Not the most dignified picture to start off a blog post but really, this isn’t a classy blog, is it? That is one of our entree, the barbecued quail ($7), which despite its undignified posture was easily one of the tastiest quails I have ever had (and I have had the famous Rumi quail).
(Bo la lot – grilled beef wrapped in betel leaves – $9?)
This post is the culmination of two visits to Thanh Tam (formerly known as Thanh Ha, the name change is still a mystery to us but mind you every time I hear a story about a Melbourne Vietnamese restaurant name change, it usually involves some sort of sordid family feud, anyone know what went on here?) whom I have grown to absolutely adore for its large interesting Vietnamese menu and just genuinely good cheap food.
(Banh cuon – steamed rice rolls with pork, prawns and other interesting things – $8?)
We first rocked up to this place at the recommendation of April from My Food Trail. The place was popular and a bit squishy. The four of us were cramped onto a small table, which is a big downer especially for this restaurant because the food is so damn cheap that you want to order more! In fact, our record so far is 7 dishes between 4 people.
(dipping sauces and accompanying vegetables)
The menu did make a distinction between entree and main but don’t be fooled, the classification entree really isn’t an indication of size but rather the fact that you don’t eat these dishes with rice. The small table problem became apparently when we ordered about 5 dishes between 4 people just to realise that the accompanying sauces, lettuce, herbs, bean sprouts and various other side dishes came before any actual dish and promptly filled up the table!
(Grilled chicken with sticky rice – $9?)
Mind you even though we received about 5 dipping sauces – they all tasted pretty much the same despite the waiter’s insistence that they are for different dishes and must be matched accordingly. We started having to turn down some of the side dishes because let’s face it, we weren’t going to eat two whole heads of lettuces and two gardens worth of different herbs.
(Banh xeo – Vietnamese pancake with prawn and pork filling – $13?)
But the king of dishes at Thanh Tam is their banh xeo – crispy, coconuty ‘pancake’ filled with prawns, pork, beansprouts and spring onions. This seems to be the house favourite as almost every table there orders it. You can have it with various fillings – we went for the most tradtional prawn and pork. You take a piece of lettuce and a bit of herb, lay a piece of crispy pancake, spoon on the fillings and drizzle with the dipping sauce, wrap the lot up and put it in your mouth. Not enough restaurants in Melbourne serve banh xeo, I say. This is a dish not to be missed. And no, don’t try to go at it on your own. It’s freaking huge. Bring friends.
At this point, sadly my camera ran out of battery on the first trip but we also ordered bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew) and chicken congee. Everything I have had there ranged from good to awesome. I haven’t been let down by any dish there yet. And with most of the dishes under $10 – we plan to go back there often.
Just the small table! Damnit!
Thanh Tam (formerly known as Thanh Ha)
Address: 172 Victoria St. Richmond, VIC 3121
Phone: (03) 9429 8130