearty on the inside, their yam filling in turn encasing what I'm guessing to be a combination of finely chopped fish or pork, mushrooms and onions. The nuoc cham dipping sauce also turned out to be a pleasant deviation from the Indochine variety, with heapings of fresh chilli padi, liberal proportions of fish sauce and minimal sugar. The savoury bent of the sauce meant that individual ingredients were really allowed to shine through and not drowned in cloying syrup.
The noodles hit the spot perfectly while leaving our wallets blissfully intact at $4.50 a bowl. The casual environment and bustling neighbourhood (perfect for colourful people watching) makes this a great spot for a quick late night supper.
Quynh Giao Quan An Viet Nam Vietnamese Delights
149 Joo Chiat Road