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Chung Viet - Deptford High St. - Best Vietnamese I've had in London so far!

Dave MP Jan 30, 2010 04:29 PM

On a whim, a friend and I decided to have dinner tonight at Chung Viet, which is just north of the Deptford Rail Station. It's a hole-in-the-wall place, and the cook (and owner?) are North Vietnamese, which was explained to me when I asked why they didn't have banh xeo on the menu. I'm not super familiar with differences between Northern and Southern Vietnamese food, but there were some differences I noticed in preparation of some dishes we ordered, and it seems like there are some interesting things to explore on the menu (especially on Fridays, when more specials are available).

At first, based on appearances, I didn't have high hopes for the food, but the meal turned out to be excellent. This is only the 4th place I've had Vietnamese food in London, but it blew all the others out of the water in terms of taste and value.

Stir fried beef w/ vermicelli was delicious - served w/ sweet/sour/fish sauce on the side, which we poured on the noodles. The beef was flavorful, and there were bits of both basil and a lemon-tasting herb (lemon basil? kinh gioi?), along with peanuts, bean sprouts, fried shallots.

Chicken salad was also very good, and different than versions I've had in San Francisco. No cabbage or lettuce - instead, there were cucumber slices, shredded onion, carrot, and what looked like baby lotus roots (but maybe they were something else? - they almost seemed like they came from a can?). Also lots of shredded chicken, mint, basil, peanuts, all in a delicious dressing which tasted like it had a hint of sesame oil, in addition to sugar vinegar and a bit of fish sauce. In some ways the flavors here were similar to Vietnamese chicken salads I'd had in SF, but I think the dressing made it taste a bit different too).

Pho w/ rare beef - Pretty standard presentation (bean sprouts, basil, chili, lemon on the side), with nice portion of rare beef. Noodles were slightly overcooked, but not bad. Broth was excellent. I was pretty positive about the broth at Nam, which I tried the other night (see here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/663115) but the broth at Chung Viet was so much better that it's kind of laughable to even compare them. Perfectly salted, rich beef flavor, nice spicing - tasted as good as any pho I had in SF (my favorite there was Turtle Tower

)

Portions were big. Prices were very reasonable. With a pot of green tea and way more than enough food for two, the total bill came to £20.

Again, it's a hole-in-the-wall, and the bathrooms were far from pretty, but the food here definitely seems to be made by people who know what they are doing. I am feeling quite optimistic lately about all the great chow-worthy places in London. This morning I didn't even know that Deptford existed (let alone that it had several Vietnamese restaurants). I will probably try to go back soon, perhaps to try a banh mi sandwich which I also saw on the menu!

Dave MP

  1. s
    skut Jan 31, 2010 12:51 PM

    great post mate, thanks for your report

    1. limster Feb 1, 2010 12:48 PM

      Thanks fr the tip! Had to try it.

      Great cha nem - substantial spring rolls with a thick blistery shell. Very savoury, lots of garlic amid the minced pork and chopped black fungus. Served with shredded lettuce, mint, Vietnamese shiso and perhaps basil, for an excellent herbal bite that cuts nicely into the meaty flavours. Also wit the standard nuoc cham/sweet dipping sauce. Probably the best rendition I've had in London so far.

      Bun/rice vermicelli with grilled pork slices was also good. Tender tasty pork, with a bit of lemongrass in the finish, along with the same herb/lettuce combination as the cha nem.

      Nice to have a big pile of chopped red chilli for reinforcements.

      P.S. there are a few additional Vietnamese places and a couple of African places within a few blocks -- anyone been?

      9 Replies
      1. re: limster
        Dave MP Feb 1, 2010 02:03 PM

        wow, you wasted no time! Glad you liked it!

        1. re: Dave MP
          limster Feb 1, 2010 04:02 PM

          That reminds me, have you tried Mama Pho (Deptford) or Cafe East (Surrey Quays/Canada Water)?

