After watching the very excellent The Grand Budapest Hotel at Garden City, Anthony suggested on the spur of the moment that we head to Darra for some Vietnamese as we were over that side of town anyway. This presented a dilemma for me as my phone was just about out of power so there was a probability of no photos and, I hadn’t realised we’d be going to lunch so had not done any research on where the best of the best of the best places to visit were. First World Blogger Problems. Still, I wasn’t going to turn down the offer of authentic Vietnamese for lunch so undaunted, we drove on.
For those living elsewhere, a little background info. Darra and Inala are suburbs to the west of Brisbane that contain a significant Vietnamese population, many of whom arrived as refugees as a result of the Vietnam/American War in the early 1970’s. The community settled and thrived and it’s well known that the ‘best Vietnamese’ in Brisbane is not in Chinatown or West End but in these two suburbs.
We parked near the station and decided upon Nha Hang Thanh Quyen, partly because of the Urbanspoon rating and party because they had tables available. Tucked away at the end of a car park beside a laundromat and beauty salon, it was very unassuming. A typical low price Vietnamese restaurant, it had sparse furnishings, cutlery and sauces already waiting on the table, a tissue box instead of serviettes, the obligatory out of date calendar on the wall and most importantly, a good number of Vietnamese patrons. Orders were taken, we were offered tea and there was serve yourself iced water. We got in just ahead of the lunch rush so received our bowls of traditional Beef Pho and Rice Noodles with Spring Rolls and Grilled Pork, quick smart.
It’s the broth that makes the difference between just another noodle soup and a really good Pho. This broth had a rich colour, good beef flavour and was not overly salty. It was generously filled with shaved slices of raw beef that cooked as the soup cooled and of course, plenty of fresh noodles. All the traditional accompaniments – bean sprouts, Vietnamese mint, lemon were there as well as a myriad of spicy, salty, sweet sauces to pimp the soup to your tastes. The rice noodle dish was fresh and also had a generous amount of pork and spring rolls topping it as well as a delicious scattering of peanuts. Usually Anthony shares my soup but begs off less than half way through, preferring the dryer dishes. In this instance though, he made sure that he had his fair share of the Pho. This is a big tick for the chef!
Does Nha Hang Thanh Quyen have the best Vietnamese in Brisbane? It’s just too hard to be certain with so many other options in the suburb. At less than $20 for two full meals that were fresh and full of flavour, it’s certainly a contender. We are already talking of our next visit to Darra, to try somewhere else but at the same time are tempted to return to Nha Hang as we know the Pho is very good indeed.
Darra and Inala are suburbs in transition. As we took a short walk around, we noted the Lebanese Consulate, a Middle Eastern grocer, women in headscarves and men in Islander lava-lava. Forty years on, the Vietnamese community has become much more integrated into wider Brisbane with third and fourth generation children spreading their wings beyond the suburbs’ borders. This has left opportunities for new migrant communities and whilst it may be some time before Darra and Inala give up their place as a hub for the Vietnamese population, it will inevitably happen in the same way that West End, once synonymous with the Greek community, has evolved. Bring it on.
Nha Hang Thahn Quyen
7/136 Darra Station Rd
Darra Qld 4176
Visited: Saturday 19th April 2014 – Lunch Service