Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 17, 2010:Thanh Nga Nine

Time for a shameful admission: in more than four years of living in Melbourne, we've never eaten Vietnamese on Victoria Street - the closest we've come is the sadly defunct Bodhi Cafe in Abbotsford, which wasn't even Vietnamese (or the also badly missed Vina Bar on Lygon Street). When we moved here, my initial enthusiasm was killed off by the challenge of finding vego options on some overwhelmingly meaty menus, but about a year ago AOF from Confessions of a Food Nazi sent us a note (and wrote a killer review) telling us that the staff at Thanh Nga Nine understood vegetarian food and provided a bunch of delicious vego options. When Ruth also gave them the thumbs up, Thanh Nga Nine went straight onto Cindy's list of must-try places.

And then we just didn't go. I'm not sure why, but we just don't seem to spend much time in Richmond. So when we found ourselves riding up Victoria Street on a Saturday afternoon, there was no escaping a lunch pit-stop. The menu includes a sub-section of vegetarian meals, with fifteen choices and a helpful mention of the use of mock-meat (which can be swapped for vegies for those who can't face faux-pho).

Cindy ordered a whopping vegetarian pancake ($9), an intriguing concoction made predominantly of rice flour and coconut milk, dotted with faux-meat chunks and stuffed with sprouts. Cindy didn't eat it properly - turns out you're supposed to scoop up pancake bits with the lettuce leaves and mint. Instead she politely used her cutlery, still finding it a crispy treat, with the faux-pork providing the dominant flavour. Cindy also got lured in by the drink menu, ordering an icy lychee smoothie ($4.50), which was tangy, sweet and delicious, if not entirely weather appropriate.

Instead of any icy drink, I was in need of warming up, so I ordered the vegetarian pho ($9) - a dish usually so laden with meat that I rarely get to try it outside of Cindy's home-cooked efforts. This rich noodle soup came out accompanied by a plate full of sprouts, a wedge of lime and a spicy little chilli sauce. The soup was laden with noodles and about five different kinds of mock-meat, but the star of the show was the liquid itself - with the lime and chilli stirred through, the rich warming bite of the soup was a wonder. I got a bit carried away with all the chilli bits which seemed to sink to the bottom, so by the end everything got a little spicy for me, but for the most part this was an absolute sensation. And perfect on the kind of grey, wintry day that we were there.

We were well looked after by the staff, the prices are ridiculously reasonable and we walked out heartily full and completely satisfied - now that we've discovered Thanh Nga Nine we'll undoubtedly be visiting Victoria Street a little more regularly.

While writing this up, I discovered that Thanh Nga Nine is omni-blogger Melbourne Gastronome's current Victoria Street fave and that Johanna from GGG had a great lunch there. There's another good review at My Melbourne Food Blog, and a mixed write-up at My Food Odyssey.

Address: 160 Victoria Street, Richmond
Ph: 9427 7068
Price: Vegie mains - $9-$15


  1. Yeap. I love that place, too. Two thumbs up from a Vietnamese says something, right? :D

  2. I have never had vegetarian Pho before. This excites me so much! Going to head over there this weekend to try it out! :)

  3. Wow! I've eaten at a few places along there, but never seen this place! Next time I'm at Min Phat I'll drop by for a bite.

  4. I must go there again - it sounds like the menu has changed since I was there - I ordered the veg pho without realising it was full of mock meat (or is that faux pho) because it didn't specify - when I talked to the staff they were lovely and changed it for one with vegies and tofu - I miss the vina bar too but I am glad there is thanh nga nine

  5. Am so glad you guys finally made it there and that you enjoyed it. We've been about a dozen times now and even took my geriatric parents from NZ there who don't eat anything more adventurous than Thai and despite the noise they loved it too.

    Perhaps we need Anh to arrange a vego-friendly lunch there sometime so she can help us learn how to eat the dishes properly.

  6. I <3 Pho.
    Yong's made them not pho enuff for me.
    I heard great thing about noodles at the temple of Braybrook but have never tried.

  7. Man, I ate up BIG at Thanh Nga before moving overseas. All the good Vietnamese here is waaaay out in suburbia, and it has made me really appreciate having such good, authentic Viet fare so close to the city in Melbourne.

    And there are so very few places that do good vege pho. Most places will just remove all the meat -- which usually means all the flavour and the broth. There are also VERY few Vietnamese places that do both good vegetarian AND meat dishes - even in Vietnam. Than Nga 9 is a real gem. I have meat-loving Vietnamese friends who swear it's some of the best food on the street.

    Next time you go, you MUST MUST MUST try their house speciality, the mini pancakes. There is a vego version with little fake shrimps and I've never met anyone who didn't lose their shit over it. They also do exceptionally good vegetarian rice paper rolls (same deal as the pho -- places that just replace the meat with tofu are no good. They pack theirs FULL of flavour. Though bizarrely their shredded tofu rice paper rolls suck). The salt and pepper eggplant is also awesome.

    And I've heard raves about the deep fried tofu dessert, but never tried it as I always stuffed myself so full of the above dishes.

  8. "omni-blogger"???? :)
    Glad to hear you guys like it too. We should organise a blogger group visit!

  9. Yes, we should totally have a bloggers' meet-up at Thanh Nga Nine - it clearly has something for everyone!

  10. Shame about the live seafood at Thanh Nga Nine...

  11. Do not come here. They treat their staff very bad. Ask you Vietnamese friends. It's all over the Vietnamese students association forum. They hire us for cheap and say that we are dogs if they train us well they will become rich.