          1. re: limster
            deansa Feb 2, 2010 03:05 AM

            Cafe East's pho is pretty tasty. The only thing is they're a bit westernised – you can't find any dishes with tripe, tendon, flank, etc.

        2. re: limster
          n
          Nii Feb 1, 2010 02:07 PM

          limster - I've eaten in Tom's kitchen if you're referring to one of the African places along the high street.

          1. re: Nii
            limster Feb 1, 2010 02:17 PM

            Cool! I wasn't sure if it was Tom's Kitchen or Tomi's Kitchen. How did you like it? Any favourite dishes? Thanks!

            1. re: limster
              n
              Nii Mar 29, 2010 05:32 PM

              Hi Limster,

              I had the Goat pepper stew which literally stripped off my tastebuds. I also had the Jollof rice, it's not bad, but I've had better, saying that I haven't had much Nigerian food! I do like 4T4 in Camberwell.

              Nii

              http://hot-plantain.blogspot.com/

          2. re: limster
            p
            Plantie Feb 4, 2010 12:20 PM

            Im trying this place on Saturday, i'll let you know how i get on!

            http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/restauran...

            1. re: Plantie
              Dave MP Feb 4, 2010 12:39 PM

              Great, looking forward to hearing how it is!

              1. re: Plantie
                limster Feb 4, 2010 01:02 PM

                Awesome! Haven't had much time to sample the various African cuisines, and there are v few reports, am therefore extra eager to hear how it goes.

            2. Dave MP Feb 2, 2010 07:45 AM

              I managed to take one picture at Chung Viet, of the menu. I quite liked the way #14 was translated into English.

              I asked the waiter about the dish, and he said it had something to do with blood or blood pudding. Anyone know exactly what it is? See picture:

               
              13 Replies
              1. re: Dave MP
                deansa Feb 2, 2010 01:33 PM

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ti%E1%BA...

                1. re: deansa
                  Dave MP Feb 2, 2010 01:45 PM

                  cool! I might not really be brave enough to eat that though...

                  1. re: Dave MP
                    PhilD Feb 2, 2010 02:30 PM

                    Noodlepie's site is pretty good for info: http://www.noodlepie.com/2006/02/tiet...

                    Question I can see "tiet canh" is blood soup, and "chao long" is rice porridge. Is this dish a combination of the two?

                    1. re: PhilD
                      deansa Feb 2, 2010 03:09 PM

                      Just double-checked with my Vietnamese friend, and she tells me that it's cubed duck's blood in intestine congee. Something like this:

                      http://i527.photobucket.com/albums/cc...

                      1. re: deansa
                        c
                        chief1284 Feb 2, 2010 03:17 PM

                        Oh I can eat that, no problem. In fact I'd quite like to.

                        That raw blood stuff looked just too far though.

                  2. re: deansa
                    c
                    chief1284 Feb 2, 2010 02:55 PM

                    Wow! As soon as it said "not suitable for foreigner" I was excited. I don't think I've ever elt queasy about any food ever (I've eaten most things). But this shocked me! I'm not sure if I would want it either. Cold raw duck blood! Hmm, I'm tempted.

                    Actually cooked duck's blood is very nice and I've eaten it a number of times. But raw!?!

                    1. re: chief1284
                      limster Feb 2, 2010 03:29 PM

                      One of the most beautiful sauces I've ever had was an emulsion of duck's blood and liver, to accompany the duck. Was it a canard a la Rouennaise that you had; if so any in London?

                      1. re: limster
                        c
                        chief1284 Feb 3, 2010 12:15 AM

                        Unfortunately not. I've only had duck's blood in China. Some claypot dishes thickened with it, some pots with slices or cubes floating inside. They've all been pretty nice. That sauce made with liver and blood sounds fantastic. I'm going to look out for that. But unfortunately, I don't know where you'd find it in London.

