Tuesday, 27 March 2012

AJ Noodle House

he says:

Regular readers will know that my obsession Thai food resides quite comfortably with my Vietnamese food obsession.  So having found an excellent Brisbane Thai restaurant I was also very interested to try the quality of the Brisbane Vietnamese food offering.  Unfortunately I hadn't done any research other than being told by my sister that the better Vietnamese restaurants are in Inala which was a bit too far from where I was staying in the city. This meant that I was left to wander around, check out how much has changed in Brisbane and hope for the best. Once gain, I am in no position to judge Brisbane's best but I would hazard a guess that the establishment I wandered into 'AJ Vietnamese Noodle House' comes very close. At least the best Vietnamese CBD option anyway.

Living in Melbourne and having an obsession with Footscray (and Springvale) I feel I am quite qualified in judging the potential of a Vietnamese restaurant from its menu.  By this measure AJ Noodle House was looking full of potential. The menu board in the front window filled with somehow stereotypical Vietnamese restaurant photos of all the meals read like a 'Greatest Hits' of Vietnamese cuisine. Bun Tit Nuong, Pho Tai, Bun Bo Hue, Com Suong, Banh Cuon Cha Lua and many other classics. With only 18 meals on offer it was unlike what I am used to in Melbourne where some of the Vietnamese menus list literally hundreds of dishes, but given that the kitchen seemed slightly bigger than a shoebox I think 18 dishes is a pretty good effort.

After a long day of conferencing and a tough workout I was pretty keen to head back to my hotel room and relax in front of the tv so I decided a bun salad would be the best option. As usual there were so many meals on the menu that I wanted to eat it was not an easy decision. Normally when it come to Bun (rice vermicelli noodles) I'm a Thit Nuong man (Grilled Pork) but AJ's also had a Lemongrass Beef option (Bun Bo Xao) that I hadn't seen very often in Melbourne so obviously I had to give it a go.

I really enjoyed this dish, it was the perfect meal to eat after an exhausting day, not too filling but still substantial enough to leave me well and truly satisfied. The Bun was perfectly cooked, the Nuoc Mam dressing was not too sweet and not too sour, just perfect really and the lemongrass beef was excellent. I really like that they had cut it into very thin small pieces, it makes it so much easier to eat with chopsticks and the flavour had a wonderful smoky grilledness with a nice touch of lemongrass and of course that slight caramelisation that the sugar gives when grilled. Also great was the amount of herbs and vegetables, overall it was definitely one of the better Bun salads that I have eaten in a while.

Having enjoyed my Bun Bo Xao so much and also feeling quite pleased with myself for discovering this little gem I was looking for any opportunity to return and try another of VN's offerings. In particular I had my eye on their Banh Cuon Cha Lua (Steamed Pork Roll). I love eating this dish at Ding Son Quan in Footscray and was keen to try a different version so I could compare. On my last day in Queensland I had time to grab a quick lunch before heading to the airport so of course I headed directly to VN Noodle House. When I first visited VN's it was around 8:30 in the evening and they were not very busy but on the Wednesday at lunch there were people queued out the door! This only confirmed my suspicion that this was one of Brisbane's better Vietnamese restaurants.

My takeaway Banh Cuon Cha Lua was excellent. the steamed pork noodles were lovely and soft and in my opinion just the right thickness, sometimes the Dinh Son Quan noodles can be bit on the thick side. The noodles are filled with a pretty simple mix of minced pork and wood ear mushrooms and accompanied by a few slices of Vietnamese pork loaf (Cha) and a lovely array of salad including shredded carrot, pickled sprouts, mint, tomato and cucumber and crispy fried shallots. VN's version was absolutely delicious, the lovely soft noodles and delightfully refreshing Nuoc Man made for a refreshingly light and delicious lunch. I think I even preferred it to the Dinh Son Quan version although it would have been even better if it came with a few Banh Cong (fried Mung Bean Cakes) like they serve at Dinh Son Quan.

So if you're in Brisbane and looking for a fantastic lunch I highly recommend VN Vietnamese Noodle House. It not too hard to find, just head to the Charlotte Street end of Elizabeth Arcade and turn left, you'll be very glad you did! Lunchtimes are pretty busy but the tables seemed to turn over pretty quickly and takeaway is always an option, it is definitely worth the wait.

AJ Vietnamese Noodle House on Urbanspoon


  1. Yes, you don't see bun bo xao xa ot very much do you... I used to eat it a lot at Thanh Thanh in Richmond, but doesn't pop up much in Footscray.

    Going to have to have Dinh Son rice noodley things again soon!

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