I love Vietnamese food, so I'm determined to try out as many of Brisbane's Vietnamese restaurants as I can. This time I was off to Quan Thanh at West End. Quan Thanh is on the strip of restaurants at Hardgrave Road that includes Tongue & Groove, Wild Pepper and the Tibetan Kitchen. There are 4 Vietnamese/Chinese restaurants just in this little patch, all of which seem to be fairly busy.
Quan Thanh has a few tables out the front, but most of the restaurant is inside. We didn't get there till about 8.15 on a Friday night. At that time the place was pretty packed, so we ended up at a table right at the back of the room near the kitchen.
There are two sides to the menu - one has all the Vietnamese dishes, the other is Chinese. Although I love Vietnamese food, I've got a couple of favourite dishes that I usually order to see how a restaurant stacks up. Normally it's either pho or a similar soup for entree, followed by a rice noodle salad for mains. I know its a bit boring, but I love the flavours and textures of those dishes so much.
Anyway this time I broke away from the usual order, because Quan Thanh has a pretty large Vietnamese menu, which you don't often find in Brisbane. I ordered the steamed rolls with pork loaf, which sounded intriguing. I like ordering things off the menu when you're not quite sure what they are going to be. There were 4 of the steamed rolls, which I'm pretty sure were rice paper rolls. But because they had been steamed, they were much thicker, with an almost spongy texture. That also made them pretty hard to eat with chopsticks, because they just broke into pieces. So I gave up on the chopsticks and ploughed in with my fingers instead. The rolls were filled with pork mince, and were served with slices of pork loaf (which looked like a type of processed sausage), bean sprouts, chopped mint leaves, fried shallots and fish sauce. They were pretty tasty, especially when combined with the bean sprouts, mint and dipping sauce. They were also really filling. I didn't get through all four, because I knew I'd never get through my main course. I also didn't eat all the slices of pork loaf - I think you'd really need to be a big fan of processed pork.
The other entree we had was make your own rice paper rolls with tofu. These came out with lettuce, mint leaves and coriander to fill the rolls, along with a fish sauce. As usual, there was way too much for one person, so I managed to steal one or two. There's nothing quite like the texture of a crunchy rice paper roll. It has to be one of my favourite foods from any cuisine.
When it came to main course, as hard as I tried, I just couldn't resist the rice noodle salad with marinated beef. This came out in a huge bowl, and there was no way I was ever going to get through it after the size of the entrees. There were plenty of bits of the marinated beef on top, which was in fairly big chunks. The salad was made up of noodles, lettuce and bean sprouts. I stole a few bits of basil from our other main course to add to the flavour of the salad. The salad was ok, but not one of the best I've ever had. I couldn't put my finger on what it was missing, but maybe it was just that the fish sauce was a bit bland.
Our other main course was the vegetable rice noodle soup. My vegetarian guest was pleasantly surprised when the waitress asked if she would like the soup made on vegetable or chicken stock. Unfortunately the soup was a bit disappointing. It was a big serving, but most of the vegetables had been overcooked and the stock itself was a bit bland. Luckily the soup was served with a side plate of bean sprouts, basil, lemon and chilli, so we could spice up the flavour a bit.
There are plenty of other Vietnamese dishes you can try, including pho, spicy Hue pork & beef noodle soup, broken rice with pork chop (which I almost ordered just to find out what broken rice was) and a range of other rice noodle salads. There is also a full menu of Chinese food if you're not a big fan of Vietnamese.
The decor inside is pretty basic, in line with plenty of other suburban Vietnamese/Chinese restaurants. Service was attentive and very friendly throughout the meal. They didn't appear to have any wine coolers though, so our bottle of white just sat on the table. I always think that if a restaurant is going to charge you corkage, they should at least be able to give you a wine cooler, but that's a pretty minor complaint. There is a bottle shop right next door to Quan Thanh, which is very handy if you're in need of a drink or two.
Prices at Quan Thanh are very reasonable. All up our dinner was $38, so a trip to Quan Thanh isn't going to break the bank.
Overall our dinner was solid, but not great. I think the food I had at Kim Thanh (about 25 metres down the road) was probably better, based on my recent visits to each restaurant. I'll have to try the other two Vietnamese restaurants on this little strip though, to see which one is the best.
What does all this mean? A solid BYO restaurant with a good range of Vietnamese food, big servings and friendly, attentive service.
food bling ratings
Food - OK
Service - Great
Ambience - Fairly basic decor
Value for Money - Great
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Good
5/75 Hardgrave Road
West End 4101
P - 07 3846 3849
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