                        1. re: limster
                          PhilD Feb 3, 2010 10:45 AM

                          Limster, there is the dish "Canard à la Presse" which I had at the Tour d'Argent in Paris (it is there signature dish). Here they drain the blood, partially roast it, remove the legs, breast and liver, then press/crush the carcass to extract as much blood/juice as possible. The liver and blood is then added to the pressed juices to thicken the sauce. Which is then used to finish off the roasted meat.

                          I believe it is also called Canard à la Rouennaise but I not certain if this requires the press, if it does it is likely to be rare in London. Maybe easier to find a place doing "jugged hare" in the game season as that is the traditional English dish with a blood sauce (and of course there is black pudding).

                          1. re: PhilD
                            limster Feb 3, 2010 11:21 AM

                            I had a superb version of this dish at Beffroy in Rouen nearly a decade ago (I suspect it is now closed, the chef was somewhat old even then), and it was called canard a la rouennaise on the menu. Sauce was rich and very oily (nearly 50% oil, hence the emulsion), and the small duck (duckling?) was served rare. Not sure if a press was involved, certainly didn't have it pressed tableside. Was described as a traditional speciality that originates in Rouen/Normandy (hence the name); perhaps Tour d'Argent's is the same dish with a different name or related dish that diverged (afterall, regional dishes in France tend to exploit/rely on regional breeds of animals). Had read in the NY Times that it was served at Ducasse's NY restaurant several years ago (also going by a la rouennaise); was actually curious if Ducasse here serves it and if so, good or bad.

                            Yet to check out the Portuguese places in Stockwell, but chicken stewed in its own blood is a common Portuguese dish, was wondering if anyone with a thorough knowledge of (the somewhat underexplored) Portuguese scene has seen the dish.

                            1. re: limster
                              r
                              r.vacapinta Feb 6, 2010 04:08 AM

                              You're talking about Cabidela and it is common in Lisbon.

                              My wife also recommends Sarrabulho, found in the north of Portugal which is various cuts of meat (like a Cozido) in porks blood. The blood is thickened with corn meal.

                              1. re: r.vacapinta
                                limster Feb 6, 2010 04:38 AM

                                :) Was hoping to draw you guys out -- any sightings of Cabidela or Sarrabulho? We'll probably need another Stockwell crawl.

                            2. re: PhilD
                              p
                              paleogeek Mar 2, 2010 08:41 AM

                              here is a good writeup of the pressed duck

                              with accompanying photos

                              http://fxcuisine.com/default.asp?lang...

                    2. Dave MP Feb 6, 2010 01:50 PM

                      Went again today.

                      Spring rolls with pork - #7 on the menu - Northern Vietnamese style, the wrappers were more like fresh rice noodles than rice paper wrappers used in most Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. Served warm, filled w/ ground pork, topped with crispy fried garlic and shallots, and served with a very nice dipping sauce. See 1st picture.

                      Dried beef salad - Strips of dried beef (like Vietnamese beef jerky), carrots, daikon, various herbs in a fish sauce/vinegar dressing. Bits of red chili made it quite spicy. I didn't like this as much as the chicken salad I had last time, but it was quite nice and different flavorwise - the dressing seemed to be fish sauce/citrus based, more like Thai salads I've had before. See 2nd picture (it's a bit blurry)

                      Duck with vermicelli and soup - This was nice, but nothing too special. Boiled duck was slightly tough, noodles were fine, broth was decent - I think it was chicken broth. Topped with what I think were shredded mushrooms, which were chewy but didn't taste like much. Served with mixed herbs, lemon, chili

                      Pot of green tea costs £1.

                      Total bill for all the food (again, far too much for 2 people) was £21. Probably wouldn't bother ordering the duck again, especially with such a nice beef pho on the menu. Would still like to try the pho ga, and the crispy spring rolls. Would also probably be helpful to have a Vietnamese speaker further determine what other N. Vietnamese specialties they could make.

