Melbourne is a funny place sometimes. It's a place where according to Nina Rousseau, two restaurants in the in the Vietnamese heartlands of Albert Park and Elwood can serve bowls of Pho superior to the well established restaurants of Footscray, Springvale and Richmond that have been offering this staple up to their mostly Vietnamese clientele for up to 20 years or more. This Pho is so good that it can be sold for $23 a bowl which is significantly more expensive than the usual price of around $9. Melbourne can be a funny place sometimes... If I had been enjoying a bowl of Pho at the time I came across this article in the (melbourne) magazine I would surely have splurted a mouthful of broth and noodles across the room in incredulation! I was left wondering that perhaps there was some price anchoring at play, where the mind decides that something is better just because its more expensive. Or possibly the reviewer's opinion may have been swayed but the schmick modern fitouts of these establishments, although the article clearly state that appearance played no part in the judgements. Maybe it's neither and these particular bowls of Pho are so superior that the inflated prices are totally justified, I'll be honest, I'm unlikely to ever travel to Elwood and fork out $23 for a bowl of this magical concoction so I guess I will never truly know.
Anyway, now that I've got that off my chest I am really excited to be writing about a newly opened Vietnamese establishment in Goldsborough Lane QBW called Roll'd. Being a worker in this area of the city I have long lamented the lack of a decent and nearby Vietnamese lunch option. Judging by the obvious popularity of Roll'd, with its constant queue out the door I was not alone. Roll'd is great little operation with all the modern styling that seems to be mandatory for new restaurants these days, think brown recycled cardboard takeaway packaging, ingredients used as merchandising display and funky signage where Bun salads are listed as The B' and Banh Mi is described as 'mr bun Mee'.
I've never been particularly enamoured of the modern styling of restaurants that serve traditional cuisines but I'm also trying these days to not be put off by it. After all, it's taste that is most important. I'm also tiring of trekking down to Swanston Street in my lunch hour every time I feel like a fix of Vietnamese so I was more than willing shelve my preconceptions and give the Roll'd menu a good going over. Roll'd have taken a very smart approach in their selection of dishes covering most of the usual Vietnamese favourites, from Bun (Vietnamese Vermicelli Salad), Goi Xe Phay (Vietnamese Coleslaw), Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls), Banh Mi (Vietnamese Baguettes) and even my favourite Ca Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese Iced Milk Coffee) and of course Pho.
The rice paper rolls (described on the menu as roll'd soldiers) look beautifully prepared in their display cabinet and you can also see them being made at the front of the shop which is a nice indication of the Roll'd credo of 'wrapped in freshness daily'. I sampled the BBQ Chicken + Sesame seeds roll'd soldier and selected the Spicy Hoisin dipping sauce to accompany it. It was easily one of the best rice paper rolls I've tried and certainly the best in the CBD. Freshness makes a huge difference when it comes to rice paper rolls. The Soft Shell Crab with Avocado roll'd soldier is also on my 'must try next' list.
What got me really excited was the Roll'd selection of Banh Mi, in particular it was the Roast Pork with Crackling version that had me salivating in excitement. I first tried this in Dalat and had never seen it since. I made it my mission while in Vietnam to try every Banh Mi I came across and I enjoyed some wonderful exponents of this French inspired classic but it was the Roast Pork version that stuck out in my memory as being the best. Nhu Lan is pretty much accepted as the best purveyor of Banh Mi in Melbourne however even they don't offer a Roast Pork option so that just makes the Roll'd offering even more special in my opinion. The crunchy chewy crackling and the decadent fattyness of the roast pork combines wonderfully with the crispness of the shredded carrot and the cleansing freshness of the cucumber and coriander. I loved this Banh Mi so much I returned the next day to enjoy it all over again. I will have to try very hard to convince myself to try the rest of the Roll'd menu as I can guarantee I will be back many many more times to enjoy the Roast Pork with Crackling Banh Mi over and over again.
On my third consecutive daily visit to Roll'd it was raining heavily and bitterly cold so I decided that I would make the best of this miserable Melbourne weather and order a bowl of Pho. I have previously written that while I enjoy Pho it isn't my favourite Vietnamese soup. Instead I prefer Bun Bo Hue or Bun Rieu but there was no way I was going to Swanston Street in the pouring ran so the Roll'd Pho seemed a good option. It turned out to be a great decision and the warm bowl of broth was the perfect antidote to the inclement weather. The broth was light but flavoursome and I couldn't detect any overt signs of MSG, not that I'm bothered either way. I've moved out of the anti MSG camp these days, everything in moderation I say. The noodles were just right, not at all mushy with a nice springy texture. The beef was lovely and tender cooked slightly rare, and the addition of sprouts, chill, sliced scallions and pickled red onion rounded the dish off perfectly. Like I said above I'm not the best judge of Pho because I usually order its sister dishes but I found this dish soothingly comforting like being wrapped in a warm blanket in front of the fire on a cold Winter evening.
If you want to read more about the other Roll'd offerings you can check out their website here. Peach Water also recently posted about Roll'd and has some good photos of 'The B' with Traditional Homemade Spring Rolls (Bun Cha Gio) plus the roll'd soldiers in their stylish takeaway packaging and even a cool video showing the soldiers being roll'd. Read her post here. Judging by how busy there are, Roll'd are obviously doing a lot of things right. Don't be put off by the long queue, the ordering system is quite efficient and somehow your lunch finds its way to you pretty quickly.