New Vietnamese restaurant, Bistro Nguyen’s, recently opened in Civic on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and Alinga Street (replacing what was Wasabi). I originally thought the restaurant was called Vietnamese Food as there’s a massive banner hanging out the front with ‘Vietnamese Food Now Open’ written across it. Approaching the entrance of the restaurant, I could see some colourful outdoor tables outside and the real name of the restaurant is clearly marked by the door.

Bistro Nguyens CanberraAs soon as I walked inside, I could immediately smell the delicious aroma of pho cooking in the kitchen. Well that made my decision of what to eat easier. Bistro Nguyen’s is a funky hipster Vietnamese restaurant with mismatching chairs, colourful Asian lanterns and plenty of natural light streaming through the large windows. I do love the green plants that decorate the restaurant on individual tables, hanging baskets and the front counter. You can’t miss the large bonsai either. Asian hipster decor?

Bistro Nguyens Civic insideThe feature wall was decorated by the manager himself scrawling his name on the tiles and doing up the cartoon-like artwork. I think it gives a fun vibe to the place.

Bistro Nguyens Canberra muralOur table had the essentials ready and waiting – chopsticks, spoons, sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce and small bowls. The four page menu is impressive with lots of tasty traditional Vietnamese food items like pho, banh mi and com tam. Then there are stir fries, hot pot ($35 for 2 people – on my list for when it gets colder), and dessert. Vegetarian options are clearly marked against certain dishes. The menu also states to advise staff for any other dietary requirements and allergies. I would like to point out that I’m impressed with the prices here. Dishes are around the $15 mark or under. Very affordable! I honestly thought with the location and Asian hipster fit out, that some dearer prices would be charged. Glad to be proved wrong. A short beer and wine menu is also offered at the restaurant.

Bistro Nguyens Canberra condimentsFor the entrees, V and I ordered the prawn and pork rice paper rolls ($6.50 for three). Accompanied by a mixture of hoisin sauce and chilli, the rice paper rolls were a good size. Stuffed with lettuce and mint, the rolls were fresh and easy to gobble down. One thing I found disappointing was that there was very little pork inside.

Bistro Nguyens Civic prawn pork rice paper rolls
Prawn and pork rice paper roll

The menu states the fried rice cake ($6.50) is a Saigon-style rice cake wok fried with eggs, pickled vegetables and sweet soy sauce. (Not one of those cardboard tasting healthy snacks, a rice cake is made of rice flour and tapioca flour). This came out still steaming from the wok. The rice cake itself is cooked perfectly and a little crispy on the outside. Yum! However, I found it started to get a little bland (even with the sprinkle of spring onion mixed throughout) and added some hoisin and more of the accompanying chilli sauce to add some flavour. Sadly I couldn’t see or taste any pickled vegetables and I think this would have made a difference to lift the dish. Or maybe I’m biased. My mum makes rice cakes and adds dried shrimp or lap cheong and chives for that extra flavour.

Bistro Nguyens Canberra rice cake
Fried rice cake

Both V and I ordered pho as our mains and our waitress brought out fresh crunchy bean sprouts, basil and wedges of lime.

Bistro Nguyens bean sproutsV ordered no. 12 on the menu – the special pho with rare beef, brisket, tendon and beef meatballs ($13.50). Pho is served in large bowls that will fill you up. Great for winter!

Bistro Nguyens Civic beef pho
Special pho with rare beef, brisket, tendon and beef meatballs

I ordered the no. 13 – pho with wagyu beef sirloin, brisket, tendon and meatballs ($16.50) minus the tendon. The wagyu beef is slightly pink in the middle and better quality compared to the regular beef strips that have a lot of fat on them (I had both in mine). The meatballs weren’t the gristly sort so I was happy with that. I would have liked some more noodles in the bowl but found that I was very full afterwards especially after drinking so much of the broth. The fragrant broth is full-bodied and flavoursome. A decent serving at a great price.

Bistro Nguyens Canberra wagyu beef pho
Pho with wagyu beef sirloin, brisket, tendon and meatballs

I can tell that Bistro Nguyen’s will be popular. Funky decor, good food at cheap prices, plenty on offer on the menu and fast polite service. And you can’t beat that delicious scent of pho as you walk in the door. What more can you ask for? I’m eager to go back and try the banh mi and other items on the menu.

At this stage, there are no eftpos/credit card facilities but our waitress informed me that it should be up and running in another week. Take cash with you if you’re planning on going this week. The restaurant does not accept bill splitting.

Bistro Nguyen’s is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Check out Bistro Nguyen’s Facebook page to access the menu. It’s in the Melbourne Building, corner of Northbourne Avenue and Alinga Street.

Foodgasm 7.5/10
Price 9/10
Service 9/10

FPJ score 25.5/30

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