Kingsland Road, often dubbed little Vietnam, has a high concentration of fantastic Vietnamese restaurants. Song Que is one of them, which I've visited at least three times and have never been disappointed. But it looks like those days might be ending, because a recent visit to Café East has shown me what I've been missing.
For starters, the location of Cafe East in Surrey Quays means we lose the painfully annoying Shoreditch hipsters (whew!). Then comes the food, which was far tastier. This bahn cuon is a soft rice roll filled with pork and mushrooms, then topped with crunchy bean sprouts and crispy shallots. It was a wonderful combination of salty, crunchy and spicy from the chili fish sauce.
|Bahn Cuon - Cafe East|
There are some regional cooking staples that I always have to get and one of them is spring rolls (goi cuin) whenever I'm at a Vietnamese restaurant. It's refreshing, simple and delicious. I can never resist. The spring rolls at Song Que have gained quite a following and I think these are lagging slightly. Still, they were enjoyable and comes with 3 rolls instead of 2 at Song Que.
|Goi Cuon - Cafe East|
Then come the mains. The cooked and rare beef pho pictured below was slurp-worthy good. The meat was tender, the noodles still held up texture in the hot broth. Most importantly, the broth was just shockingly good, I just wanted to take a mugful and drink it.
|Beef pho - Cafe East|
We also got a spicier (though relatively mild) pho with cooked beef brisket. It contains similar ingredients as the regular pho, but the broth was much richer from the brisket.
|Beef brisket pho - Cafe East|
The dish that surprised me the most was this dry vermicelli noodle dish with pork, shredded veggies, and a fried spring roll... otherwise called bun cha nem thit nuong. Doused with this sweet, fishy sauce, it was so tasty. I love the elements of hot and cold in this dish.
|Dry Vermicelli - Cafe East|
I also tried this surprisingly delicious and refreshing cold drink made with red beans, condensed milk, and green jelly. I love drinks that make me feel like a little kid again.
Fortunately there were 3 of us, otherwise Matt and I would have died from food pains and thus not been able to write this review. Cafe East has been one of the highlights of 2013 eating so far and I can't wait to go back.
To recap, 2 starters, 3 mains, 1 strange but delicious drink, 2 sodas = approximately £40. Indeed this ranks very high on the well regarded value for money scale.