Viet Flames is a new-ish Vietnamese restaurant tucked away under the steps leading down to Victoria Park Market from Drake Street, and it's also one of the best. For months now it's become a cheap and cheerful lunch spot for the whole office; the $12.50 pho bos (chicken or beef noodle soup) kept us going in winter and their fresh, spicy salads have become a favourite as summer kicks in.
One of the few restaurants in the Market, Viet Flames is simply but beautifully decorated and has plenty of outdoor seating in the sunny, cobblestoned quad. It's sure to become busier as the famous weekend markets make a comeback, so drop by for dinner while it's still a hidden gem. It may lack the buzz of neighbour iVillage or Prego up the hill, but it's the ideal spot for a low-key meal with someone you want to hear talk; and the food, which is all organic, locally sourced and in-season, is a delicious and good-for-you bargain.
My top picks from the menu include the Cha Cha La Vong (terakihi fillets marinated with galangal, or ‘blue ginger’, which is very strong) and Bo Cuon La Cai, a tasting platter with sirloin, pan-fried green banana, gai choy lettuce, and pineapple. The Nam Nhoi Thit - portobello mushies baked with a herby pork stuffing and topped with tamarind sauce - and Chicken Skewers with kaffir lime and sesame are crowd-pleasing starters/sides.
Nearly everything is $10-$20 and served in individual tapas-style portions, so it's best to order a range of dishes and share. There's also a great wine list with local tipples starting from $8.00 per glass, and a short but sweet cocktail selection.