Viet Guy

This is the first time I’ve ever written this in a review and I certainly hope that it’ll be the last:  I advise you either not to visit this restaurant, or to do so with caution.

It wasn’t so much the food which was responsible for the nasty taste in my mouth which accompanied me throughout the rest of the day, it was more the dubious way of doing business. I’ll come to that later but I’ll begin with the food.

I had an early afternoon appointment in Lower Briggate and so it seemed like a good time to try Viet Guy, a Vietnamese Street Food restaurant which I have been meaning to review for quite some time, having read decent things about it. There was a sign on the window advertising their ‘Lunch Special Menu – Set 1: (Starter and Main £9.50)  Set 2: Main Only £8.00. We do from Monday to Friday. Many thanks’ so in I went. I was shown to my table by a very pleasant young man and presented with a menu and another card, highlighting the week’s special. I asked if this was the appropriate menu for the lunch special and I was assured it was. The weekly special looked really good but I thought that it wasn’t appropriate to order it as it wouldn’t be available should you decide to go.

From the Starters section, I ordered Cha Nem – ‘Crispy spring rolls filled with mushrooms, carrots, onions and glass noodles. Served with lettuce, mint, coriander and Vietnamese dipping sauce. (3 Rolls)’. There were two choices of filling and I went for Crab and Chicken. For the main course I asked for Bun Sai Gon South Vietnamese Style which was described as ‘Stir fried marinated meat with onions, lemongrass, chilli and beansprouts served with vermicelli noodles, mixed salad, pickled vegetables, crispy shallots and crushed peanuts’. There were four options of ‘fillings’ and I chose the Roast Duck.

A waitress came and took my order which I again confirmed was part of the lunch deal. She asked if I would like the starter and main to be served at the same time or one after the other. I said I would have them in whichever way was traditional. I also asked for a Vietnamese lemonade with ice at £3.00. This was delivered and was excellent – it was nice and sharp tasting rather than being sweet, so just the thing to go with a meal.

A short time later the starter and main were delivered together. The spring rolls were absolutely delicious with a look and texture more reminiscent of fried bread rather than the smooth Chinese version. The filling was finely chopped and so there was no separation of individual flavours; just the overall melange. I tested the dipping sauce, which I found to be subtle bordering on bland but it was fine as the rolls were not strong of taste and could easily have been overpowered by something laden with chillies. The salad was similarly fragrant and subtle. I enjoyed them very much.

All photographs by Stan Graham

I must make mention of the condiments on offer because if you like a bit more of a kick, there was a range of options in Hoisin Sauce, Hot Chilli Sauce, Soy Sauce, a homemade mix of raw sliced garlic and fresh chillies and finally a jar containing what looked like chilli jam but was far more the former than the latter and had a heck of a belt.

Having munched my way through two of the rolls I decided to make a start on the main dish. Again the dipping sauce which came on the plate was very mild to complement the fresh taste of the salad and noodles. The few small pieces of duck had not been highly flavoured either, so again a good fit. One thing I did notice was that some of the noodles were stone cold, whereas others were red hot, a very strange sensation, and I wondered if there had been a topping up job done in the kitchen. After finishing the last roll I gave the noodles some spicy heat by adding some of the chilli jam and mixing it in well to disperse the effect.  This worked very well and improved the dish no end insofar as my palate was concerned. The taste of the pickles and salad did not suffer and I did like the addition of peanuts. They did suffer a little when I put a couple of slices of the garlic and chilli on my plate to try, as the aftertaste of the bulb remained with me for the rest of the day. At least it meant that no one sat next to me on the bus home.

I am not normally a dessert kind of chap but I do love ice cream when served with something hot. I even have a really good vanilla ice cream with my Christmas pudding reheated on Boxing Day. Not only was the ice cream on the menu served with something hot, it was also supposed to be hot itself, being Kem Chien/Fried Ice Cream ‘Vanilla flavour ice cream is carefully crafted inside around crushed cover with a sprinkled of condensed milk and sprinkled with peanut’ (sic) £3.00. I once had fried ice cream in that centre of epicurean excellence which is Dowagiac, Michigan, and it was great. Sadly, the concoction with which I was presented fell far short of my expectations. It was again stone cold. The thin coating was reminiscent of doughnut pastry and although not thick was very stodgy. I did bring up the temperature of the dessert when paying the bill and was told that it should indeed have been hot, or at least warm.

Speaking of paying the bill, this is where the problem lay. Despite asking three times about the lunch deal, I was presented with a bill for the full amount for the dishes on the menu. I was told by the waiter who originally gave me the menu that the duck dish was not part of the deal. I questioned this as neither he nor the waitress had told me of any exceptions.  He called the waitress over and she just stood there whilst I reiterated that she had not told me that the deal was limited to certain items. I would have been happy to believe that there may have been a problem with the language barrier but the waiter and waitress both spoke good English, the woman having what I detected to be a North American accent. Despite my protestations I was told that this was the bill and it must be paid. Instead of the anticipated total of £15.50 I had to cough up £20.00. A note on the bill said ‘Service Not Included’.  You can say that again!  Needless to say, it remained not included. I cannot emphasise enough that even after asking two people a total of three times, neither of them told me of any exceptions – and nowhere on either the notice on the window or the printed menu which I was given, was it stated that this was the case.  Here’s the menu.

When I reached home I consulted the on-line menu and there is no mention of any exception to the lunch deal. It does say that the restaurant is under new management. Might I suggest that there is an urgent training need to be addressed by the new boss because, aside from the overcharging, not once was the word ’Sorry’ used by either of the waiting staff.

I write my reviews to assist anyone working in Leeds or visiting our great City and I have made much of this incident so that none of the former group for whom money might be at a premium just now wastes any, and none of the second section goes back to their home town saying what rip-off merchants Leeds people are.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 16th February, 2019