I am going to pretend that I never mentioned anything about writing a Food Guide on Docklands. Because you know, that was more than a year ago (insert excuses after excuses here.)
Due to a new commitment, I have been going to Springvale a lot recently. For those of you who aren’t from this side of town (or ever from this town at all) Springvale is an awesome enclave of the cheap eats to end all cheap eats in the south east of Melbourne. Vietnamese, Cambodian and Chinese feature heavily in the food landscape and more importantly (to me anyway) there is a small section that caters to all the Thai food needs including restaurants catering to the local Thai population, Thai groceries and Thai DVDs (beats me why you still buy these illegal DVDs when you can illegally watch them on YouTube for free and for much better quality.) But let’s talk about Springvale another day. Let’s talk about this great new restaurant I found called Moon Diem Hen.
(Banh xeo – seafood Vietnamese pancake/crepe – $13?)
Moon Diem Hen has one of the most unfortunate locations in Springvale. It is right next door to the extremely popular Hoa Tran – another Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant. The location has turned over a new restaurant, oh about… every year since the first time I discovered Hoa Tran many years back. It seems like nothing beats the Hoa Train mojo. I am definitely guilty of ignoring all the restaurants that have come and gone in this location in these past years. But one day, just when the queue to get into the cramp, dark Hoa Tran was too long and I wasn’t in the mood to wait, I decided to step into spacious, brightly lit and clean new restaurant next door.
(Salt & pepper calamari with red fried rice – $12?)
To be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea when Moon Diem Hen opened up (told you I only paid attention to getting into Hoa Tran like the rest of us) but the place seems quite brand new. Very brightly with a skylight, it has a, err, fairly interesting decor. I apologise in advance for not having a picture of the decor but I can vouch that it is indeed interesting.
(Salt & pepper prawnswith red fried rice – $12?)
Never mind the decor, we were there for the food. Moon Diem Hen has a big menu of all sorts of Chinese and Vietnamese dishes including favourite single-dishes such as stir-fries on rice, pho, Vietnamese, Chinese and Cambodian style noodles soups, stir-fried noodles, rice vermicelli salad (bun), it also has various large portioned meat and seafood dishes to share in a banquet type meal. I have been there a couple of times for lunch and another time with a big group where we had seafood dishes. Both times, I was treated to rather good food and especially the seafood was amazingly cheap. The first time Josh and I shared the salt & pepper calamari on rice and a special combination rice vermicelli salad (first picture, $13?) ‘Combination’ included spring rolls, fried pork, prawn cakes, beef in betel leaves and possibly something else I can’t remember) – we both found these two dishes to be really good. It lacked the usual greasiness that often accompanies these dishes and it had a more homemade taste to it. The second time I was there on my own, I ordered the salt & pepper prawns with red fried rice. I know. Call me boring. I also really liked the free soup that came with it too though I am a sucker for free soup everywhere, so this doesn’t mean much.
(Fried calamari in salted egg yolk batter – $18)
Another time though, I took my mum and a few of her friends (hereby known as ‘the Aunties’) because I had notice on the previous trips that Moon Diem Hen sells lobster noodles for really good price ($25 S, $32 M, $60 L) so I thought we might give it a go with a big group of people so we went in one weekday lunch (I’m taking a career break) and while there were a few tables filled it, it was quite spacious (the opposite to next door, essentially.)
(Lobster in XO sauce with noodles – Large – $60)
We ordered the lobster noodles – it was available in either XO sauce or ginger and spring onion sauce. Our waiter steered us towards the XO sauce so we went with that. I can’t say I expected much for lobster costing $60 but the portion was massive. I would guess there were two smallish lobster tails (say, about 2lb size – you can see the photo with cutlery to scale, you be the judge) but the noodles! Oh my god, there was a LOT of noodles. There must have been about five balls of egg noodles in this dish (most Chinese seafood restaurants would charge you about $6-$12 per ball of noodles.) Though the noodles/lobster proportion was quite unexpected, I am one of those noodle loving fiend and I have to say, I loved it. Now the lobster! How was the lobster? Sadly, I didn’t have any! I know! Lobster is great but honestly I don’t think it’s worth the money so I let Mum and the Aunties eat them since they seem to enjoy them a lot. Mum’s feedback was that the lobster was overcooked – which I suspect meant that this was frozen lobster and so suffers that slight toughening in the flesh. Of course, if you compare this to a live lobster dish (which would cost about $150++) – this wasn’t as good but it was definitely good enough for the Aunties had no complaint (my mum is fussy.) I think for what it was and how much it cost, it was a ridiculously good value. The noodles and sauce themselves weren’t bad either (I ate a lot of that, I can vouch for that.)
(Pippies in XO sauce, served with Chinese doughnuts – $18)
Another dish we ordered was pippies in XO sauce. The pippies were really nice and plump in, I think, the same sauce as the lobster but managed to taste quite different to the lobster dish. The seafood pancake/crepe (banh xeo) was also very good. I noticed that many tables ordered this dish and so really wanted to try it. It didn’t disappoint. Again, it had that lovely, less harsh, home cooked flavours that I found to be the characteristics of the cooking here. The filling was seafood (you can get prawn & pork filling too) and with creamy mung beans and beansprouts. I really liked it. I think it’s better than Thanh Tam – the previous reigning favourite spot for banh xeo. The calamari in salted egg yolk on the other hand I found a bit bland as this is the one dish that I expected to be more oily and salty. While unwelcome in other dishes, this made this particular a bit too bland for my liking.
(Mixed vegetables with fried tofu – $12)
We also ordered a plate of mixed vegetables to tie everything together. Again this dish did not disappoint. The sauce was well flavoured and the veggies were fresh (they’re in Springvale, there really is no excuse for using bad products.) We also ordered special combination rice vermicelli salad again because I really liked it the first time and figured the Aunties would like it too. I was right, they really liked it. They found Vietnamese food in Melbourne quite different to the Vietnamese food they get in Thailand and really enjoyed trying all the different dishes I ordered.
So after a few good meals, this puts Moon Diem Hen firmly my favourite place for Vietnamese food in Springvale. The fact that it’s new and next to Hoa Tran, I haven’t seen it packed yet so it has always been easy to get in (though I am now hearing reports that they are packed out some nights – words must start to get around) but this means we would be back there in a heart beat for our next non-pho Vietnamese fix. We love the fresh, tasty food they serve at especially good price.
Moon Diem Hen Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant
Address: 246A Springvale Road Springvale, VIC 3171 (no entrance from Springvale Rd but a lane at the back from Balmoral Ave)
Phone: (03) 9882 7359
Public Transport: Springvale Train Station (250m)