Wednesday 24 July 2013

Roll'd Goldsbrough Lane

Shop TG10, Goldsbrough Lane, 181 William Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Roll'd CBW on Urbanspoon
This is a simple effective concept, taking popular and healthy Vietnamese dishes and making it really quick, no fuss and easily accessible. It is more expensive that your average Vietnamese restaurant even though it is essentially a takeaway joint. Goes to show what a bit of marketing and upmarket feel can do for any eating place, staffed by young English speaking confident young people - it just attracts people in droves, who don't feel they need to decipher complicated menus with a 1000 dishes. Yet, in this part of the CBD, it doesn't have a lot of Vietnamese competition, so it continues to thrive.

The Place
Limited space to sit outside the restaurant, on Goldsbrough Lane itself. Most people takeaway back to their offices for lunch. It is pretty no frills and easily accessible - not a space for a long lunch or meeting.

Things to do Nearby: This is the CBD with gift shops all around. Southern Cross Shopping Precinct is about 5 minutes walk away.

The Food
Basic Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls that you would find in many Vietnamese Restaurants. Fresh and healthy. I have seen them start rolling these up from about 8am in the morning. They have a lot pre-prepared as there is usually a huge crowd. Variations are not possible as they are pre-prepared and kept cold. Thick rolls filled with various ingredients and vermicelli. The one problem is that their sauces come in really small containers that are difficult to dip the thick rolls in. There's just not elegant way to eat these.

Some might find the rolls a bit bland because they only use the basic ingredients, including your choice of protein, lots of plain vermicelli and some cucumber, carrot and coriander. It's the sauce and protein that's important. As far as rolls go, they are no worse or better than the average Vietnamese Rice Paper rolls. In fact, I like that they use the thinner rice paper that still holds together after the first bite. They are however more pricey.

I have also had their Pho which is average and basically consist of sliced beef or chicken breast. Just very basic pho without being adventurous. It's the typical Saigon style sweeter soup, that's not bad for fast food but again, more expensive than your average Vietnamese joint. It won't be my go to place for Pho though.

The Service
This is basic service where you order at the counter and wait for your food. Basic self service with a good bunch of staff who know what they are doing and get the food out relatively quickly. The quickest things to order would be the rolls. If you want noodles, it takes more time of course. It's friendly service and I think that's part of the attraction.

I would go there if I am looking for a quick Vietnamese lunch and need something fast, easy and healthy, AND if I am in the area. Otherwise, 3 blocks away, there's a range of Vietnamese restaurants on Swanston Street that are cheaper and have similar quality food.

Cultural Moment
Rice Paper Rolls can do for Vietnamese Cuisine what Sushi Rolls have done for Japanese Cuisine, and Spring Rolls has done for Cantonese Cuisine. It's easily accessible, fresh and yummy and can be eaten on the run. On the positive side, these rolls can introduce people to Vietnamese Cuisine in a simple way, that is not too challenging for those who have never had it before. It also provides a great alternative to fast food, or food on the run. On the negative side, I have already started seeing people put "peking duck" into Vietnamese Rolls and passing it off as Vietnamese. This is a California Sushi Roll moment. As people start to mix cuisines, the originals sometimes get forgotten and knowledge becomes very diluted.

I once met someone who said he loved sushi, but then I very quickly realised that what he knew as sushi was simply California Roll - so the heap of actual sushi that I had ordered for us - well... he didn't like any of it, so what do you think? I ate it all of course!

The point is, as innovations are introduced to popular parts of the cuisine, it's important to take note of the classics as well. It's probably important not to pass off innovations as the original because misrepresentation of the cuisine happens way too much. This is not to say that innovations are not good - like having Vietnamese Rolls with mayo - but seriously - if you think you're going to get that in Vietnam, you'll be surprised.

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