Luke Nguyen is a familiar face to any subscribers of TLC. The Vietnamese-Australian chef has a ready smile and an ability to make you wish you were with him on his global culinary travels rather than in a rainswept Causeway Bay on a Monday evening.
He has taken over the spot formerly run by another affable Vietnamese chef, Peter Cuong Franklin who has recently opened up ANAN Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen was on hand in person to oversee menus at his new spot Moi Moi and his easy, warm charm was typically Australian and a reminder why no one does laid back hospitality better than our friends down south.
The venue’s interior is more restrained, not as technicolor as it was under Cuong Franklin and I missed some of the previous quirky design touches such as the walls of masks. Moi Moi means ‘Welcome’ in Vietnamese and a District One cocktail to kick off dinner united Tanqueray, yuzushu, something called umeshu, soda and jasmine in happy harmony.
I wasn’t entirely convinced by the first dish, but only because I was expecting something a bit more memorable. But then again I suppose there are limits to how memorable ubiquitous spring rolls can be, in this case a neatly-executed little number featuring with a decent dipping sauce.
No such concerns with an excellent chargrilled scallop under a bed of green mango, garlic butter, crushed peanuts, spring onion and the Vietnamese culinary crack, nuoc cham fish sauce.
Pork floss was never top of my shopping list prior to moving to Hong Kong, but its unique texture and salty kick is now familiar and welcome and dressed a dish of rice cakes topped with tiger prawns and caramelized pork neck.
Green tea-smoked duck breast came in a vibrant salad with banana blossom, pickled vegetables and perilla, a leaf normally seen in Korean cuisine with a flavour between mint and basil:
Beautifully charred Angus sirloin was dusted with pho quoc pepper and more garlic butter, watercress, papaya and tomatoes. A cracking little dish.
Incidentally they also feature an extensive vegetarian menu which is a bonus for those seeking to avoid that ubiquitous nuoc cham as well as meatier options. Two desserts were as always wholly unnecessary but very welcome, especially the standout of an avocado tart with shiso and honeycomb.