Vietnamese food has long been a favourite of ours, ever since a memorable visit to the country some years ago. The trip included a cooking lesson in Hoi An, which involved an awful lot of slicing and dicing. The memory of the freshness of the vegetables and seafood remains strong.
It seemed that a visit to Hansan in Newmarket, one of a chain of four Vietnamese restaurants sprinkled around the city, would be a good way to rekindle memories. And so it transpired, although not always in the ways we had imagined.
The place was humming at 7.30 on a Tuesday evening. There was a short queue waiting for tables, but the turnover is such that we quickly found a spot and settled in.
Settled is perhaps not the most appropriate term. The hit and run diners outnumbered the stayers, so there was a constant clashing of empty dishes and swiping of tables before the next influx. Despite the rush - the wait staff were literally running - we were not overlooked and orders and refills were quickly seen to.
David and I began with Vietnamese-style shredded chicken salad, crisp and delicious and with enough of a light tangy dressing to hold it together. Danielle hedged her bets by ordering a deep-fried spring roll and a chicken satay. The spring roll was generously filled and tasty; the satay one of the best of its kind, with tender and juicy chicken. At least one pig, if not more, gave its all to provide Bill's spare ribs, and they, too, were of high quality.
We ploughed on. My pork and prawn pancake was stuffed to overflowing with delicately flavoured meat and onions in the thinnest of pancakes, and was excellent.
Bill enjoyed his stir-fried beef with ginger on rice, the balance of spices impressing him no end. Danielle was likewise well satisfied with her pork spare ribs, which were served separately from a bowl of delicate broth with fine egg noodles. And David stuck with his chicken theme and had a very good curry and rice.
Dessert didn't even get a look-in, even if we had been able to find the menu.
It appeared as though the restaurant staff were somewhat bemused by the numbers of customers that evening, as the plates arrived on our table in no particular order. But the food is very good and authentic, the ingredients fresh and of good quality, and the prices are spot-on. For a quick meal or a leisurely one, Hansan would be hard to beat.
Our meal: $165.50 for four starters, four mains, five glasses of wine and three beers.
Wine list: Concise sums it up. There is but one choice for each variety. The beer list is longer, and includes such Asian favourites as Asahi and Sapporo.
Verdict: Busy and buzzy. Many of the diners were of the eat-and-run type, and the service, albeit rather haphazard, allows for that. There's no problem if you want to linger, though, and the food is delicious.