Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 12, 2011: Miss Chu

I always struggle to think of cheap, veg-friendly places to eat dinner in the CBD, often falling back on Indian food or dumplings. So when we were trying to arrange a quick dinner for five in town, I was pretty stumped. Luckily someone suggested Miss Chu, which I'd seen mentioned on twitter and which promised a wide variety of vegetarian dishes.

Miss Chu is a self-styled Vietnamese 'tuckshop', imported from Sydney and offering takeaway, delivery and dine-in. Like almost every vaguely trendy new place in Melbourne, you can't book ahead if you want to dine in. Which meant that, despite being assured that turnover was pretty fast, we ended up standing around on the street for half an hour before they could squeeze us in. At least it wasn't raining.

It's a pretty crowded and trendy fit-out - cute bowls as light fittings, big collages (kind of weirdly making something stylish out of what looked like photos of refugees), and lots of hip Melbourne-ites chowing down. The menu is quite long, with loads of vegetarian and vegan options - basically broken into dumplings, rice paper rolls, salads, spring rolls and a few other odds and ends. Miss Chu call themselves 'Queen of rice paper wraps' but we looked elsewhere, starting with a big pile of dumplings. They come in two vegie varieties, spinach and tofu and Asian vegetables with garlic chives ($5 per serve). I was pretty impressed with these - the skins weren't too thick or gluey and the fillings were great (particularly the tofu) . A good start.

I was tempted to try the papaya salad but someone who'd visited before told me it wasn't going to give me the chilli kick I was looking for (seriously folks, where can I get a fierce vego papaya salad?). Instead, Cindy and I both went for varieties of the Vietnamese vermicelli salads.

She got in first and ordered the vegetarian fried net spring roll salad ($12).

The spring rolls had a super crispy coating and tasted mostly of delicious deep-fried. They were piled on top of some nice rice noodles, laced with a fairly sweet chilli sauce, all piled on top of some salady bits (they're hiding in the picture above). The sauce was a bit light on, which meant that once you got through the rolls the remainder was a bit on the bland side.

I took the other salad option: a vegan salad, filled with enoki, shitake and shimeji mushrooms ($12).

I was pleasantly surprised to get a few delicious tofu chunks amongst all the mushies. Everything had been cooked over pretty high heat, so there was a nice smoky flavour to it all, which went well with the few pieces of chilli scattered throughout. I could have done with more chilli but that's just me being difficult.

There's a pretty substantial drinks list yet Cindy and I went non-boozy, opting for 'coconut young juice' ($3), which was sweet and coconutty. The beautiful chunks of coconut meat resting on the bottom filled in nicely for dessert.

I was fairly happy with Miss Chu - there were plenty of vegetarian options and the food was fresh, tasty and relatively healthy. A few people have complained about the prices - I'm sure you can find cheaper Vietnamese than this on Victoria St, but we're happy to pay a bit more for a place that serves up decent vego dishes. Having said that, I'm not sure we'll hurry back - the combination of its crowded layout, counter service and current buzz mean that the whole experience is a bit stressful. On the upside they do takeaway and delivery on cute little electric bikes and are up the same end of the city as my work, so I'll probably get to sample the food again without having to go through the whole rigmarole.

Lots of people are fans of Miss Chu, see Bellygood, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Blithely Unaware, Delicious Gathering and Bang Bang Chronicles for positive write-ups. Melbourne Gastronome and Tomato were a bit less enthused. We're not the first vegos to visit - The Big V was way ahead of us.

Miss Chu
297 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
9077 1097
rice paper wraps $6, dumplings and spring rolls $5, salads $12

Accessibility: There's no step to get in but Miss Chu is crowded and pretty narrow. Ordering and payment happens at a high counter.


  1. You might have to create that papaya salad yourself Michael and add as much chilli as you'd like :)

    Here's a recipe -

    Just substitute the fish sauce, shrimp paste out for other ingredients.

    Here's a few substitution ideas -

  2. I thought this looked promising (because I too struggle for places to eat in the CBD though am not there very often these days) but I was excited when I saw cindy's dish which reminds me of my favourite dish at the now-closed :-( vina bar. Must find any excuse to get along there

  3. Hi Will - thanks for those links! You might be right about Michael having to make this to his own satisfaction. The substitution list is well timed as I have my eye on some Indonesian recipes at the moment.

    Johanna - I miss Vina bar too! I think this is indeed probably quite similar to their spring rolls and noodles dish, though the roll wrapping at Miss Chu is like nothing I've tried before.

  4. "big collages (kind of weirdly making something stylish out of what looked like photos of refugees)"

    They ARE photos of refugees! The wall is actually a scan of Nahji Chu's (owner) immigration papers! I thought that was great. It's her head on the sign also - as a child when she fled Vietnam with her family during the war and ended up in Australia.

  5. I had the mushroom dish that cindy had, it is so good, I could repeat order that, no problems! If you are after a green papaya salad with spice, the thais do a green papaya salad called 'som tam', i had a version at Gingerboy in the city and it was so hot I couldn't finish it! they also do a quite nice 'son-in-law eggs' too

  6. Anon - thanks for that extra info. :-)

    Deb, we've had the Gingerboy version too! I think that remains one of Michael's favourites.