Monday, October 25, 2010

Best Vietnamese in Auckland

If you have any interest in Vietnamese food, please make immediate plans to visit 'Try It Out', an authentic, charming and well-priced Vietnamese restaurant at 79 Atkinson Ave in Otahuhu, which is very much worth the trip. Maybe it won't even be much of a trip. Maybe you live in Otahuhu already and check this blog regularly in the hope that one day I'll mention an Auckland food secret found more than one kilometre from Ponsonby Road. Well your optimism has paid off. Today is the day.
My thanks to the excellent Jacqueline Smith of Herald's Time Out supplement for putting me on to Try It Out. As far as I remember her telling it, she holidayed in Vietnam recently and enjoyed the food so much that on her return she sought out Vietnamese New Zealanders to ask for their eating recommendations here in Auckland, possibly in return for a stack of unwanted reviewer passes and DVDs which were taking up space on the Herald Entertainment desk.

I like her style. I too have discovered many ethnic gems simply by asking sub-continental taxi drivers for their dining recommendations, so if you're ever lucky enough to find yourself chatting to someone recently arrived in New Zealand you'd do well to quiz them on where to find the good stuff. That's what Jacqueline did, and she was rewarded with the name of one of the most exciting ethnic restaurants I've ever been to in Auckland. And what did it cost her? Nothing. Nothing but a Steven Seagal boxset and two double passes to the Laneways festival.

Vietnamese food is not easily understood, although if you're wanting some assistance maybe you could begin by reading my review of Cafe Hanoi in November's Metro magazine. I won't plagiarise that review here, but I will say that head-to-head Try It Out's food is really much, much better than Cafe Hanoi's. Tastier, cheaper and more authentic.

Of course, Try It Out would probably lose to Hanoi in other categories, like 'cocktails', 'suitability for dating' and 'lingering feeling that you might be the victim a knife-crime while walking back to your car'. Don't worry, the food is worth it.

At Try It Out, and when eating Vietnamese in general, I'd recommend ordering some fresh spring rolls and a giant slurpy bowl of Pho – the beefy noodle soup which plays an unexpectedly large part in the local cuisine. For a main, try something that involves wrapping – rice paper or lettuce leaves around meat, sauce and fresh veges. And salad is a good order too, providing as it does a herby, crunchy, sweet-salt hit which is unmistakeably Vietnamese.

Try It Out was full of immigrant families enjoying authentic food from the home country. People used to say that an Asian restaurant full of Asian people in it was a good sign, although these days I more often hear a new story - that Asian restaurateurs have got wise to it and started placing people who looked suitably Oriental at high visibility tables, while hiding white couples upstairs and behind large pieces of furniture. Well, I had a good look around and in a room of fifty or so diners I could only see one other table of crackers in the whole place. So don't all visit at once, or they'll know something is up.