Which is the best of the millions of Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road. That was the question that started this whole blog. But the problem is it turns out they are all pretty much on a par so tend to blur into one indistinct mass of chilli and spring onion.
It’s a bit like when I had to do an entire module at university on Shakespeare. Technically it means that I’ve read everything that the Bard wrote, but I’m damned if I could tell you the difference between A Winter’s Tale and Much Ado About Nothing now.
While eating our way down Kingsland Road some of the Vietnamese places have stood out from the pack (the Hamlets and Othellos of south-east Asian food), but I can’t shake off the nagging feeling that these places only seem better than the rest because everyone’s told me they are better. If you came at the whole thing with no preconceived ideas, you’d probably like the Merry Wives of Winsor (Loong Kee in this increasingly tortuous metaphor) just as much as Macbeth.
And so we come to Mien Tay. Yet another Vietnamese restaurant on the strip. It was brightly lit. The tables were cheap and too close together. You could bring your own beer. We had soft shell crab. And salt and pepper squid. Summer rolls as well (probably). All of them were perfectly nice but I’m hard pressed to remember anything special about them if I’m honest.
As to the rest of the meal? Well, we might have had some Pho. But then again that could have been at the place next door. If we did have it here, it was serviceable but I didn’t like it as much as I do the stuff they serve at Song Que. I’m sure I would remember if I did. There might also have been some spicy offal. But again, I wouldn’t be prepared to stand up in court and swear anything about it.
In fact, the only thing I really remember about the meal was the couple sitting next to us. They were on a date. It didn’t look like it went that well, but they ordered an unholy quantity of food. The waiters just kept coming, bringing more and more dishes as the conversation faltered. It was a genuinely unforgettable show.
But the meal itself was basically the equivalent of seeing a sixth-form performance of Midsummer’s Night Dream. The source material was good but the actual performance eminently forgettable.