Owner, Van, his wife (who runs the kitchen) and the rest of his team deliver some clean-flavoured, fresh and very tasty Vietnamese / Thai / Chinese classics in a simple setting that will leave you very satisfied… and if Van has his way, more than a little merry.
Cafe 58 is also light on the wallet with our party of five spending only a little under $30 per head. And for that, we were bursting at the seams, sharing some starters (vegetarian & pork spring rolls, vegeratian rice paper rolls, crispy fried quail and some complimentary and ubiquitous prawn crackers). The offering of BYO for wine only is a bonus, although the wine list is (surprisingly) good; in both value and range. I stopped at a bottle shop on the way, searching for a Tahbilk Marsanne as I thought it would be a great drop to compliment the clean Asian flavours. Although I left the bottle shop deviod of my first choice, guess what I found on the wine list…
My rare beef salad ($18) was an extremely generous mound of meltingly tender and paper-thin beef slices, mixed with a good dose of shredded carrot, coriander and onion. Seasoned with fish sauce, lime, sugar, and spiked with chilli. A different variety of prawn cracker (i.e. it actually tasted of prawn) accompanied the salad to offer some welcome crunch and texture and a small bunch of garlic shoots were arranged on top. Probably not required, but they looked pretty. Overall, a great balance of hot, sour, tangy, sweet and salty. Team this with a few cleansing Vietnamese 333 beers and you can almost walk away feeling you’ve done yourself a favour because it’s so damned healthy!
Other dishes also hit the mark: Pad Thai (albeit a little on the ‘spicy’ side for a dished ordered as ‘mild’), Mongolian Beef and Honey Pepper Lamb were ordered by the less adventurous. But after tasting all three, they were all made with some love, respect and quality ingredients. Spot on!
For Fitzroy people who find the journey to Victoria St for a casual dose of Vietnamese-oriented cooking, give this a go. You won’t be disappointed.
Cafe 58 Vietnamese Cuisine
58 Johnston St, Fitzroy 5065
(03) 9417 7455
Good For: Locals, cheap and extremely cheerful, large groups, an impromptu dinner, tasty, healthy take-away on the way home, an alternative to Victoria Street
Not Good For: Saying “no” to Van, when complimentary whisky is offered. Or beer for that matter