Review: La Mint (Surry Hills)

Eating out is unavoidable. Even when you promise yourself you’re going to cook every single day of your life (or eat leftovers), you cannot escape birthday dinners and farewells BBQs. That’s what’s been happening lately, as you could tell if you saw my waist. I’ve eaten out 6 times* in the last 5 days and I’ve already gained a big chunk of fat.

The first of those meals was my sister’s friend Marcelo’s birthday dinner (not that he’s not my friend, but Gladys introduced us). He chose La Mint, a Vietnamese/French restaurant in Surry Hills, based on online reviews and after having a look at the place.

Alvaro and I were the first to arrive. We were offered tap water, which was served in a jug with mint leaves and ice. Nice. We waited for the others while browsing the menu. I had already checked it online and because it was a Vietnamese restaurant with French influence, I thought it’d be better to choose Viet dishes. With that in mind, I had brought a South Australian Riesling.

La Mint - tap water with mint and ice

We chatted in Spanish and English (there were Aussies, Chileans, Peruvians and Venezuelans at the table), while we waited until almost everybody was there. We didn’t wait for Sergio, who was stuck in traffic.

Most people chose Vietnamese food, except for Jose Miguel who ordered Papillotes aux deux Fromages (“Crispy wontons filled with Camembert & cream cheese”) as entree and Gladys who had Oxtail à la Bourguignonne (“Tender & spicy oxtail à la Bourguignonne with zucchini, mushrooms & carrots”) . Alvaro and I ordered the Vietnamese Campfire Beef (“Finely sliced beef cooked in a hot wok right on your table served with rice paper & a basket of fresh herbs”), Halong Bay Style Grilled Prawns (“Crystal Bay U8 size prawns grilled with Asian spices & served with green mango salad”) and steamed rice to share. Other dishes ordered in the group were Pavé de Porc (“A mouth watering dish of tender pork belly, slowly cooked until caramelised”) and Dalal Lemongrass Chicken (“Grilled chicken with Vietnamese spices, lemongrass, chili & fresh herbs”).

The campfire beef came in a wok that looked more like a bowl standing on a plate with some flammable liquid. The waiter lighted the fire so that the meat got warm (I’m not sure if there was enough fire to cook it, I think it came cooked from the kitchen). We tried our best to roll the herbs and beef in the rice paper after wetting it with the provided water in a bowl, but our rolls didn’t look as professional as Marcelo’s, who had ordered the same dish. The beef came with a tasty red sweet dipping sauce.

La Mint - Vietnamese Campfire Beef

La Mint, Vietnamese Campfire Beef side vegetables

The grilled prawns were ok, Australian seafood is a bit bland for our taste, and the salad was very tasty. However for the quantity and quality of the food I think it was a bit overpriced.

La Mint - Halong Bay Style Grilled Prawns

The people who ate the pork and the chicken said they liked their dishes a lot. But the general feeling of the group was that the food was tasty but not spectacular, mainly because it was not traditional food, but perhaps an adaptation for Western palates. If that is the case, they should note that our Western palates crave authentic Asian food!

We didn’t ordered desserts from the menu because the birthday boy had received quite a few cupcakes and cake slices from his workmates. We sang happy birthday in different languages and versions and ate the cakes, which left me hoping we had ordered the restaurant’s desserts instead.

After we said goodbye to the ones who went home and the ones who went partying, we walked towards the Museum station. I couldn’t restrain myself and bought a “proper” dessert in Gloria Jeans. The dessert, named Mortal Sin, is a cheesecake, chocolate mousse and meringue/cream layered heap of nutritionally-empty calories. But it took the cheap cake taste away.

* Dinner and dessert count as 2 eating out events.

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