“We’re back from our Vietnam holiday! Must tell you all about it, especially about how we met Luke Nguyen in Hoi An! Are you free for a catchup?”
K and I always enjoy catching up with my ex-colleague Sarojini and her husband Neale, so I eagerly book in a catchup as soon as I received her SMS. While we originally wanted to go to Sadhana Kitchen and try their Friday night degustation, they were booked out for the night that we were planning on going out. A new plan was needed, and I picked out La Mint in Darlinghurst, a French-Vietnamese restaurant that I hoped would evoke memories of our friends’ recent trip, and our holiday to Vietnam back in 2012!
We started with a drink each. The boys got beers, Sarojini opted for a Oriental Pearl cocktail, and I chose a mocktail – the Sparkling Strawberry which was lived up to its name, with a soft and subtle fruitiness that made it very drinkable.
We get some Vietnamese Rolls to share as a starter. Normally, La Mint’s rice paper rolls come with prawn but we asked for the tofu version as Sarojini is vegetarian. It did take a little bit of explaining to our waiter though as his English wasn’t the best, so be prepared to spend some time describing your food preferences if you have a particular allergy and need to avoid certain foods! The highlight here was probably the sweet and peanutty dipping sauce – the rolls themselves were a little bit bland.
The Vine Beef, shared between K, Neale and myself was much better than the rice paper rolls, so I felt sorry that Sarojini missed out on a nice entree! The beef was really well marinated and lightly spiced, so combined with the crispy vine leaf wrapping and crunchy peanuts on top, it was a real delight. The freshness of the mini lettuce leaf cups also helped to freshen what could otherwise have been a heavy morsel.
Unsurprisingly considering how warm that day was, the boys quickly finish their beers and order a cocktail each. K orders a Crazy Mojito, and Neale orders a Perfect 10 Martini.
“I had a martini (or two, or three) every day when I was in Vietnam,” he announces. “It was just so cheap to have a good cocktail there, but this Perfect 10 Martini definitely lives up to its name!”
Our mains arrive quickly after we finish our entrees. Sarojini’s Banana Blossom Salad is beautiful, though not quite as substantial as she was expecting. It normally comes with chicken, but as she asked for it to be made vegetarian, the chicken was omitted from the salad. That was expected – however, you would perhaps expect for another protein to be substituted into the salad (e.g. tofu), but it was left as a mix of herbs and vegetables. It’s a little disappointing, especially as the dish was still charged at the regular $22 price though it was considerably less substantial.
Neale just couldn’t go past the Coco Curry as soon as he saw it on the menu. How can you go past something as stunning as a creamy chicken curry in a coconut (hey, alliteration!)? This came with a serve of coconut rice on the side, which just went perfectly, especially with the little strips of tender flesh that Neale scraped off the inside of the coconut when he finished the curry.
K opts for a dish that leans more towards French influence than Vietnamese influence. His Duck Confit with its delicious super crispy and strong tender meat is an absolute delight with the sweet cherry glaze. It comes attractively displayed in a fried web basket as well, which slowly absorbs the sweet glaze as an added bonus after you finish the duck.
My Seared Salmon came with a thick hoisin-esque sauce on top with plenty of chopped shallots. The salmon was cooked perhaps a bit longer than I would normally do myself, but at least the salmon skin remained crispy and yummy. Vegetables were scarce on the plate with just three stalks of young asparagus.
Halfway through my meal, I finished my Sparkling Strawberry mocktail and choose the second mocktail on the list – a Sparkling Mint. Unfortunately, this tastes more of fake candy mint leaves than it does of fresh mint. I’d recommend the Sparkling Strawberry over the Sparkling Mint.
Onto dessert, and Neale is the only one who opts out, claiming that his Coco Curry left him much too full to contemplate sweets. I never have the same issue – who doesn’t have room for dessert?!
My Flambe Ice-Cream is by far the most flamboyant and theatrical dessert on the menu. It comes out as a cute little battered cube of ice-cream, the waiter comes with a beaker of alcohol, drenches the ice-cream, then casually sets it alight. It’s definitely a sight to behold – and delicious to boot as I think they added a touch of cinnamon to the batter!
Sarojini’s Caramelised Sweet Potatoes was more disappointing in comparison, with a massive pile of sweet potato chips piled upon a scoop of plain vanilla ice-cream. She found herself wishing instead that she had ordered another dessert off the menu that she had been eyeing.
K was happy with his Banana Fritter, served interestingly with black sesame ice-cream in a pool of coconut sago. It’s the first time that I’ve ever seen banana fritters served this way, and somehow it works. The sesame seeds in the fritter batter work well with the black sesame ice-cream, and the creamy sweet banana works well with the coconut sago. A winner all around.
La Mint Restaurant and Bar is a bit hit and miss – some dishes were absolutely fantastic, while others didn’t quite hit the mark. They struggle a little bit with food intolerances as well, so be prepared to do quite a bit of instruction if you have any allergies. I probably won’t be back any time soon, especially without the 25% off voucher that I used from my Entertainment Book. It was nice food and a good experience…just not a standout.