I finally managed to pull my finger out and get my ass down to the Vietnamese café on Aplin Street, Ba Mien a couple of weeks ago for lunch with one of my most favourite people to have lunch with, fellow blogger, Baking Myself Happy. (Sorry Sandy I still haven’t made it to Terrazza. I swear I will get there eventually haha). BMH and I have a shared love of food, talking about food and our general intolerance for stupid people. Given the opportunity to choose where we had lunch I chose Ba Mien, knowing that it was somewhere that was close to where BMH worked and also somewhere that I had wanted to blog about for quite some time. BMH had actually been there quite a few times given the close proximity to her work but was happy to go again with me.
We met there just before the lunch rush which was perfect for BMH because she was a little restricted for time due to it being her lunch break also. Myself, well when I’m not at sea I’m a lady of leisure. That’s not true at all, it seems like the more time off I have from work the more I have to do but on this particular day I had no trips to Master’s, Bunning’s, Solomon’s Carpets or all of the above planned.
After our hello’s and a bit of general chit chat out the front of the shop we headed in and placed our orders at the counter. BMH already knew what she wanted so she ordered first leaving me to have a bit of a longer look over the menu. For someone who spends a lot of their spare time perusing menu’s online (hey it’s a vice of mine) for once I wasn’t at all prepared and this was in fact the first time I’d had a chance to view the menu. Shock! Horror! It didn’t take me long before I settled on the Lemongrass and Beef Chilli Noodle Soup ‘HUE’ Style for AU$10.90. The lady at the counter did mention to me that it was hot but I brushed her off. Please… I’m too hot to handle baby! I know I have tendency to go for mainly noodle dishes but in my defence I did seriously consider the Green Crispy Papaya Salad with Coriander Dressing for AU$9.90 (another regular dish of mine). It was the Coriander Dressing that turned me off. I don’t like coriander, it’s just too overpowering for me.
Formerly the grease trap ‘Galloping Gourmet’, Ba Mien is cute, colourful and adorned with vibrant (but a little tacky) lime green walls and bottles of Sriacha chilli sauce. I must admit it’s really great to finally see some Asian cuisines other than Chinese, Japanese and Thai setting up shop in Cairns. I know for a very long time we didn’t even have one single Vietnamese restaurant in Cairns and now we have at least four that I can think of off the top of my head.
Anyway so while we waited for our food to arrive BMH and I discussed the in’s an out’s of the universe, buying houses – something the two of us are both considering with our respective partners, why Isagenix is such a farce (how the hell people are falling for the food replacement shake gimmick again especially when it’s clearly a pyramid scheme!) and BMH’s absolute horror at discovering that she may not be fitting into her dresses quite so well because she had started to develop lat’s (the muscle kind). This part I found overly amusing especially considering how devastated she was about it all. Being a girl with quite large ‘lats’ I couldn’t quite understand it.
Back to the Isagenix part for a tick.. I more than understand the premise behind it all – weight loss and living a healthy life but surely people would rather eat real food? I myself can contribute a 15kg weight loss to Celebrity Slim Weight Loss Shakes back in 2006. However the overall success of me not piling back on the pounds after I stopped having meal replacement shakes can also be attributed to the stress of my piece of shit, alcoholic ex-boyfriend and surviving (literally) on a diet of cigarettes and daily 5km runs on the Esplanade. For the record I don’t smoke anymore and I certainly don’t condone this form of weight loss. At the time I was a shadow of my current self both mentally and physically but we get over these things. Enough about me… Yeah Isagenix might help you lose weight and feel great about yourself but what about the afterwards? You can’t live on shakes forever and have to go back to eating real food eventually. My advice is to educate yourself. Learn to eat real food in moderation and exercise. It’s not frigin rocket science people!!! Am I right or am I right hey BMH?
Enough about that – It didn’t take long before our lunch to arrive at our table – I’m actually not sure if the service is always that prompt or it was just that we were the first one’s there for the lunch trade. My guess is that it’s always prompt or there is no way that BMH would keep going back. My noodle soup was quite large in size and stature with a bit of chilli and lime on the side. The broth was somewhat flavoursome, mostly the chilli kind, but generally didn’t have much depth to it. The thinly sliced beef was lovely and tender and this was the first to go from my bowl followed by the noodles which were still a little bit firm to bite. Exactly the way they should be IMO. I then proceeded to work down the large amount of soup in my bowl only to be faced with nearly choking on chilli. It’s not that it was particularly hot but more it just went down the wrong way, kind of like when you breath in Milo. THAT SHIT BURNS!!! Tears ran down my face, I couldn’t breath and I immediately turned around casing the nearby drinks fridge for anything that may quench the choking burn. Fortunately for me, after a sheer moment of panic, the burning subsided, I wiped away the tears and our conversation continued as per normal.
