When it is past 2 o’clock on a Tuesday, Madame Nhu in the CBD seems like a decent option, considering that very day Urbanlist had put it on their list of best Sydney CBD lunch spots. Without much ado, we head to the Galeries at Town Hall. My verdict? Madame Nhu would do well to pay attention to the simpler things as their broader flavour, style and brand is very good. Simple things, such as seating, cutlery, and steamed rice…
After being told that we could not sit inside for some reason, we headed to another table on the lower ground of The Galeries. I’m a fan of wider open spaces when eating (and for that perfect Instagram shot!) but I will admit that the low light and the lanterns in the area we sat had its appeal. A little like the settings in that Graham Greene movie the Quiet American, without generalising too much.
We ordered the Signature đặc biệt ($11.90) which was their classic and best loved pho with three styles of beef in it. This came with a tasty and quite flavoursome broth, and the noodles were tasty and had soaked up the broth well. Yet the food was a little cold, and the three styles of beef weren’t particularly flavoursome, but it was saved by the crunchy and fresh taste of the onion rings. They let us just carry the trays all the way to our tables without supplying us with cutlery, and when we asked for it, there were no soup spoons. Tthey also did not take card, despite the bill being about 23 dollars, and then directed us to an ATM which charged a fee… this is a foodcourt!!
The overall taste was good though – and I will mercifully put it down to the lateness of the hour which was 3 pm. The balance of the onions with the rather umami flavour fo the soup was good, and the noodles were luxuriously creamy.
It was the grilled lemongrass squid ($10.50) which I had high hopes for and alas – it was affected by one simple thing! While the squid’s texture was soft and juicy, not at all rubbery, and flavourful, the rice was dry. Really disappointing considering really anyone can make some rice. The rice and squid were presented prettily, and was filling certainly; and the fact that the rice was topped with some bonito flakes added an extra dimension to the flavour. But frankly, I partook in the squid and the tasty nước chấm sauce and left the rice to its own devices.
I had mixed feelings – the price was great – can I really complain about a $23 meal for two in Sydney city? Madame Nhu’s great reputation and legions of fans certainly say so, and the use and balance of sauces, condiments and flavours tell me that on a good day and better time, I would be more impressed. Yet my experience says this: if my inept boyfriend has mastered the art of making some decent rice, then surely a Vietnamese restaurant with such a good reputation can do the same. No matter what the hour is.