Photographs: David Straight
Remember Two Monkeys? Just in case: a glass box with a blue-painted steel frame, dirty floors, formica tables, ordinary food. Last year, brothers Simon and John Yip (their mum is Vietnamese) took over the space, painted it white, polished the concrete floor and installed timber tables, metal chairs and industrial drop pendants. It is at once warm and simple and a little bit genius: home-style food, hip hop on the stereo, cute environs and – one day, soon we hope – a booze licence.
It got a flurry of reviews when it opened in October – but for us, the menu didn’t quite hold together; too many dishes were similar, even though the menu was designed to be shared. But there were some particularly excellent grilled chicken skewers ($14) and beautiful pork rice paper rolls ($12), their skin bubbled and crunchy, and there was a dish of pork belly with a tamarind and ginger sauce ($19), at once sticky and sweet and sour. We loved a roasted duck leg with a tangelo salad and taro crisps ($20), and everything came with plenty of herbs. But we also had a pho ($15) without enough beef in it one lunchtime, and a dish of skate wings with dill, turmeric and vermicelli ($19) that verged on bland.
The other day, we went in for an early lunch of pho, and a cold-press coffee with coconut milk and palm sugar, an interpretation of café suda, iced coffee, which in Vietnam comes with a slug of coconut milk but which here had a gentler flavour and a less sticky texture. The pho, equally, was brilliant: a generous serving of beef with a beautiful deep stock and a mountain of herbs. Service was good. The stereo was up. In short: the city needs about 20 joints like this. SFG
HOURS Lunch and dinner, 12pm to 3pm
ADDRESS 191 Dominion Road, Mt Eden, ph 638-6403. facebook.com/peasant
IMPORTANT DETAILS Not yet licensed – we can’t wait.