I recall visiting Uncle in St Kilda a few years back and it was nice enough but wasn't enough to lure me back and to make that North of the river to South of the river journey. But now that Uncle is in the CBD and on the tram route home on Collins St, a visit is so much more convenient!
I'd arranged to meet my girlfriend Kirsty at 6:30pm on a Thursday evening for a post work catch up and I was around 20 minutes early. There was no queue, the welcome was warm and the wait staff were happy to seat me at a table whilst I waited. Refreshingly different to neighbour Mamasita where getting a table before the whole party is there is night on impossible.
Anyway Kirsty soon arrived and we quickly moved onto The Paris End which is West Winds The Sabre gin, basil syrup, lychee, Angostura bitters, lime and prosecco served like a martini and this was much more up my street...
- Lime cured hapuka, coconut, pomegranate and chilli on a betel leaf
- Hot and sour chicken wingettes with ginger and kumquats
- Young rice prawn banh mi with avocado puree, sriracha mayo and dill
- Braised beef short rib bao with morcilla and flavours of bun bo hue
The betel leaves arrived first loaded with snowy white fish and coconut shred. Oriental flavours of sesame, coconut and chilli came through and the whole two bite morsel was just delicious. A bright, light and fresh start.
The chicken wingettes were a generous serve and so so tasty. Definitely finger lickin' good with a yummy ginger and kumquat dipping sauce. The baos were nice enough but I think the betel leaf and chicken were better. The prawn one was crispy but I felt there was just a touch too much bread to prawn ratio. The short rib bao was heavier on the protein ratio but you can order extra baos if necessary. The meat shreds and the morcilla adds a savoury hit. I think I was expecting more chilli heat because of the bun bo hue reference. I think the meat could have been softer and juicier. Tasty but not amazing.
- Master stock crispy pork hock with banh hoi, lettuce wraps, fragrant herbs and nuoc cham
Loved the banh hoi which are essentially noodles shapped into little squares. We also ordered some grilled roti whichw as a good call to dip in the sticky glaze and make the lettuce wraps a bit more substantial. I found the meat tender and juicy, the glaze was a little sweet but the dipping sauce helped as that was pretty zippy. It's a messy dish but there's joy in being up to the elbows in meat juices and sticky sauce!
We were so full after that but Kirsty enjoyed another cocktail and ended proceedings with a strong and sweet Vietnamese coffee.
There are plenty more dishes to try on a return visit and the food was certainly good enough to warrant that. The wait staff were also very friendly; personable and casual but certainly not lacksadaisical. If you like Lucy Lui and Chin Chin, this is a good alternative but more Vietnamese in its cuisine. I am surprised by the current low score of 2.9 on Zomato as whilst not perfect, Uncle deserves a bit more love than that!