Noi Vietnamese Eatery is a family restaurant in the truest sense: the sum of combined efforts from Thy and Quang Nguyen (Devour, Shibui, Third Time Lucky) along with Thy’s siblings Phong and Toan, and Toan’s wife, Nhi. The group’s parents have also chipped in along the way.
Quang describes the food at Noi as “an homage to what we grew up on”. The lamb ribs, served with a green, mint and chilli sauce, perfectly demonstrate what he’s shooting for. They’re coated in a simple spice rub – it’s called “chilli salt” in Vietnam, explains Quang – though his version also has garlic, lemongrass and sugar. “It’s a very basic marinade – more common with chicken, but we do lamb cutlets with it at home.”
“We wanted the ribs to be tender, so we do a slow roast and then we char them on the grill for the smokiness,” he says. “Lamb is relatively fatty, so we wanted something a little bit fresher to cut it a bit. That’s where the mint sauce comes in.” The dish merges traditional Vietnamese flavours with the backyard barbie he watched his family cook on growing up.
Now a successful restaurateur, he’s upgraded from the humble barbeque to a custom-built wood-fired grill, turning out lemongrass-and-turmeric chargrilled chicken (served as a whole or half bird), charred corn and more.
While chargrilling is certainly a feature, there are lighter dishes too. The bahn trang nuong is Vietnamese-style pizza made on a super-light rice-paper base, topped with mushrooms or pork belly and egg. The expertly seasoned beef carpaccio with puffed rice strikes a perfect fatty-crunchy balance.
Quang also uses rice paper to wrap his spring rolls – for how it puffs up and gets crispy when fried, “so you get little pockets of real, light crunchiness”. They’re stuffed with either vegetables, or chicken, crab and prawn, and – thanks to the rice paper ¬– they’re all gluten free.
Don’t make the same mistake we did in assuming the fried rice is merely an accompaniment. It’s elevated by the inclusion of elements found elsewhere on the menu – such as juicy, roasted pork belly and sautéed mushrooms.
And, naturally, there are desserts. Two options are available right now – a coconut rice pudding with mango ice-cream, and deep-fried glutinous rice doughnuts with condensed milk – but Quang’s adding more next month.
The drinks list includes wine (predominantly Australian), cocktails and house-made sodas. The house pour is Noi Lager – a special ale by Mountain Goat brewery – and Quang says he’s also working on a boutique gin. “We’re in the early stages of creating our own collabs,” he says.
When we last visited the space it was an empty shell. Today it’s unrecognisable from its former life as Chopstix. The only feature salvaged from the old fit-out is the sun-filled atrium, complete with bubbling pond and market garden. It’s a retro counterpoint to the clean, modern interior, and helps insulate diners from the busy roadway beyond. It also provides herbs and ingredients used in many of Noi’s dishes. There’s chilli, betel leaf, Vietnamese mint, two types of coriander and “two more [but] I don’t know what they’re called in English,” Quang says. “The parents have also grown some sort of Asian melon,” he adds.
The place settings at Ngyuen venues are always a standout. At Noi, beautifully wonky Japanese-made crockery is paired with slender, brushed-steel cutlery. Quang and Thy curated the range with the help of local husband-and-wife team Helen and Katsu Ikeguchi from Concept Japan. “We sourced the cutlery ourselves, they got the crockery,” Nguyen explains. “We want to pay attention to those details as it makes all the difference … It completes the package of what we’re trying to do. Details like that matter to us.”
Noi Vietnamese Eatery
306 Glen Osmond Road, Fullarton
Wed to Sun 5pm–10pm