We were advised cocktails could be mocktails (nice touch) and dishes were to share except for the pho of which there were two varieties, beef or chicken. We decided to go with:
- Pho plings - Pho broth, braised ox tail and pork mince, Vietnamese mint, fresh chilli, white onion, chilli oil
- Beef banh cuon - Medium rare beef, dried beef, lettuce, cucumber, pickled carrots, fresh herbs, crispy fried shallots and hoi sin peanut dipping sauce
- Crispy pork belly - Slow roasted pork belly, red cabbage, pickled ginger and red onion slaw, ginger caramel
- Poached chicken in Vietnamese slaw - Chicken thigh poached in coconut and lemongrass, slaw of wombok, carrots, shallots, kohl rabi, chilli, mixed herbs and fried shallots
- Fried whole quail - Honey and five spice glaze, braised in master stock then deep fried, served with a salad of mushrooms
Anyway we had pho plings on the way so all ok. The beef banh cuon arrived first and they were fine. The dipping sauce was literally a spoonful of hoi sin from a jar with chopped peanuts. Ok but not amazing.
The Pho plings look so pretty with their pleats and a family of four arrive on top of some broth in a bowl. It's a bit of an inside out xiao long bao as the broth is on the outside. We tasted the broth - a bit over salty but ok. We tasted the pho pling...I thought the meat inside bordered on dry and there was an intense flavour of star anise overpowering the whole thing. Couldn't taste teh chilli, the onion, the chilli oil or the mint. Disappointing really.
The salad came next and looked like it had been tipped out of a bag of Coles pre packaged salad. The chicken had the subtle taste of coconut which was pleasant but there wasn't that much of it. I felt that it was all wombok, some carrot and fried shallots and none of the other ingredients. The dressing wasn't all that special and could have come from a bottle. In all honesty, my Vietnamese salad is fresher and more authentic than this.
Crispy pork belly was more greasy pork belly and when chewed it releases oil leaving the mouth greasy. The overwhelming taste sensation was just sugar sweetness with no balance. Didn't get the flabvours of any pickle or ginger to take away the sugary greasiness. Not pleasant.
And if it couldn't get any worse, it did. Fried whole quail came out looking like it had been out in the sun far too long. Mahogany brown and ever so wrinkled, this poor quail had met a grizzly death! The leg bone just snapped it was so over cooked, The fibres of the meat stood out individually when shredded and picked apart. Small slaving grace was the rice roll accompaniment that was soft and silky with a few mushrooms on top - more a garnish than salad. Really the state of that little bird was not acceptable so we flagged our waiter, explained the problem and he just seemed confused. I asked him to take it away and he asked me if he should tell the kitchen! Damn right he should tell the kitchen but then he just walked away to the bar and didn't take the dead bird with him? WTF?! So we asked another waitress, one who seemed a bit more with it and she apologised and took it away. SHe came back to let us know we could have another one and they would comp it. Too right, they should comp it. In fact quite frankly that's not really a gesture we should be grateful for. We declined an additional dish as we were pretty over it by this point.
So we quickly paid our bill and left and made way to Red Silks for a second dinner that was far more successful!
So in summary, Hochi Mama looks good like its pho plings; all hip and fun but Stef and I found it style over substance completely and were really disappointed. It's over priced for what it offers and is just not good enough. Hochi Mama? Nochi Mama more like!