Monday, December 16, 2013

Rice Paper, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

In the CBD, trying a Vietnamese eatery is a bit of a gamble.  It can be good, it can be really good.... but most of the time it’s really rather disappointing. 

So when Rice Paper, an eatery that popped up on Swanston Street about a year ago, I wanted to try it out.  On first impression, I liked Rice Paper as it isn’t a chain, like Roll’d or Ms Chu.  I also liked the fact that it had a nice range of enticing rice paper rolls ready-made for those wanting a quick lunch (as an aside, I’m still waiting for the day when rice paper rolls can be bought for $2 - $2.50 per roll to truly compete with the ubiquitous sushi rolls).

The completely indoor-outdoor vibe of the place gives Rice Paper, along with the bare concrete walls, the simple decorations and the flittering of the small birds darting in and out of the place and the parade of harried pedestrians along the street, an authentic vibe.  You could almost believe, for a second, that you’re in Vietnam.

On my first visit with Beaker and Bubba Chuck, we wanted to sample a few of the dishes on offer.  Bubba Chuck got two chicken and prawn rice paper rolls.  Fat, rolls with a reasonable amount of chook, prawn and salad ingredients.  I take it that she thought they were tasty as she refused to share any of it with us.  I’ve also have tried the soft shell crab rice paper roll, and that’s pretty tasty too – for each roll, there’s half of a good-sized crab, which meant chomping around the spindly legs and shell of the crab.... yum.

Feeling the need to be virtuous, I went for the chicken salad.  A fairly big serve – lots of julienned carrots, cukes, red cabbage, tender strips of poached chicken, topped with a good sprinkling of toasted peanuts.  It was refreshing and filling – a great lunch option for warmer days.  There was so much of it that I took the rest of it back in a doggy bag for later.

Beaker got the vermicelli w betel wrapped beef rolls.  It looked really good.  At my next visit, I ordered this and I can tell you that it tastes as good as it looks.  The slight smokiness of the betel leaves and the tender beef on the inside. They’re fairly generous in size – six fat, tightly rolls of beef.  Lots of warm vermicelli and finely shredded veg.  I also liked the spring onion garnish.  This dish is now on my rotation for a quick, healthy lunch option.

We also got some spring rolls to share.  In this case, the prawn spring rolls – we got eight of them.  Long and crispy, and with a nice prawn filling.  I liked how it was nicely golden and piping hot on the inside.

These came with some nicely trimmed and washed lettuce leaves (I like it when places do that) and nuoc cham. 

On another occasion, for lunch with Ms C, I wanted to try something a bit different that what I usually order.  In this case, it was the coriander fish with rice.  This, unfortunately, was disappointing.  When the dish came out, it looked appetising.  Lots of fish and I could see lots of fresh coriander in the light egg batter that coated the fish.  However, the fish was previously frozen and lacked flavour.  There was a hint of coriander but it wasn’t enough to compete with that bland, cardboard-y flavour (and texture) of the fish.

Ms C went for the beef pho.  While Ms C seemed to like the pho enough, as she hails from the Western side of town (and thus, has ample opportunities to sup at the many Vietnamese food in Footscray), I got the impression that she has had better.

Verdict
Food – 7
Ambience – 7
Service – 7
Price – 8

Overall
Apart from the coriander fish, I’ve liked everything that I’ve had here.  The service is quick, the serves are above average and the prices are quite competitive.  I’ve already been back a few times, and will continue to go back there again.  A few of the reviewers on Urbanspoon have given negative reviews, however, I’ve had really great experiences with the food and service each time I’ve been.

Address
Rice Paper
245 Swanston Street
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9650 3088

Rice Paper Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

obelix glutt said...

I've had the beef in betel leaf too & really enjoyed it.

Bureaucrat said...

yes, i reckon it's one of their better, reliable dishes.

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