                       
                       
                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Dave MP
                        m
                        Malik Feb 10, 2010 04:15 AM

                        That dried beef salad looks like Nom, which is one of my favorite Hanoian dish. Was it made with daikon or green papaya?

                        1. re: Malik
                          Dave MP Feb 10, 2010 01:27 PM

                          It did sort of taste like green papaya, but I asked, and he said that it was daikon. Is green papaya usually used in that dish?

                          1. re: Dave MP
                            m
                            Malik Feb 10, 2010 04:37 PM

                            I think Nom actually just means salad in Vietnamese. But in Hanoi (as well as in Bodega Bistro in San Francisco) the one I had was with green papaya and dried beef (along with herbs, chili, peanuts, etc).

                      2. Dave MP Feb 6, 2010 01:58 PM

                        http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1164/3...

                        Also, from a neighboring table, tried some spare-ribs - salty and spicy and peppery. Also had some sauteed pork cake, which was good.

                        The picture in the link shows banh cuon, which are what the spring rolls were I think. Also pork cake.

                         
                         
                        8 Replies
                        1. re: Dave MP
                          d
                          dejoxy Feb 17, 2010 03:26 AM

                          Hi all, new here. Do they do take-away?

                          1. re: dejoxy
                            j
                            JFores Feb 19, 2010 04:15 AM

                            I wouldn't see why not...

                            Shekha and I made our first trip down there yesterday and I'm still slightly full from it. Crispy spring rolls were excellent, while chicken salad came out in a form that seemed 110% different to what others got. Ours was packed into rice dough packets (think Korean BBQ lettuce wraps but with something akin to the pancakes you get with Beijing duck) and it was really quite flavorless.

                            Bun came with excellent grilled pork, but getting any of the extras that come standard with Vietnamese noodle dishes was effort. The best I managed was some crispy shallots before I was told that they had no chillies... only to see others get red chillies with their stuff.

                            The banh mi was actually reeeeally good for 3 quid. Nice bread, served hot, and packed with Vietnamese pork pate. They also served two very good Vietnamese coffees.

                            Everything was good, but I get the feeling that it was a bit of an off day. The staff seemed entirely different from the above posts (all waitresses, no waiter, no English speaking cook to help with ordering, etc.) Still the best Vietnamese I've had in London as is, though.

                            Oh. And the bathroom is actually hilariously bad.

                            1. re: JFores
                              c
                              chief1284 Feb 19, 2010 04:21 AM

                              Speaking of bathrooms, Chilli Cool has to have the worst in London. Well at least in the mens. Weird, weird soft Chinese porn from the 80's or 70's all over the walls. I mean BIZARRE.

                              I kinda like it though, the surrealness is just comical.

                              1. re: chief1284
                                j
                                JFores Feb 20, 2010 04:24 AM

                                I was so amused by that last year that I took a picture with my mobile...

                                But this bathroom's all together different. It's so bad that it makes the one at a hole in the wall Hunan place I ate at in Shanghai look spotless.

                              2. re: JFores
                                Dave MP Feb 22, 2010 07:41 PM

                                What time of day (and what day of the week) did you go? The two times I have been have both been Saturday nights.

                                1. re: Dave MP
                                  r
                                  relizabeth Mar 13, 2010 04:44 PM

                                  We just got back from a dinner there. We were a motley crew: 1 reluctant fish eating vegetarian, 1 infrequent meat eaters who will eat sea food, and one who wont eat seafood or chicken, and 1 who doesnt really eat pork. We arrived just at 9pm and were the only customers. It turned out to be too late for them to get a fish from the market (down the street). Also, they were out of buon quon chay which was saddening. Our waiter was a friendly guy with ok English. In the end we ordered the stir fried beef on rice vermicelli, lotus stem salad, some steamed greens (we asked especially for this) and some singapore noodles and fried rice for the vegetarian. The lotus stem salad was phenomenal. My husband and I had actually walked to Deptford from Stoke Newington, and will do so again for that salad. The beef w bun was ok; the beef was quite tasty, as were the shiso leaves, but we ended up saucing it with the leftover dressing from the salad. The ratio of noodles to veg seemed a bit high. Our greens (straw greens is how I order them at other vietnamese restos) were quite nice, dressed w fish sauce and lemon. The noodles and rice were utterly forgettable.

