The Alley đường hẻm

Jackie McMillan
8th Nov 2023

My dining companion is usually put off by staff memorising an order but he was strangely silent when it happened at The Alley đường hẻm. He was probably affording the older owner some latitude after he saved us from a parking fine in the rear carpark when we didn’t realise our parking had to be paid. This auspicious start to our evening barely rated a glance from the lady sitting at the rear of the empty Enmore restaurant expertly folding pork spring rolls with her eyes glued to large screen televised gambling. 

As it turned out, the owner didn’t miss a dish across our meal, which kicked off with the best bánh xèo ($18) I’ve had in a long time including in suburbs more readily associated with excellent Vietnamese cuisine. Stuffed with roast pork and prawns, this crisp pancake was actually crisp, remaining so even when well-doused in nước chấm and delivered to your gob wrapped in the accompanying fresh leaves. We washed ours down with a refreshing Saigon Special ($8) beer as the restaurant filled up around us.

Bún chả ($17) teamed seasoned pork patties with fresh herbs and white vermicelli noodles in a generously proportioned bowl. Throwing in lemongrass and chilli chicken ($21) with combination Vietnamese fried rice ($21) was overkill. Though well-mixed with snapping fresh vegetables running from sugar snaps to capsicum and broccoli, the plump fillets of chook broadcast chilli at the expense of the purported lemongrass. It was hard to complain though when the prices belied the portion sizes: we ended up taking half of these two dishes away. The chicken’s fierce heat was nothing a frosty custard apple smoothie ($9) couldn’t fix arriving creamy and sweetened with enough sweetened condensed milk to make it an admirable dessert substitute.