We tend to forget the good solid locals that are there are for us year in and year out, through every fad and phase that comes and goes.
So I recently popped back to Restaurant 88 to see how Luke and team were faring, and was impressed as always.
I like the warm deep red ambience splashed with golden balloon highlights, and the equally warm (and prompt) welcome of the staff.
I also like the new style menu which is very tactile with beautiful pictures (even the chip fiend, who normally steers clear of restaurants with pictures on the menu thought it was well done). It feels a little smaller in number of dishes than previously, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in today’s world of information and choice overload. Stick to your knitting and do what you do well.
Since I rather enjoy the soothing textures of bao buns I decided to try 88’s Bao Your Way, with sweet pork belly. I found the bun to be light and soft, and an excellent vessel to showcase the pork belly and tangy fresh flavours of the salad and sauces, with the pork belly being all meat and not just strips of fat (yay!). I could have stopped there and been totally satisfied with the evening.
The chip fiend had beef tacos as a starter, which were also pleasing with tender sweet and sour beef and lots of fresh minty flavours. Strong reminders of being in Vietnam.
For mains I went beef salad with pork, prawn and crab spring rolls, while the chip fiend went lemongrass chicken. Again, lots of light, fresh, crisp flavours with a wide range of textures meeting the Vietnamese concept of balance – spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet, along with a balance of fragrance, taste and colour. What looks simple in presentation can be complex in execution.
Being always keen to try new things, I decided to give the Vietnamese salty plum soda a go, which I have to admit grew on me during the evening. It is definitely an acquired taste and works better with food than without. But is apparently typically Asian, so nice to go authentic all the way.
I also spied a Chrysanthemum herbal tea that’s on my agenda for next time.
The restaurant was pretty full on a Saturday night, and deservedly so.
At around $15 for entrees and $28 for mains, its also excellent value for money.