When it comes to Melbourne's west we're basically noobs - we've made the occasional trip to Footscray but we've barely begun to sample the amazing range of goodies on offer. With the Moody Noodles now residing in that general direction, we're getting a few more opportunities to hang out over there. On the Easter weekend we made a return to Bo De Trai, Footscray's only vegetarian restaurant (which we'd managed not to visit in nearly five years).
Cindy's lemon juice, heavily laced with sugar
Bo De Trai is a Vietnamese place, providing faux-meat alternatives to the carnivorous offerings at most of the neighbourhoods other nearby places. The three of us (Cindy and I brought along Toby Noodles) decided to split food, to give us the widest range of dishes.
First up: rice paper rolls stuffed with imitation shredded pork skin and veggies, served with imitation fish sauce ($6.50).
These were pretty great - fresh fillings, light wrappings and some sort of soy-based 'pork' dust. The 'fish' sauce had a nice tang as well.
We were pretty intrigued by imitation deep-fried mud fish ($12), but it turned out to just be battered eggplant discs.
I say 'just', but I'm not really complaining - these were crispy and soft in all the right places and excellent vessels for either the 'fish' sauce or the quite delicious sambal-style chilli that's provided at every table.
We took a break from mock-meat (but not from deep frying) with the bean curd and lemon grass ($12).
These tofu cubes truly represent the magic of a deep-fryer - crispy on the outside and meltingly soft inside, they're sprinkled with a lemongrass/chill/salt seasoning and are very, very moreish.
Finally, I was swayed by the nearly ten-year-old review from The Age stuck on the wall and ordered the imitation clay pot lam ($15) (exactly as I had been on our last visit!).
You can see why it's their signature dish - it's a hearty stew of mushrooms, mock-meat and vegetables in an excellent broth. Perfect for winter.
The service at Bo De Trai is friendly but slow - we were pretty ravenous, so we lacked a bit of patience waiting for the food to come. Still, it was worth the wait - Bo De Trai is an excellent and affordable option for inner-west vegos.
Read about our first visit to Bo De Trai here. Since then it has had positive reviews from easy as (vegan) pie (three times), Footscray Food Blog, The Hungry Grub, Fat Duck, Vicki Vegan, Vegan travelling adventures, Ask Me Tomorrow, NOM and half-eaten, with just FoodsCrazy unimpressed by its mock-meat goodness.
Bo De Trai
94 Hopkins Street, Footscray
veg dishes $5.50-$15
Accessibility: There's a small step at the door, and fairly close-packed tables but a clear wide passage through the middle. Ordering is at the table with payment at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.