258 Victoria St, Richmond
After an overseas journey where we primarily subsisted on fried chicken and barely any pho, Aunty Mary and Niece Cindy are back with a vengeance.
With the great online reviews and constant ravings by Aunty Mary’s colleagues (who are white by the way – not being racist, just stating the facts – you can refer to the I Love Pho 264 post), Niece Cindy and Aunty Mary have finally managed to find a spare Friday to visit the elusive Ninh Kieu (closed for Tuesday lunches).
Aunty Mary was late to meet Niece Cindy. Very late. Niece Cindy, a solitary figure on a table for 6 was forced to endure over 30 minutes of the lunch crowd chatter aka White People Problems. Having received no texts or calls from Aunty Mary, Niece Cindy as you can imagine was not impressed, and ready to walk out the door…until Aunty Mary miraculously showed up. Finally, an Asian face!
As per usual we ordered our two small rare beef and beef balls. They did not have any three-coloured drink (serious?), so Niece Cindy had to relent and opt for the iced white coffee (gross). Rare beef and beef balls was also not on the menu, and only available by request. While ordering the waitress offered us the option of extra vegetables for $2. This quickly alerted us that the restaurant probably caters for the health conscious non-Asians consumers out there. We politely declined and asked for the traditional non-healthy option.
As we waited for our order, Niece Cindy started berating Aunty Mary for being late and making her wait in a restaurant full of white people. As a side note, Niece Cindy finds it disconcerting when she is the only ‘Asian’ customer in an Asian restaurant. Aunty Mary apologised emphatically, but to no avail. Only damn good pho would make up for this bad start.
The mung beans and basil was fresh and crunchy. Garnished generously with coriander, spring onions and a few slices of red onion, the broth arrived piping hot and sweet, MSG sweet. The pho was disappointingly bland, clear and not as authentic tasting as we would have preferred. As for the stars of this pho, the rare beef was not so rare, and a quartered beef ball seemed a little cheap. Noodles had a bite and it tasted like it had been left out in the cold and reheated again.
Ice coffee had too much ice and not enough coffee. If we wanted to order a cup of ice, garnished with coffee syrup, this would definitely be the drink to order. And seriously, no three-coloured drink? Surely an egregious mistake! Every Vietnamese pho joint worth its MSG serves three-coloured drinks.
Service was great and by far the best we have experienced on Victoria St, the owner was welcoming, attentive and happy to accommodate our request for beef and beef balls. Noticing young Niece Cindy alone, she offered to pour her tea and even admonished Aunty Mary for subjecting a young and sweet girl to such a long and arduous wait. Either way, the waitress was very hospitable and prompt, we cannot find a fault with the service here.
Plenty of condiments on offer here – chilli, hoisin, fish and soy sauce, along with fresh chilli and toothpicks. BUT no pickled onions, slightly disappointed.
Ambiance & Environment
One word can be used to describe the facilities at this restaurant, clean, unlike the facilities we had become accustomed to on our travels. The modern decor is simple and unlike other pho restaurants down the street, it lacked a television. Maybe this was a conscious effort to encourage conversation between the patrons? Then again considering the majority of the customers do not understand the Vietnamese channel usually on show, it is a logical cost cutting measure.
The ambiance was very calm and relaxed, and dare we say boring. It lacked the energy and the hustle and bustle of most Asian restaurants. If you are after a quiet place to have a conversation over lunch or to take a date, then Ninh Kieu would be perfect for you.
Like Superbowl and I Love Pho 264, Ninh Kieu caters for a predominantly non-Asian customer base. This is highlighted by the good service, modern decor and clean, hygienic surrounds. Food however was clean and bland, leaving a lot to be desired.
Niece Cindy: 6 (Having waited weeks to sample this place, it just didn’t live up to its hype.)
Aunty Mary: 6, mainly for hospitality.
Definitely one our pricier meals. $5 for a bloody drink! This also marks the FIRST time Niece Cindy has paid for a meal, and about time too.
(You’re welcome Aunty Mary)