Rice Kitchen, South Melbourne

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MELBOURNE | Rice Kitchen is a Vietnamese restaurant in South Melbourne that’s focused on providing locals with an authentic taste of Vietnam. I was recently invited in by owner Lili Tu, and being a huge fan of Vietnamese food I happily accepted.

Lili started Rice Kitchen in 2017 as a food delivery service after her role as a multi-platform producer for the ABC’s international department and Vietnamese service was made redundant. With no previous hospitality experience but a keen passion for food and cooking, Lili turned Rice Kitchen into a reality, and soon after starting the food delivery service, opened as a bricks and mortar restaurant in 2018.

The space is small and simple. A natural sunlight filled, bright room with wooden furniture and artwork a photography on the walls. As is the case with the best Vietnamese food, it’s the ingredients that are the stars, and Rice Kitchen source the best ingredients by working closely with suppliers. Most of the sauces and marinades are made from scratch, and nothing artificial is used.

There’s familiar things like pho, bao, salads, and rice bowls on the menu, but for the best experience ask Lili to recommend some of her Northern Vietnamese favourites. Lily hails from Hanoi, and the food at Rice Kitchen reflects that. While there are dishes from across the country on the menu, it’s the Northern Vietnamese dishes that really stand out here. They’re all created with love by herself and chefs Lucas Do and Kaz Huynh.

Bun Cha Ha Noi is one of Rice Kitchen’s specialities, and is only served on Friday nights and weekends to ensure that it’s made to the highest standard. Pork patties are char grilled on natural wood charcoal, which imparts a wonderful smokiness to the meat. Each bite transported me back to eating the dish on the streets of Hanoi. It’s served with a fish sauce broth, pickled kohlrabi, carrot, lettuce, perilla, fresh herbs, and vermicelli. It’s as good a version of the dish that you’ll find outside of Vietnam.

Pho rolls are another highlight. Tofu, beef, or chicken served fresh wrapped in thin, steamed rice paper. Go for the tender wagyu beef with daikon, carrot & Thai basil. Dip it not just in the zesty fish sauce, but also the fiery house made chilli sauce. Also try the crispy fried Hanoi style spring rolls filled with crab and pork.

Another must order dish is the rice flake prawn popcorn. The dish, which is a popular Hanoi street food, consists of succulent prawns coated in toasted sticky green rice flakes and is served with salad and a delicious chilli mayonnaise.

There’s a small selection of desserts on the menu – try the deep fried sticky rice mango ice-cream with passionfruit sauce. There’s also alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks like Vietnamese coffee, house made coconut lemonade, and pandan green tea.

The menu at Rice Kitchen is slowly evolving, and one thing that I did notice while dining were several diners on other tables that weren’t familiar with Vietnamese food. They were being gently guided by Lily to try things outside of their comfort zone. When they obliged, you could hear from their praise that they were very happy to be exposed to something new. Lili told me that there will be more Northern Vietnamese dishes appearing on the menu, many of which aren’t common in Melbourne. I’ve even been told that there will b a few offal dishes which makes me very happy.

I’m not a fan of the constant ABC funding cuts, but I can’t help but be a little bit happy in this instance, because it’s led to something delicious. Whether you’re after a familiar Vietnamese favourite, or want to expand your horizons, Rice Kitchen is well worth a visit. I know I’ll be going back.

Rice Kitchen

212 Clarendon Street
South Melbourne
Victoria 3205
Australia

Telephone: (03) 9077 3303
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Sun – Mon: 11:30am to 3:30pm
Tue – Sat: 11:30am to 3:30pm; 5:00pm to 9:30pm

Rice Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Paul
Paul
Paul founded The City Lane back in 2009 as a place to share photos of his travels around Europe with friends and family. The City Lane might have changed quite a lot since those early days but one thing that’s remained constant is Paul’s passion for food, travel and culture, and a desire to photograph and write about his experiences. Paul has a strong inquisitive nature that drives him to look beneath the surface in order to discover what really makes a city and its people tick, and what better way to do this than over a good meal or drink, with a city’s locals, at places that people who live in that city actually frequent. Paul is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast that may or may not actually be about beer.

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