Dong Ba

133 Hopkins St, Footscray
Phone: 9689 0608

After weeks of living in limbo, house sitting for my sister while she was on her honeymoon, I’m finally ensconced in my new apartment in Footscray! So let the exploration of my new ‘hood begin in earnest!

The intrepid Ms D and I wandered the main drag of Hopkins St last Sunday, looking for some lunch. She was in the mood for bun bo Hue, so I suggested we try Dong Ba, because its signage mentions bun bo Hue, so it must specialise in it, right?

Dong Ba is a classic Vietnamese kitsch restaurant, with daggy furniture, colourful walls, and menus on the wall. There’s also a printed menu, with many more options, but Ms D and I went for two of their specialities. She had the bun bo Hue.

A ‘medium’, this was a hefty bowl of noodles. Filled with all the meat and offal goodness that befits a bun bo Hue, Ms D was very satisfied. She kindly let me sample some of the broth before tucking in, and I must say, it was just beautiful. Most people think bun bo Hue is a chilli beef noodle soup, which is probably due to the amount of orange chilli oil floating on the top. However, it’s actually supposed to be a lemongrass beef noodle soup , and Dong Ba’s version certainly hit the mark there. I’m definitely getting a bowl for myself next time I’m there!

This time, I opted for the bun mang vit (rice vermicelli with duck and bamboo shoot), one of my favourites from a stall near my work when I was living in Saigon.

For me, the make-or-break factor in a bun mang vit is the bamboo shoot. They should have been braised in in some sort of master stock, so they will both have a savoury taste to them, as well that their characteristic pungent bamboo shoot-iness. Dong Ba’s were pretty good, on this count. The broth, too, was clear and tasty, though there was some definite MSG action, it wasn’t heavy handed. The duck itself was a tad disappointing, being slightly overcooked and dry. But all in all, a great rendition.

Some of my friends are quite East or South-centric, and still perceive Footscray to be a hotbed of crime and not very safe. I don’t know about all of that just yet, but I do know that I’m so happy to be surrounded by quality soup noodles in my new neighbourhood!

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