BMH’s had ordered the Lemongrass Beef Bowl which appeared a little more basic than mine. From the Happy Baker herself “It was okay – nothing to write home about. There wasn’t really a discernible lemongrass taste more just a generic Asian taste. The beef was pretty chewy but really for the AU$8 or so I paid I wasn’t expecting gourmet’. Oh, she’s gooood.
I found the food at Ba Mien to be only okay… worth the visit but nothing to write home about. This is something that was reiterated by BMH – she would know because she has dined there a lot more than I have. Also because as a fellow foodie, I more than trust her opinion. Apparently it can be a little hit and miss but usually worth taking the chance on considering it’s handy location to her work, cheap meals and cheerful service. I myself will definitely be returning for another go and to try something else on the menu other than noodle soup. Ladies, forget cleansing with Isagenix ladies and instead try the Lemongrass and Beef Chilli Noodle Soup at Ba Mien. Not only will it clean you out starting with your nasal passages, at a mere AU$9.90 a pop you might actually save yourself some serious coin and a few extra kilo’s in the long run.
15a Aplin St, Cairns QLD e4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6426
Last Saturday my friend RS and I were looking for somewhere to go for a cheap feed and decided on (well I decided on) Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant after hearing a few good things about it on Facebook and via other online sources (Trip Advisor). My Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant Table 52 card may have also had something to do with my selection. Being a BYO (Wine Only) Restaurant I asked RS if she would like to get a bottle of wine for herself and I would be the designated driver. She politely declined and after a big night a few nights earlier on a nasty spirit starting with T and ending with Ila I also opted for the water. We arrived just after 8 at Lan’s to find the restaurant about a third full. After a little bit of confusion from the two waitstaff as to who was going to seat us we were shown to a seat at the front of the restaurant, right near the entrance.
The waitress that claimed us fetched some water and some glasses and bought us some menus. RS and I had a lot of catching up to do after a slight falling out between us late last year but we were moving on with a friendly Saturday night dinner pretty much picking up right where we left off. In between catching up the waitress came over a few times to ask us for our order but neither of us had had a chance to even glance at the menu yet. The waitress wasn’t bothered and I told her that I would let her know when we were ready. We both had a look at the menu and I have to say that nothing on the menu interested either of us in the slightest. It all sounded very boring, so much so that RS pulled a 2-4-1 meal voucher out of her bag for another restaurant in town and asked if we should go there instead. I figured that since we were here already and seated with water that we should give it a try. Eventually I gave the waitress the old ‘nod’ and she came over and took our order. We both decided to skip the entrees and went straight for the mains. RS ordered the Vietnamese Chicken Ginger and Rice for AU$18.50 and I ordered the Stir-fry Chicken Lemongrass and Rice (AU$18.50) from the Special’s Menu that surprisingly (much like the specials board out the front of Fetta’s) hasn’t changed since I dined at Lan’s well over 6 months ago. According to the menu the Stiryfry Chicken Lemongrass is ‘cooked with love’ so I figured it must be good!
We waited about 10 minutes for our meals to arrive which is almost too quick but hey there isn’t much to a Stir-fry Chicken, really. The meals looked very similar except my Stir-fry Chicken Lemongrass was darker in colour than RS’ Vietnamese Chicken Ginger. Each meal came with a large plate of rice. A plate that I thought was much too big for me when I saw it but typically I ate the lot as did RS.
We both dug into our meals sharing a little so we could each taste what the other had ordered. RS told me she didn’t care much for my Chicken Lemongrass because it was too salty while I told her I didn’t care much for her Chicken Ginger because it was too bland. RS enjoyed her meal although she did say that it was nothing special and she also managed to pull a couple of ‘questionable’ looking pieces of chicken out of it and put them on the side. To me her meal had almost no flavour at all except for a few slivers of fresh ginger stirred through it. She did however finish the entire meal.
I enjoyed my Chicken Lemongrass but I do have to admit that it wasn’t anything special and it really was very salty but then again I would rather it be salty than taste like nothing. It really just looked like something that had been carelessly thrown together, not like something ‘cooked with love’ as stated on the menu. I did finish it and minus a few stray bits of capsicum that I pushed to the side (another vegetable I’m not fond of).
I have to say after two occasions of dining at Lan’s (I didn’t write about the last one) I am really not very impressed at all. The service is good yeah but the food is very ordinary and the atmosphere is terrible. I can’t put my finger on why but it’s just feels very sterile. There is more atmosphere at the Nightmarkets food hall. I am assuming that the majority of the customers that dine there are staying at the Discovery Resort that Lan’s is attached to. In the end I can’t really complain since the meal did only cost us just under AU$10 each but the fact that the menu was so undesirable that we nearly left in search of somewhere else to eat is pretty bad. The only thing that’s going for it really is the ‘BYO Wine’. Our decision not to drink is a decision that RS and I probably should have reconsidered.
Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant
183 Lake St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4044 9796
Opening Hours: 7 days 6am – 10am, 6pm-10pm
For a place that was not long ago seemingly barren of Vietnamese restaurants to dine at Cairns is now teeming with them! To name just a few that I have come across in the last week or so… Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant (don’t rate it but that’s an entirely different post), Pho Viet in Orchid Plaza (yet to try but will keep you posted) and then there is First House Vietnamese Cuisine on Spence St. First House has taken over from what once was the Hare Krishna restaurant Gaura Nitai’s. It’s a simple yet quaint little restaurant across from newly refurbished The Jack (formerly Shennanigans). I first dined at this little gem with my family nearly a year ago and found it to be well worth the visit. At the time it had only been open for just over a week and we were the only people dining there but we gave it a go and were pleasantly surprised. First House owner Vincent is the previous manager of Cafe China (or was it Golden Boat) but has since moved on to the greener pastures or shall we say the steaming pho’s of First House Vietnamese Cuisine. Recently MS and I were looking for somewhere to dine for a late lunch in the city and popped into First House for a look. There was only two other occupied tables but it was after 2.30pm. The owner is super friendly and even remembered me from when I dined there with my family. I am pretty memorable I must admit (that’s a joke – or is it?). First House is run by Vincent and his equally pleasant son who’s name escapes me at present. MS ordered the Vietnam Style Hai Nan Chicken Rice (AU$15.80) while I stuck with what I always order when I dine at a Vietnamese Restaurant – the Pho (AU$12.80). It didn’t take long for our meals to arrive and they were delicious. MS’s Chicken Rice was a good lunch size and the chicken was succulent and tender. There are condiments on each table in the restaurant including XO Sauce and Hoi Sin. Having recently discovered Hoi Sin sauce MS happily ate his chicken and rice with a little drizzled over the top while stealing mouthfuls of Pho from my side of the table.
Now to my Pho… It was superb. A nice big bowl, they weren’t stingy! The beef stock was rich and flavoursome unlike the less than appertising Pho that I was served at a particular Cairns restaurant starting with ‘B’ and ending with ‘obby’s’. There was so much that I couldn’t finish the whole thing but MS helped me out and now it seems that he too has quite a penchant for Pho. The garnishings of bean sprouts and Thai Basil that arrived on a separate little plate for me to add myself were super fresh and fragrant. YUM!
The food at First House is fresh and authentic, the service is friendly and personable and although the place isn’t glamourous it just seems to work! Don’t let the tacky plastic table clothes and the flashing neon sign fool you as this all adds to the character of First House and the overall dining experience. There are lunch specials available between 12pm and 2.30pm 7 days a weeks (check out my ‘Lunch’ page). Pop in for a quiet lunch or dinner. You will be glad that you did. By the way did I mention that First House Vietnamese Cuisine is BYO? Oh yeah.
First House Vietnamese Cuisine
55 Spence St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 5153
Opening Hours: Open 7 days 11am – 3pm and 5pm – 9pm including Public Holidays
Eat in or takeaway
Ok so last Monday night curiosity got the better of me much to MS’s dismay and we ventured on down to Bobby’s Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant since neither of us had the energy to cook. We had one of those 2-4-1 vouchers from The Cairns Post so I figured ‘yeah why not it can’t be all bad’. I have heard from a few other people that the food isn’t very good but this is one of those instances where I had to try it for myself. And you know what? The food isn’t very good. The service was, well, pretty good. The staff, even though a couple didn’t speak English, were attentive and served us with a smile. I ordered a Pho Tai – Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodle Soup (AU$13.90) and MS ordered the Crispy Skinned Chicken with Lemon Sauce and Fried Rice (AU$19.40). I have only had Beef Pho once before and this was at the Mindil Beach Markets in Darwin at a stall that was reputed to sell the Best Pho in Darwin or the NT or something like that. And let me tell you it was amazing (see my previous post ‘Mindil Beach Markets’). This Pho at Bobby’s, however was not quite as nice as my previous Pho. Yeah it was big, there was lots of noodles, I had fresh chilli and herbs to garnish my Pho with but the broth just tasted like beef stock. It wasn’t anything special. No delicious aroma wafting from my bowl of Pho. I couldn’t taste the yummy sweet and sour flavours in my broth. I was pretty disappointed.
After MS’s initial mistake of thinking that the chicken was boneless, he spent the next 20 minutes or so (the time that it took him to eat his meal) picking bones out. I might add that it was his own fault for not reading the menu properly. Still, he said the meal was good.
Again, nothing special or anything to write home about (definitely something to write a post about however). The restaurant itself had about 8 tables occupied with both locals and tourists in the mix. The atmosphere wasn’t very inviting and it was more like dining at the Night Markets rather than a restaurant as stated in the name. Needless to say I have satisfied my curiosity. I can make my own Beef Stock at home and call it Pho. I wouldn’t have gone there had we not had a 2-4-1 voucher and now I probably won’t be going there if I do, at least not to get noodles anyway. Sorry Bobby but your claim to having the ‘Best Noodles in Town’ just doesn’t stand with me.
Bobby’s Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant
Ph: (07) 4051 8877
Address: 5 Aplin St, Cairns City
Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm 7 days