                                  After we had finished eating THE KITCHEN CAUGHT ON FIRE. It was a rather harrowing few minutes, but it was put out without using the extinguisher. Nobody was hurt, and after the smoke had cleared, everybody calmed down. I'm sure it wont interfere from them opening tomorrow.

                                  1. re: relizabeth
                                    Dave MP Mar 14, 2010 02:59 PM

                                    haha, great report. what was the dressing like on the lotus salad?

                                    1. re: Dave MP
                                      r
                                      relizabeth Mar 15, 2010 06:15 AM

                                      It was nice. My guess is sugar, fish sauce, water, garlic, chili pepper. Maybe some lime juice? Also, the salad had lots of fresh mint, so that infused it as well. It was orange in colour which was probably juice from the shredded carrot.

                          2. s
                            skut Mar 29, 2010 10:04 AM

                            Went for lunch today solo. Excellent rare beef pho, easily the best I've had in London, a deep rich brown consomme with just a flicker of oil on the surface from the beef, decent noodles, and a nicely finessed garnish of very finely sliced lemongrass and spring onion. Usual extras on the side which were topped up with more basil and chilli on request. The bahn mi I had on the side was decent, nice warm bread and great sweet garlic and liver pate, but a bit lightweight on the other components, only a rather wispy coriander shoot and a couple of slices of cucumber didn't provide enough in terms of added kick and crunch. The menu seemed unusually short, one page of cantonese style dishes, then one of vietnamese. While this is no bad thing, I was wondering if anyone had seen anything clearly not on the menu? They had a few pictures of dishes on the wall, but these were listed on the menu also, lotus root salad with chicken feet for instance. A couple of interesting sounding dishes I've not come across before:
                            Bi bo, listed as beef skin. I've encountered Bi as pork crackling in a bun noodle salad before, but was wondering how this might be. Also Ga Tan, translated as chicken poached in herbal herbs, which I found mentioned on Noodlepie. Haven't ever come across this in London either. Anyway, will head back soon in a larger group to investigate further. Service was great by the way, three waitresses hanging around were super helpful, should have asked them more questions maybe.

                            NB round the corner I walked past a bahn mi shop called panda panda, open every day but monday. Any good?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: skut
                              c
                              chief1284 Mar 29, 2010 03:32 PM

                              Herbal herbs? Who'd have guessed it eh?

                              Anyway, this place seems more and more a must visit for me. I can't wait as I've been dying for a real proper pho for a long time now.

                              Speaking of bahn mi, I was walking near goodge street and on Charlotte Place (I think) there was seemingly a new place about to open called Viet Baguette. It was still a bit of a building site when I saw it, but that was a week or two ago. I'm sure you bahn mi zealots will be all over it before too long (unless I'm mistaken and in fact its not new at all).

                              1. re: chief1284
                                s
                                skut Mar 30, 2010 02:03 AM

                                nah, I think it already closed down.

                                1. re: skut
                                  t
                                  t_g Mar 30, 2010 04:44 AM

                                  pretty sure it was just closing down and moving to different premises? anyway i never went when it was at its old place but my friend did + said it was kinda average

                                2. re: chief1284
                                  deansa Mar 30, 2010 06:00 AM

                                  See the banh mi mega-post here for slightly more information:

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/617300

                              2. s
                                skut Apr 15, 2010 01:51 AM

                                a bit more menu exploration:

                                summer rolls- small, delicate, crunchy, fresh. Nice squeakily firm shrimp.

