The thought of dining in an office building has never particularly appealed to me, and neither has it to award-winning chef Peter Cuong Franklin. That’s why when he opened Viet Kitchen, in the lobby of Nexxus Building on Connaught Road, he purposefully designed it so that as soon as you step inside, you forget where you are and how you got there, and just enjoy the atmosphere.
The first thing you see is a wall covered from top to bottom with vibrant and colourful hand-painted Vietnamese masks, which were hand carried over from the streets of Hanoi. On the opposite wall are some stunningly vivid photos of Vietnamese street life by noted street photographer Hans Kemp. Above you, is a further ode to the streets of Vietnam, as overlapping sheets of corrugated felt represent the roofs of tin houses. It’s a beautiful space that transports you far from any office lobby.
Chef Peter was born in Da Lat in central Vietnam and moved to the States at a young age. After working for many years in investment banking, he first made his name known as a chef when he opened a small private kitchen in Central called Chom Chom. He was then the chef of Black Sheep Group’s Vietnamese restaurant that goes by the same name, before deciding it was time to give the people what they most wanted: some seriously damn good pho!
At Viet Kitchen, Chef Peter understands that, whilst pho is delicious, man should not live by pho alone. In order to allow diners to sample more of the menu, he therefore offers smaller bowls of pho. We tried the mini beef pho, which is without a doubt the best one I’ve tasted in HK. The broth is unbelievably flavoursome, yet clean and light, whilst the beef itself also carries a beautiful flavour.
I’ve had many a rice paper roll in my time, yet I had never tried roast duck rice paper rolls. Again, the meat had a lovely, rich flavour that went perfectly with the sweet dipping sauce.
The caramel chicken wings had a satisfyingly crispy outer layer that gave way to tender, juicy meat beneath. Despite the wet towels we were given, the sweet and spicy marinade was far too good to not lick our fingers clean, leaving the wet towels somewhat redundant.
Perhaps my favourite of the starters were the steamed shrimp and pork ravioli. Within the delicate sheets of rice paper, the blend of shrimp and pork was divine, whilst I seriously could have lapped the broth up straight from the dish.
Another winner was the Saigon shaking beef, which was melt-in-the-mouth tender and packed full of garlic, yet not in an offensive way. It came served with seriously garlicky slices of baguette for good measure. Pile a few pieces of beef on top of the baguette, take a bite and you’re in garlic heaven.
The wok-fried clams in a gorgeous basil, lemongrass, chilli and lime butter broth were also exceptional. Had I not already eaten way more than I should have, I might have asked for a stick of baguette to mop up the broth; instead I devoured spoonfuls of it once the clams had disappeared.
I’ve had good ice cream in Italian restaurants, in French restaurants and in American restaurants in HK. Never did I imagine I would have seriously good ice cream in a Vietnamese restaurant. Chef Peter’s ice cream is, however, some of the best I’ve had in my life – and that’s saying something. We tried the restaurant’s only two desserts: Vietnamese affogato and sweet basil ice cream with strawberry sauce. Both of these were out of this world. So much so, in fact, that we asked Chef Peter to show us his $50,000 machine that makes this magic. Interestingly, said machine isn’t even an ice cream machine. I’m not generally a coffee fan, as you know, yet I was blown away by the creaminess of the affogato. The sweet basil ice cream sounded a little strange to begin with, but after one mouthful I was hooked.
Service at Viet Kitchen is excellent and prices are very reasonable, with most dishes priced between $58 and $198. After just one visit, Viet Kitchen has succeeded in becoming my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in HK. If I don’t have the chance to get back to Vietnam any time soon, Viet Kitchen might be the next best thing.
If you’re after a quick lunch to go, next door to Viet Kitchen is Viet Baguette, which offers tasty Vietnamese dishes such as banh mi ready to grab and go.
G04 & 06 Nexxus Building
41 Connaught Road
Tel: +852 2806 2068
Closed on Sundays