Review: Vietnom - 'Order everything on the menu, and dinner for two will cost €28'
- Vietnom, The Beer Garden, The Glimmer Man pub, 14 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
- Facebook: Vietnom Dublin
- Instagram: @vietnomdublin
The beer garden at the back of The Glimmer Man pub in Stoneybatter is probably not the first place that you'd think of heading in search of 'Asian fusion with touches of Mexican' food, but that is where you'll find the new Vietnom weekly pop-up - currently open in the evenings from Thursday to Sunday - and it is worth seeking out.
Vietnom has been in existence a few short months: the first event that Milly Murphy and Alex Gurnee's fledgling operation catered was the launch of Electric Picnic in March, and that went so well that they started looking for somewhere they could base their trailer on a more permanent basis.
The costs associated with opening a restaurant these days are so high that it seems as if the only people who can afford to are the big entertainment and hospitality groups, such as Press Up, which already has over 30 outlets in Dublin (including establishments such as Roberta's, Angelina's and Dollard & Co) and plans for many more. Press Up's latest is Lucky Duck on Aungier Street, which does a convincing impression of being an independent operation when it is not.
Until recently, the pair lived in San Francisco, where Milly worked as a chef at Nopa, which has an ingredient-led, largely organic menu, and Alex as an engineer. "She won't tell you that she's a brilliant chef but she is," says Alex.
Back in Dublin, and inspired by the success of the Coke Lane Pizza pop-up at the back of Frank Ryan's Bar in Smithfield (Coke Lane also has a permanent home at Lucky's on Meath Street), Alex and Milly started looking for a location for Vietnom.
"We love The Glimmer Man," says Alex, "and the way that it's a bit rough around the edges. We're still finding our feet, but they like the way that we are bringing in some different people, so it's working very well."
A glimmer man was the unofficial name given to inspectors from gas supply companies around the country whose job it was to detect the use of gas during restricted periods in the Emergency of the 1940s. The name comes from posters warning the public not to waste gas... not even a glimmer.
On the evening that we visit, pitching up just as they open at six, the short vegetarian menu - which changes according to what Vietnom's vegetable suppliers have available - has just four options, so between three of us we are able to order everything.
First up are Saigon tostadas topped with a slaw of organic red cabbage, scallions, chillies and pickled red onions with sesame seeds in a zingy lime dressing. It's messy to eat (Vietnom is all paper plates and plastic forks) but utterly delicious.
Then a couple of bánh mì (baguettes) - one filled with meatily satisfying honey-basted mushrooms, a peanut shallot crust and McNally leaves, to which we add an organic fried egg for good measure - and the other with teriyaki paneer, sriracha aioli and more of those epically good leaves. Finally, a sesame broccoli noodle salad with carrot pickles, peanuts and a ginger chilli dressing, that has well-balanced heat and texture.
Each dish is bursting with flavour and vitality, and the tastes are so clean and fresh that you do not miss the fact there is no meat, although the absence of animal protein may be a source of disappointment to one member of the Vietnom team. Alex and Milly's rather lovely water spaniel crossed with a flat-coated retriever, Layla (named after the Eric Clapton song), mooches around but is not very interested in vegetarian food so our plates are safe.
Our bill for dinner for three, with enough leftovers for lunch for one of us the next day, comes to €41. You go into the pub to buy drinks separately.
"We spent time travelling in South East Asia," says Milly, "and adored the food. And San Francisco has an amazing Vietnamese culture with very cool food that's fresh and fast. That's what we wanted to emulate at Vietnom, but we are not Vietnamese so we don't claim to be authentic - there are already a few really good and authentic Vietnamese restaurants run by Vietnamese people in Dublin.
"What we set out to do is use Vietnamese flavours with Irish ingredients, and there are Mexican influences too, because the two cuisines share lots of ingredients. Next week, for instance, we'll be putting a chipotle salsa on our bánh mì."
"Almost all our fresh ingredients are Irish," says Alex, "and some dry goods and sauces are imported. Most of the vegetables come from McNally organic farm in North Dublin, and some from our own garden in Islandbridge near the Phoenix Park. We've had such a positive response to the all-vegetarian menu that for the time being we are going to stick to it, although we are not against using good meat."
Later in the summer, you'll find Vietnom at Electric Picnic and a few other festivals, but for the present it's the beer garden at the back of The Glimmer Man.
Opening days and hours may expand if there is good weather, so it's worth checking with them on social media.
9/10 value for money
ON A BUDGET
The Saigon tostada costs €6; if you go crazy and add the garlic vinegar paneer, that will rise to €8.
ON A BLOW-OUT
Order everything on the menu, and dinner for two will cost €28. You buy drinks separately in the pub.
THE HIGH POINT
Vibrant fresh flavours, feel-good food and no pretension.
THE LOW POINT
The location is a good one, right in the heart of Stoneybatter, and the Vietnom team is a cheery one, but The Glimmer Man's beer garden lacks bucolic charm. A few flowers and colourful cushions wouldn't go amiss.