                                chicken foot and lotus root - sublime. The salad was truly artful in its combination of sharp, sweet, hot, cooling, savory and crunchy components. The chickens feet were boneless and pretty addictive. Anyone who likes jellyfish should be cool with these. Also intriguing combination of herbs, most of which our waitress couldn't name in english.

                                chicken in herbal herb - the most expensive dish at a tenner, for a whole small chicken poached in a complex broth swimming with greens, tasting not dissimilar to fernet branca. Served with a small dipping plate of salt, sugar, chilies and shredded ginger, into which a lemon was squeezed, which really lifted the poached bird up a notch. This was pretty wonderful.

                                banh cuon - I had been told these were off the menu, as the cook who makes them wasn't about, but halfway through the meal we were told the cook had arrived. They were excellent, thin skinned and elegant, with a nice depth of flavour to the pork and fungus.
                                We also had some salt and pepper frogs legs, which were enormous. They were tasty, but compared to everything else not so special.

                                Nothing was quite as good as the pho I had on my first visit, but pretty excellent nevertheless. I really like this place, the waitresses are adorable and their mum, who does all the cooking, obviously knows what to do with stock bones. Well worth the trek.

                                -the next table was sharing the bi bo, the beef skin I was intrigued by last time. Looked great, served with green bananas and herbs. next time maybe.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: skut
                                  deansa Apr 19, 2010 10:06 AM

                                  Do you guys normally go for dinner or lunch? I ask because I had the pho for an early lunch the other week. It was okay, but I wouldn't put the broth above Song Que or Cafe East.

                                  Just wondering if it's because I went so early and the stock hadn't spent quite as much time yet boiling.

                                  1. re: deansa
                                    Dave MP Apr 19, 2010 10:18 AM

                                    I went for dinner, on a Saturday.

                                    1. re: deansa
                                      s
                                      skut Apr 19, 2010 10:49 AM

                                      I had the pho at lunchtime on a monday. I actually had the pho at song que more recently, and maintain that the pho I had at chung viet was far superior, as I said almost a consomme depth and sophistication.

                                      1. re: skut
                                        deansa Apr 20, 2010 03:02 AM

                                        Ok, to be fair it's a while since I've had pho at Song Que, so maybe have false memories. Will give them both another go.

                                        1. re: deansa
                                          j
                                          JFores Apr 20, 2010 08:41 AM

                                          The broth at Chung Viet's pretty amazing IMO. New York's not exactly great for Vietnamese so the pho at Chung Viet's is by far the best I've ever had. My only complaint is that they normally give me everything and last time they white person'ed me and excluded all the trip and tendon. That's relatively OK because they replaced it with more beef, but still...

                                          1. re: JFores
                                            n
                                            Nii May 6, 2010 01:35 PM

                                            I've been here twice now as i'm only down the road. The lotus salad with chicken feet was sublime, such an intense array of flavours and the chicken feet were addicitve. The second meal I had a few days later was the grilled goat bun vermicelli, which was fine i would have liked some more herbs though. I told the young guy who served me about chowhound and he seemed really excited, really nice people. I'm interested in trying the other Viet places on the same stretch.

                                            1. re: Nii
                                              s
                                              skut May 6, 2010 01:57 PM

                                              lotus and chicken feet is amazing,

                                    2. re: skut
                                      m
                                      mira_nguyen May 29, 2010 04:51 AM

                                      I agree, very nice place with cheap cheerful food. I love banh cuon too and it's difficult to find in London as they take a while and skill to make.

                                    3. i
                                      ingridl Mar 12, 2011 12:33 PM

                                      i was impressed by this feedback - but then saw this. i googled the restaurant to figure out the opening hours for tomorrow and saw the story below. guess the grotty bathrooms were the tip of the iceberg? depressing when you read these things. i don't think i'll be going after all....
                                      http://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/890...

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