An added bonus of getting invited to attend foodie events is that you get to meet up with your fellow bloggers. It’s funny because for many of us, we only know of each other by the names of our blogs and/or the pseudonym that we write under.
Last year, at the David Jones’ Food Month event, I got to meet Elisa from Nouveau Potato – a blogger who specialises in the vegetarian food scene. While it had been a while since we met up for dinner, I’ve only now finally gotten to writing up our visit to Fina’s Vegetarian Cafe (better late than never, I say!). And I had better get a hustle on writing this up because we’re meeting up with Elisa this week to catch up again.
We picked FVC as we wanted to go somewhere that we could all enjoy the food – plus, it gave the Eat And Be Merry Crew (and also Glutt from The Quest for Noms) the opportunity to try out vegetarian dining, which is something we haven’t really done. First impression of FVC is that has a laid back, slightly hippy vibe and the staff are super friendly and enthusiastic to share their vegetarian and vegan food with you. Young families and couples are already there for an early dinner.
As it was hot, we all ordered cold drinks. Bubba Chuck got the fruit-packed strawberry smoothie and I got to finally try an avocado smoothie. I’ve seen avocados in a range of recipes for dessert and drinks, however, I’ve never tried it myself. I get the concept that avos are smooth and creamy but I could never quite fathom how tasty they would be in a dessert or drink. The verdict? It’s nice, it’s different, it’s unusual. The avo is blended with milk and possibly some cream. It has a very smooth and thick texture. It tastes like avos but the flavour is muted – probably due to the milk and ice. I’m glad I’ve tried it. I don’t have anything against it, but I don’t think I’d ever order it again.
Other drinks included iced milk tea, iced taro and plain grass jelly.
As there were seven of us, we ordered a lot of food.... and I mean, a lot! First up, spring rolls ($7.50 per serve). These were filled with a mix of shredded veggies. These were fine but the appearance was a bit mottled in colour. By memory, the picture above is showing two serves.
I’ll state this upfront, most of the dishes tasted very similar to each other. The dishes that we all thought were the tastiest were the ones that had a stronger, punchier flavour to them. One of the nicer dishes was the ca-ri chay - a non-spicy curry served with broken rice or vermicelli ($10.50). It had large chunks of tender root veg and mock meat.
For those who are used to meat-based phos, the veggie pho doesn't quite deliver. The broth doesn't have the same deep, cinnamony-beefy-anisey flavours that you'd usually get with a meat-based pho. This veggie pho was more like a veggie noodle soup, made with mock meat, thick rice noodle, mushroom, tofu and herbs ($9.00).
The bun hue chay (spicy noodle soup) was one of the better dishes ($9.50) thanks to its stronger flavours. Despite the name, it wasn't too spicy. Of all the dishes, I'd say this one came the closest in mimicking a meat flavour and texture. Thick rice noodles with tofu and mock meat in an aromatic soup.
The bun cha gio chay (spring rolls w vermicelli, salad and tofu) was good but nothing memorable ($9.00). But I did like how it had lots of noodles and spring rolls. This was served with vegetarian nuoc cham, which tasted pretty realistic considering it's not using real fish sauce.
Fina's vegetarian salad was one of the more interesting dishes ($11.50). A big noodle salad with lots of shredded vegs, toasted nuts and herbs. You're meant to use the thick and crunchy rice crackers to eat the salad, but given that there is a lot of salad you kinda need a lot more crackers.
I have to say, the hu tieu chay (special rice noodle soup) kinda tasted exactly like the veggie pho ($9.50). I couldn't quite tell what was 'special' about it.
We also got two bun xeo - the big crepe pancakes that were stuffed with lots of beanshoots and shredded veg. Unfortunately, both weren't too good. One was perhaps a bit undercooked (it was quite soggy inside), whereas the other one was a bit burnt on one side.
Food – 6.5
Service – 7
Ambiance – 7
Price – 7
Our meal at FVC was a welcome foray into vegetarian dining in Melbourne. We all shared similar thoughts about the food at FVC - some were good (eg the curry, spicy noodle soup and the salad), where the rest were ho-hum. But this could be that we're not as au fait about vegetarian dining.
You definitely can't fault the vibe and the enthusiasm the staff have about the food.
Fina's Vegetarian Cafe
268 Victoria Street
Telephone: 9428 6765