Ha Long Bay

82 Victoria St, Richmond
Phone: 9429 3268
Open Daily 10am-3pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm

Ha Long Bay is one of the slew of Vietnamese restaurants along Victoria St which I don’t normally frequent. The name implies a Northern Vietnamese cuisine, which is quite evidently lacking once you peruse the menu. This is probably due to the fact that the vast majority of Vietnamese migrants who settled in Australia after the ‘American War’ were from the defeated South, so the cuisine that has developed here reflects that.

Nonetheless, Ha Long Bay is my cousin’s favourite restaurant along the strip, so I was sure it had to have something going for it. After all, she’s been to Viet Nam many times, and her mother makes possibly some of the best Vietnamese food I’ve eaten in Australia.

I ordered the bun mam (pronounced ‘buun-maam’) which is rice vermicelli with various bits of seafood (and sometimes, as in Ha Long Bay’s case, pork) and tofu in a broth flavoured redominantly with fermented, salty fish. Sadly, Ha Long Bay’s bun mam lacked the pungent saltiness which is really what you’re after when you order it.

My cousins ordered a couple of dishes to share – in the foreground is the seafood combination (I tend to shy away from things in Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants which have ‘combination’ in the title) which was woefully bland and uninspiring. The restaurant redeemed itself, however, with the salt-and-pepper calamari, which was crispy and tender, and tasty without going too overboard on the MSG. It’s a simple dish, but works so well when executed properly.

Ha Long Bay probably does warrant a return visit, but care needs to be taken when choosing from the extensive menu. There may be a few gems there, but there’s also a lot of pedestrian fare.

Ha Long Bay on Urbanspoon

Auction Rooms

103-107 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9326 7749

I’ve been meaning to get to Auction Rooms for ages, but for some reason I never got around to it. For a while, North Melbourne just wasn’t in my sphere of travel, and then more recently the place always seemed overflowing at lunch times during Summer, when I would wander over from work to Errol St in my lunch hour. Finally, @eatnik and I ventured over, and were most pleased that we did!

As Claire at Melbourne Gastronome has rightly said, the space is amazing; check out her post for some photos to give you an idea. I love how the big space is broken up into smaller discrete areas using levels, but without any real obstructions, so it retains a huge airiness to it.

A sucker for duck, I ordered the duck and wombok salad. It was refreshing and punchy; the wombok was crunchy, and the vinaigrette was nicely acidic – reminiscent of the Thai style of fish sauce dressing. My only complaint was the duck was a little dry, but that did result in bits of crispy duck skin in there too, so it’s a catch-22.

@eatnik had the smoked trout with bubble and squeak, on @alexlobov‘s recommendation from MSG. She wasn’t disappointed! It all seemed a little rich for me as a lunch dish, but it’s good that Auction Rooms has such variety in their menu.

Auction Rooms also has a good reputation for coffee, but as neither @eatnik nor I drink coffee (on a regular basis), I can’t comment on that.

Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon