Review – MOC Kitchen – City, London – Vietnamese
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the latest food trends to hit London, then you must know all about the upsurge in popularity of Asian cuisine. In particular Vietnamese, widely regarded as one of the healthiest styles of cooking there is. With it’s use of fresh meats, vegetables and straight-from-the-garden herbs combined with very little oils or fats, it is no wonder Vietnamese is proving so popular on the clean eating scene.
There have been a number of restaurants springing up and I had heard about MOC Kitchen, initially, from some other foodies. Knowing that they wouldn’t steer me wrong, I accepted an invitation to go along and try it out. MOC was started by Lan Nguyen who was born and raised in Hanoi. I introduced myself to Lan after I had finished my meal but more about that later.
The premises are located in The Arches down by Charing Cross. I’m not sure what it is about strolling past shops built into railway arches with the rumbling of trains overhead that makes me feel very quintessentially English. It’s a bit like being part of a Sherlock Holmes novel. Anyway, I digress.
I arrived at the restaurant at 7.00. I was the first one there so it gave me a good opportunity to have a look through the menu and take stock of my surroundings. This is not some uber-trendy, flash-in-the-pan,’look at me daaaahling’ kinda place. This is a place that is welcoming, has comfortable chairs and tables and delicious smells drifting out from the kitchen. The menu has dishes that you would expect, Pho soups, fresh or hot spring rolls and curries, and some that surprised me. Mongolian duck and beef bourguignon for example. I had no idea there was a French influence in Vietnam!
To start our night we ordered the fresh spring rolls
and the rare beef mixed salad
Both were as you would expect, fresh and tasty. The importance of using fresh herbs is evident in all the dishes and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the beef had been ‘cooked’ in lime juice. It was tangy, meltingly soft and texturally contrasted nicely with the onion and chilli (though personally speaking, I can never have enough chilli).
Mains were a bit trickier to decide. It all looked delicious so we had to resort to sensible tactics in choosing the protein dishes. Having had prawns and beef in the starters, we went for a yellow chicken curry and the Mongolian duck. There are of course vegetarian dishes and I would have tried them but I was in a carnivorous frame of mind.
Of these I particularly liked the duck, it was sweet, sour and fresh, all at the same time. With good size portions of both, I was feeling pretty good after I had finished. Which is just as well as Vietnamese don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, there are no desserts here. This is definitely my kind of restaurant – fresh ingredients showcased in a healthy, clean style of cooking.
As I said earlier, I introduced myself to the owner of MOC after I had finished. Lan took the time out to sit with me and answer my myriad of questions about cooking style and sourcing. It goes without saying that I can talk for hours about food and Lan was a font of cookery knowledge. Having grown up in Hanoi, I was interested to find out how she had learnt to cook ( she says she is a cook not a chef) and how she came to open up MOC. Lan was taught to cook by her family using regional recipes and after moving to London and missing that home-cooking, realised that there was something lacking on the restaurant scene – a place offering traditional Vietnamese cooking with a modern twist. Not frou-frou dining but wholesome, fresh and bountiful cuisine. Perhaps one of the most interesting facts I learned was how MOC Kitchen got its name. MOC is Vietnamese for ‘pure’ and I reckon if you’re looking for a good venue to find ‘pure’ Vietnamese fare then MOC Kitchen is a great place to start!