Vietnamese is hot right now. There is so much to like about this cuisine. There’s the use of fresh ingredients, sauces with punch, and deep, deep flavours.
In recent years the basics haven’t changed in Australian Vietnamese food. Though the addition of modern thinking using similar ingredients and flavour combinations with some added finesse has surely broadened the audience, and added much more interest to those who already supported.
Uncle has been around for some time, and in a way can lay claim to some of this modern trend. We’ve been wanting to try Uncle for ages but it wasn’t until we were catching up with friends from Elwood that we made the drive.
There are so many options on the menu that we need to leave it aside a bit while we have a drink. With some help from our waitperson we decide on a few dishes knowing that we can reassess. To start we tried the obligatory rice paper rolls. These are vegetarian, featuring banana blossom, mustard leaf, enoki, coconut, and miso dipping sauce. The mushroom is almost meaty, but I still can’t help but think they are better with some prawn, duck or other meat inside.
Next the pretty Szechuan spiced beef tartare arrives on a large rice cracker. It is good but having had some amazing tartare, this is not as inspiring by comparison. On the other hand, Uncle’s modern take on bahn mi is stunning. Using this classic flavour combination in brioche sliders, and enhancing with the crunch of pig’s ears, makes for more than a couple of bites of complete indulgence.
The market fish today is snapper which we opt to have served whole, accompanied by green mango, puffed wild rice, a herb salad, and a sweet & sour ginger dressing. The freshness of the snapper stands out, this beautiful fleshy white fish coming away from the bone in generous proportions for the four of us. Having reassessed, we needed just one more dish to top us off. The tumeric duck curry did just that. Again, it was a generous serve, and with some steamed rice on the side, made for a great finish to the meal. Both of these mains really impressed.
There are three distinct dining areas and being upstairs but inside was the right position for a hot Melbourne afternoon. If we were staying later the outdoor section would be a terrific place for an evening drink and a few snacks, or something more filling. It is well designed for the theme with overflow at busy times going to the less exciting downstairs entrance.
The thing I love about Uncle and its modern Vietnamese is that I can go back to this food regularly. During the following week I thought about going for Vietnamese more than once. With so many options that illustrates its appeal.