A couple of things:
1. I've started a new blog. It doesn't mean I'll stop blogging here, but as you may have noticed, our frequency of dining out seems to have diminished in recent months. For me it's a combination of trying a bit harder to put aside some savings along with living a bit further from town than before. So the focus of the new blog is more on cooking and eating at home. Although it's just brand new, I'm really excited about it, so please check it out if you're at all interested in what I'm eating when I'm not out and about in Wellington!
2. Happy new year everyone! (Does it count if it's now not only 2011 but the Chinese New Year?) Yes, this is the first Gusty Gourmet post of 2011. And this Year of the Rabbit. Anyway, onto today's post.
So, in 2010 I was lucky enough to have my mum visit me 3 times. Of course any visits from mums are special but this was rather unexpected and wonderful because my parents live overseas. And every time she comes to visit, we go (at her request) to Fisherman's Plate, a little fish-and-chip shop on Bond St.
Except it's not just a fish-and-chip shop: although it has a typical chip-shop-combo-menu board behind the counter, and you'll see plenty of people ordering off it, the aroma of fresh Vietnamese herbs and soup broth that ever-so-subtly wafts through the air is a giveaway, as is the wall plastered with a photographic menu of sorts featuring noodle soups and other Vietnamese dishes. And I'm pretty sure this is some of the best Vietnamese I've had (granted, I haven't been to Vietnam).
On our most recent visit, I ordered some avocado rice rolls ($7) to share. They were incredibly simple, consisting of a crunchy-creamy filling of sliced avocado, carrot, lettuce and bean sprouts in a smooth rice paper wrapper. Despite their simplicity, these were obviously assembled with care: the vegetable filling was seasoned with black pepper before going into the wrapper, adding a little bite to what would otherwise be a bland filling.
Yes, it's sort of cliche, but for me no visit to a Vietnamese place is complete without a steaming bowl of pho bo ($11.50). I ordered mine with rare beef, which was thinly sliced and tender, floating in a flavourful homemade broth along with thick rice noodles.
We were given this heaping plate of fresh herbs, lettuce, bean sprouts and lemons, as well as a bowl of sliced chillies (sadly not pictured) to add to our bowls of soup - I love the DIY-ness of putting together the perfect combination of condiments.
Mum didn't waste any time in adding greens to her soup, the mien ga ($11.50) - chicken soup with vermicelli noodles. This actually might replace pho bo as my new favourite; the chicken was shredded but in decent-sized chunks, the broth comforting and flavourful. And although it'd be the perfect steaming bowl of soup for a cold, wet winter's day, it's the kind of soup that tastes fresh and clean enough to fit in perfectly on a summer menu.
E's spicy pork noodle soup (I'm guessing $11.50 - though I've misplaced my notes with the Vietnamese name of this dish, and it doesn't seem to appear on their takeaway menu) had enough red-hot chilli floating at the top to keep the doctor away, the broth full of fiery zing.
On another visit I had this bun thit nuong ($11.90), chargrilled, marinated pork on rice noodles. This required more DIY-ing in the form of various sauces and condiments to be added according to personal preference, and was a satisfying alternative to a brothy noodle soup.
I was happy to see avocado smoothies ($5) on the menu - aside from being deliciously creamy, they're the perfect foil to the searing heat of having added too many chillies to your soup. This one was as I'd remembered them from Southeast Asia, although I did find it a bit odd that the cup was only about 3/4 full.
We were about to leave when I spotted these plastic cups half-full with a cheery yellow substance lined up in the drinks fridge. These turned out to be che dau xanh danh ($4), a sweet mung bean paste that was served topped with a heap of shaved ice, which we then mixed into a cold, thick slurry (more DIY - hooray!).
It was different from what most people would think of having for dessert, but good nonetheless - and in any case I'm a pretty big fan of sweet, bean-based desserts (like azuki beans in Japanese cuisine), so this was well-received.
Fisherman's Plate is such a wee gem. OK, it may be lacking in ambience, but it makes up for this entirely in the quality and freshness of the food on offer. I haven't even tried their fish and chips (it's surprising they still offer them, seeing as they could easily run a restaurant serving Vietnamese alone), but from what I saw on other diners' plates they looked pretty decent. I don't think I'll be waiting till the next time Mum visits to go back!