to to traditional vietnamese – victoria park
Slowly melting in the shade, the hot air rippling over the road surface seemed to have chased the lunch crowds away. The weather was hailing the return of a long, hot Perth summer. In the midst of the heat we spotted To To – a place we have always walked past but due to my scepticism was off the radar. We had a few favourites along the strip and how good can a vietnamese restaurant outside of Northbridge be, really?
Stepping in, it was a welcome respite from the heat. I was pleasantly surprised at the fit out. Looking in from the outside, To To looks quite nice, perhaps a little apprehensive. I always thought To To would fall into that category of restaurants that look pleasant enough on the outside, but are deceptively decrepit on the inside! But not so – the restaurant is decorated in with dark wood booths, lotus silk lanterns and delicate chiffon curtains. I dare say it might look fashionable for a low key restaurant. Impressive. The restaurant was half full with mostly asian customers – a good sign.
The waiter immediately seated us and we were given eye large menus to pore over. Take away the somewhat cliched chinese/vietnamese hybrid a la carte section and the result is a decent menu of authentic vietnamese lunch dishes. Large and clear photographs are scattered throughout the menu, giving an idea of what to expect. The usual (and delicious) suspects are present – pho, broken rice and fresh spring rolls. The drinks menu is also formidable, with two pages of traditional drinks! The bf gets the chendol – a shaved ice drink of red beans and lurid green jelly noodles – and I order the jackfruit milkshake to stave away the hot weather.
The food comes in a short amount of time and I have to admit, the sceptic in me is pleasantly surprised. The pho is delivered with a small plate of mung bean sprouts, mint leaves and a wedge of lemon. The broth is slightly murky with a few pools of oil. Plump meatballs bob up and down with thin slices of raw beef fanned out across the bowl. Judging from the mellow yet dense colour of the pho, it was very promising.
Before I get food envy, my vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls (who can resist spring rolls!) arrives. It is not what it looks like on the picture menu. It looks messy – like a pile of crushed peanuts, but oh my, just one look and a sniff, I could already tell it was going to be a memorable dish.
As I toss the vermicelli noodles with the sweet dressing, this dish is certainly far and away from the cold, limp version served at Han’s Cafe. The fragrance of grilled pork is unmistakably sweet and smokey, complimented by the oily crunch of spring rolls. Beneath the pile of roasted peanuts lay cold vermicelli noodles, fresh, crispy shredded lettuce, carrot and cucumber. The dish is somewhat like a cold noodle salad, hence one would assume it is healthy, but the addition of the spring rolls removes any weight watchers’ notion from it! The mix of eclectic ingredients is just right and I couldn’t stop eating it. The pork was so good I was savouring every bite, ensuring each chopstick-ful had each and every component of the dish. Almost perfect, add a squeeze of lemon for acidity and it is complete.
The pho (the hallmark of every vietnamese eatery) was very, very good. Apart from the excessive oil, the pho was very flavoursome (notably it lacked the sweetness of MSG) and had the depth of a beloved master stock. At last we have found a pho comparable to Tra Vinh’s version. Though Tra Vinh’s pho has more clarity, To To’s soup catches up in full body and character.
The drinks arrived halfway through the meal. For a while I thought they might have been forgotten. My jackfruit milkshake was creamy and had the subtle taste and sweetness of jackfruit (frozen I presume). The chendol was served in a sundae glass with an apex of shaved ice.
Overall, I was really surprised with To To. The food is high quality, fresh and well executed – elements which already set it apart from the rest of the strip. It’s not as cheap and cheerful as other popular vietnamese places but I guess you get what you pay for, with clean spacious tables and tasteful decor. Service was okay, it wouldn’t kill staff to crack a smile and the drinks should have arrived before our food. I have read a few reviews about To To and they were quite mixed so I’m guessing everyone’s experience depends on the time of day and what’s ordered (since it is a vietnamese restaurant I’d recommend doing what the Romans do and order from the vietnamese section). We’ll be back!
Up’s: Very pleasant decor – refreshingly different from lino tables and plastic plants. You can bring pho novices here without the culture shock (not saying that culture shock is bad, I believe in the contrary). High quality food, the two dishes we ordered were very good.
Down’s: Service could be friendlier. Drinks arriving halfway through our meal.
To To Traditional Vietnamese Restaurant & Asian Cuisine, 873-875 lbany Highway, East Victoria Park WA 6101
T: (08) 9355 2388
Lunch Tuesday – Sunday 11 – 3
Dinner Tuesday – Sunday 5.30 – 10pm
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