Cafe East, Deptford, London
- limster Dec 14, 2008 12:56 PM
A busy Vietnamese place that's been recommended many times here.
The banh cuon is excellent - particularly distinguished by the thin chewy wrappings made from rice flour. Also a good savoury filling of minced pork. Topped with pink chewy slices of cha lua, a Vietnamese pork sausage, bean sprouts and most importantly caramelised shallots. I'd give them a slight edge over Leong Kee's version because of the cha lua.
Pho is very good, excellent broth -- light but flavoursome. The beef was good but nothing mind blowing - I wished some of the slices were a bit thinner, to make them more tender. I like the broth more than Song Que's, but I think Song Que's meat (esp. since they also have a version with tripe) takes the edge. Between the two, I might gravitate towards Cafe East's by a hair.
Che - a sweet drink with red beans and green rice noodles with coconut milk and ice...needed a while for the ice to cool down the bubbling and thin down the starchy liquid. Not bad.
Spot on observation Limster. The pho beef slices needs to be twice as thin, but the broth is nice and the noodles are properly chewy. I go there for the bun bo hue.
I agree about the beef - and it was difficult to say whether I prefer Cafe East's or Song Que's pho. If Cafe East weren't so far I'd go there often. The banh cuon was definitely another highlight, as the filling was incredibly flavoursome.
I overheard the last time I was there that the owner plans to move to bigger premises near the Surrey Quays shopping centre sometime after the new year (around Feb).
talking of thai in deptford, has anyone tried the thailand opposite goldsmiths? i had the beef lapp the other night and it was really good. nice hot and sour taste. probably could have done with some more mint and thai basil but im a herb glutton. the coconut rice was also very good, but then it's not hard to do.
FYI, they're at 100 Redriff Road (found it using google) - at the corner of the car park of the Leisure area at Surrey Quays. Rice with three incarnations of pork - a pork chop sans bone, well seasoned with soy sauce etc. with a fairly faint aroma of lemongrass; a nice hunk of steamed egg with minced pork, vermicelli, black fungus, richly flavoured and quite garlicky; finally sandy textured pork skin. Comes with the standard sides of pickles and cucumber and nuoc cham - the sweet spicy dipping sauce. Very good overall, though not as stunning as the banh cuon. The dessert of glutinous rice with beans and coconut milk wasn't bad, but perhaps the rice was a shade softer than I would have liked. Doesn't seem like there's any change in quality, although they seem to have a hard time keeping up with the larger crowd in the new space.
Where they used to be on Lower Road is still a Vietnamese place, run by their relations, with a very similar menu. Vietnamese spring rolls were good - perfect combination of mint and lettuce contrasting the fried richness, crispy skin and savoury filling. Somewhat cheaper than the new Cafe East, and potentially close in quality. Will bear some more trying out.
Ate again at Cafe Pho Momma (the name of the place that used to Cafe East). Banh cuon was more or less like the rendition at Cafe East that I had prior to the move, but perhaps a bit less chewiness on the wrappings and a bit less fried shallots. Not sure if that's more of a day to day variation than any kind of change. Grilled chicken (marinated with lemongrass) on rice was tasty and tender, nice tang from the lemongrass. Compares favourably with Cafe East, has less crowds and is about 10% cheaper.
A friend of mine mentioned that the new Vietnamese place on Lower Road called Banzi served, among other things, banh mi. The menu is a bit more extensive than Cafe East et al, and noticed dishes more main course-ish dishes like bun rieu (a crab soup) and bo luc lac aka shaking beef. Will probably try them soon.
Had a decent meal at Banzi recently. Cha nem Vietnam/Vietnamese spring rolls had very good wrappings, nicely puffy and very crispy. The filing was a bit under-seasoned, and it only came with some pickled carrot and turnip, while lacking lettuce, perilla and mint for the added complexity.
Canh banh da do consists of a darkish flat fettucine like noodle with good texture - stiff but tender. The menu calls it caramelised red noodles, and they're new to me (would love to hear more about them). The soup stock was a little underseasoned as well, but a pinch of soy sauce and fish sauce rectified it. Comes with minced pork, prawns and some surimi/fake crab, along with the usual basil, bean sprouts, chopped red chilli and a squeeze of lemon (wished it was lime).
A dessert of rainbow che was pleasant, beans and coloured doughy bits made from rice or tapioca flour with coconut milk and (probably) palm sugar.
It's a notch below Cafe East/Cafe Pho Mamma for what I had, but will probably be back to try additional items like the banh mi, since they have a broader menu.
I thought I'd mention that I went to Cafe East almost a year ago now, and really enjoyed what I ate there. I loved the banh cuon - a great mix of textures, and very tasty. I then had the pho - I thought the broth was really good. It had depth to it, more so than many other versions I've had in London. Anyway, I now need to check out the other places that have sprung up in the area!
Went to Cafe East yday with a visiting friend.
Despite all positive reviews, etc., pho in London is still amazingly shit compared to other cities with sizeable Asian communities.
Pho broth was a tad strong -- tasted lightly of bullion, but wasn't bad. I had the well-done meat which was sliced far too thick, without adequate trimming so was covered in grizzle. Again, not terrible meat, but not the right way to do it either. The noodles were overcooked, but perhaps that is a local thing because all viet places here do the noodles incredibly soft.
The springrolls were superlative though, some of the best i've ever had.
Ranking (compared to London alternatives): Soup - 8, Meat -- 7, Noodles 7
Ranking (compared to Vancouver, Canada): Soup - 5. Meat - 2, Noodles 2
Came back again after a gap of a month or two. Had the rare beef pho, which was sliced much more finely compared to last time. Don't think the broth was quite as complex, but still quite nice.
They really irked me with one of my pet bugbears, though. Even though I ordered some Che to drink, they refused to give me an additional glass of tap water. Their excuse was that as they don't serve alcohol, the law doesn't require them to serve non-bottled water. This type of environmentally-unfriendly money-grabbing makes me so cross!