Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Little Viet Kitchen (Angel, London)

I had a dirty napkin down my collar as I nibbled away the remnants of the lamb chops, sucking them dry, licking my fingers.  I slurped in the noodles and the broth all too quickly that I was half in tears because of the heat but I kept going and by now my napkin had fallen and my dress was dirty --- let me backtrack.
Saturday night I went to The Little Viet Kitchen -- the Vietnamese restaurant owned by the infamous ex-supper club host Thuy Pham-Kelly.  We go in and we are greeted by Chris - your East London man with suspenders, checkered shirt, bow tie, mustache and an iPad mini.  He shook our hands, introduced himself and led us to a table by the window.  The restaurant is of white, pastel green and washed wood, with beautiful chandeliers and plants and flower pots -- Scandinavian minimalism if you may, a restaurant you'd imagine East London Chris to work in.

We ask Chris for recommendations - he tells us of the Surf & Turf: lamb chops and tiger prawn in a Vietnamese marinade that are then charcoal grilled and served with a small salad.  These were the reason why we then put our faith into Chris' hands for the remaining duration of the evening.  I civilly pick up a lamb chop with my chopsticks and take a delicate bite - I then put my utensils down and dive in with my hands.  I can still taste them: sweet, savory, and fragrant with fish sauce, garlic, lime and sugar with a smoky charred crust.  The meat itself is beautifully cooked to a medium rare - tender and juicy.  The prawn is perfectly lovely, but frivolous.  Just take away the expensive prawn and give me two more lamb chops.  I don't think Chris had ever seen such clean bones on a plate.

My partner and I then order a Bun bo hue and a Coconut poussin curry.  The first is pho's rebel teenage cousin - it still has the warmth from the fragrant broth, the abundance of fresh herbs, that sharp lime you squeeze at the end with the fall-apart beef brisket - but then there are more spices, there's chili oil, there's ham, there are meatballs and it's just bloody fantastic with the flavors setting off all the sensory triggers.  I always say a pho is like a comforting hug on a winter's day, and their Bun bo hue is a loving squeeze with a shot of vodka.

Then there's the curry - the sauce is rich from the coconut cream but then with that rightly complex flavor profile with all the various sweet and umami notes flowing through it with a kick from the chili.  This coats the succulent poussin well - and you know it wasn't just a bird cooked and chucked into the sauce last minute to warm up - it slowly bathed and poached in the curry leading it to absorb all that goodness.

Both bowls looked as if they were licked clean.  Chris is happy.

We then end the meal with a matcha and lemongrass panna cotta served in a mason jar with a coffee meringue on the side.  There came my only real criticism for the entire meal -- too much gelatine.  With a panna cotta you always have to hope to add just the minimal amount of gelatine for it to set and have a nice wobble.  This was a dense and disappointing panna cotta but if you remove the title I would've been 100% happy with this dessert.  It tasted sensational, both the matcha and lemongrass were prominent, and not one overpowered the other.  There was also a dollop of zingy lime curd that complemented it so well.   Oh yes the texture wasn't that of a good panna cotta but we ate it all.

Good meals consist of memorable food and atmosphere -- the food was packed with flavor and I woke up the next day still thinking of those lamb chops.  I have a whole new appreciation for Vietnamese food - I've always loved it but now I'm frustrated that I don't have a good Vietnamese cookbook.  That along with the friendly and personal service where the waiter actually shakes your hand and introduces himself as he sits you down means that I'm now looking into my diary for when I'm going to The Little Viet Kitchen next.   Definitely one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in town.

The Little Viet Kitchen
2 Chapel Market
N1 9EZ
020 7837 9779

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