Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Rice Paddy

Being a big fan of Vietnamese food, I've been meaning to eat at The Rice Paddy in Surfers Paradise for a couple of years, but never made it there until just recently.

The Rice Paddy is on the Gold Coast Highway at Surfers Paradise, just south of Cavill Avenue. The restaurant has a dark, modern minimalist feel to it, with a few Asian touches.

We ate there on a Saturday night, and the restaurant was surprisingly quiet. A couple of tables left before ordering, perhaps because The Rice Paddy is priced a little above some of the other Asian options in the area, and is also licenced, with no BYO option.

I wasn't about to leave though, as there was plenty of delicious food on the menu. Entrees cover a range of soups ($7), spring rolls ($9), rice paper rolls ($9) and san choi bao ($8), together with options like spicy quail ($10), beef in betel leaf ($12) and sugar cane prawn ($10).

We weren't ravenously hungry, so both went for rice paper rolls - one serve of the prawn and one vegetarian (both $9). These were pre-made, and each serving consisted of 3 very large rolls. The prawn rolls were disappointing, lacking any distinctive flavour. The prawns were tiny and I think the flavour of these rolls could be improved with some fresh local prawns. Unfortunately mine just tasted like lettuce and rice noodles. On the other hand, the vegetarian rolls were excellent - having not only a great flavour, but also a lovely contrast in texture. The mushrooms and Vietnamese mint really added to the flavour of the rolls.

As I've already mentioned, the menu is pretty wide ranging. There are plenty of house specialties, including caramelised pork belly with egg ($20), spicy tamarind prawns ($22),
spicy wild boar ($25) and Vietnamese salad with prawn & pork ($20). If the house specialties don't take your fancy, there is also a range of stir fry dishes and noodles. There are 10 vegetarian dishes included in the stir fry section, giving vegetarians a good range of options.

I ordered the grilled pork spare ribs ($22) from the house specialties, which were described as a
rack of pork ribs marinated with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, salt & chilli, grilled and sliced, then served on a bed of lettuce. There was plenty of pork, and the ribs had been chopped into bite size chunks. It was served with a great clear sauce, tasting of fish sauce, chilli and garlic. I really enjoyed this dish, and it was a generous serving.

We also had the snow peas with Chinese mushrooms ($15) as a main. This dish had a tangy ginger flavour and a tasty sauce to soak up the rice. The snow peas were plentiful and perfectly cooked, contrasting with the texture of the Chinese mushrooms. It was a good vegetarian dish.

There is also a great wine list here. Happily, there's a whole page devoted to riesling, which I think is a terrific match with Vietnamese food. We had a bottle of the 2007 Mountadam Eden Valley riesling ($38) which was limey and crisp - perfect with our meals.

Other wines that caught my attention on the list as a good fit for Vietnamese were the great selection of German rieslings (ranging from $40 up to $440 for the 2001 Trimbach Clos St Hune riesling), Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard sauvignon blanc ($55) and the Vinoptima gew├╝rztraminer ($72).

The wine list covers an interesting range of premium wines, including 1999 Louis Roederer Cristal ($540), 2004 Domaine Leroy Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru ($1990), 2004 Domaine Leroy Gevrey Chambertin ($890), 1998 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon ($305), and the 1991 Penfolds Grange Shiraz ($820). I'm not convinced that some of the wines on the list (like the Italian varietals, grand cru white Burgundy and Australian shiraz) complement Vietnamese food, but wine is of course an individual choice, and they're on the list if you want to spend up big. By the same token, there are plenty of wines under $50, so don't think its all just big ticket items. I've used the version of the wine list available on the website, so not all vintages may be available on your visit.

Service was very friendly throughout the meal, and the staff were happy to make food or wine recommendations during the night.

Overall our meals at The Rice Paddy were good, and I'll definitely be back to sample some more of the Vietnamese specialties next time we are at the coast.

What does all this mean? A great range of Vietnamese options at reasonable prices, with a very adventurous wine list.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Dark, modern & minimalist
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Great
Vegetarian - Good

The Rice Paddy
Shop 1, 3100 Gold Coast Highway
Surfers Paradise 4217
P - 07 5592 1390
E - ricepad@bigpond.net.au
W - http://www.thericepaddy.com.au/

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