From the outside, Viet Food really doesn't look like much. Even the website is distinctly okay and until you get to the menu, you'd be forgiven for passing over this restaurant without a second thought. But guess what - you'd be very, very wrong!
Viet Food is led by Jeff Tan, one of the UK's top Asian chefs and the former Executive Chef at Yuan in the Atlantis Palm, Dubai and, excitingly for me, Chef de Cuisine at Hakkasan Mayfair - yes, that's a Michelin star establishment guys! Jeff took his passion for exceptional Vietnamese food and celebrates it at Viet Food. Located in the heart of Chinatown, the shy and unassuming restaurant is an absolute treat for the foodie who craves great Asian food in the cultural heart of Asian London.
From the outside guests can spot the chefs hard at work through the floor-to-ceiling windows and once inside will be greeted by the salty/sweet/sour scents of great Vietnamese food. We were invited to dine upstairs and began with a bottle of Saigon beer, duh, while spotting the birdcage hanging lights.
The free prawn crackers came with a hot as hell spicy chilli sauce, which I loved, before our starters arrived. We shared crispy coconut calamari which was soft and juicy with just a hint of sweetness from the coconut; grilled scallop and prawn served in a scallop shell with the absolutely most delicious dressing IN THE WORLD - slightly sweet, mostly savoury, plenty of salt; and soft shell crab dusted with five spice. This final dish was the only slight let down with this course as the five spice was a bit non-existent but the crab was lovely and sweet. I also really enjoy the onion salad and made wraps out of the lettuce cups.
When it came to mains, Alex and I went in very different directions. I opted for braised sea bream with fresh chilli and pineapple in homemade sauce, which is comparable to a light curry or soup. The fish was battered, then served in the soupy sauce which was a bit weird and cloying towards the end. However, the fresh pineapple was absolutely dreamy and worked really gorgeously with the fragrant sauce. The homemade sauce also worked really well with the house rice as it balances sweet-savoury spicy-salty flavours.
Alex chose a main of wok-sauteed pork ribs with fresh chive and sweet corn in mint chilli sauce, which visually looks a bit disjointed but actually worked well together. The fresh chilli added a lightness to the sweet, sticky ribs and the sweet corn was an interesting texture. The green bean side with preserved shrimp was really savoury and sort of lost the fresh green flavour.
Frankly Viet Food was one of the yummiest places I've eaten in a while. Compared to Hakkasan (bit naughty to do but there you go), there are definitely comparisons - the rice was equally good and the scallop starter was absolutely mind blowing. I think having this sort of option in the heart of Chinatown is such a win for Londoners as tourists will walk past believing it to be 'just another Chinatown outlet', while us in the know can enjoy great Vietnamese food at a really accessible price.
Thank you Viet Food for hosting this review. All opinions are my own.