It’s easy to overlook Resorts World, especially when it comes to food. On the site next to the NEC, Genting Arena, and Birmingham Airport, it’s a shiny hub of big name chains designed to pull people in from across the region.
Nothing wrong with that, but along with that means the food offering tends also to lean towards recognisable chains turning out food to the masses of people who come for gigs, shows or shopping experiences.
Yet here’s the thing. On the handful of times I’ve been to Resorts World, I haven’t had a bad meal. Waters when it first opened was wonderful. Say what you will about Miller & Carter, but Jamie and I have had a rather lovely evening there before. And Sky by the Water, well, blew me out of the water with its well-executed food and lovely ambience.
Add to that the fact that the whole world and his dog has raved about Vietnamese Street Kitchen and I was fairly sure it was going to add another reason not to overlook Resorts World when it comes to food. VSK is already a tried and tested success in Birmingham city centre with its residence in Brindley Place and has now opened a second venue in Resorts World. Lucky us.
Okay, you could be fooled by the gaudy exterior into thinking this is a bit of a cheap gimmicky place, but take it from me that although it’s reasonably priced, there is nothing cheap or gimmicky about Vietnamese Street Kitchen.
The menu is a collection of snacks that you can have as starters or just dive into as a smorgasbord of fragrant loveliness, then there are Pho, ‘big bowls’ and classics like ‘Bun Bo Hue’ or ‘Pho Tai’.
No, I’ve never heard of them either but I’ve never been to Vietnam or eaten much Vietnamese food, so I’m not the best person to ask. However, given the rave reviews VSK has had I’ll bet my bottom dollar they’re all the real deal.
Start as you mean to go on
My dining partner went for the chicken wings. Apparently once you’ve had them you will order them each time you go. I didn’t try them but the look on her face as she worked her way through the sesame and honey-coated pile of crispy wings was enough to tell me she is right.
The decision of what to have to start was possibly the most difficult I’ve had to make in a while. From chicken wings to bao buns, fried snacks, spare ribs and fried dumplings, there is enough to keep you busy for a whole meal, or indeed multiple visits.
I eventually opted for Vietnamese summer rolls. I’m told by owner Oliver (himself a real character – you should read this if you want to really imagine the guy, it’s spot on) that some people who don’t read the menu properly or ask enough questions have ordered these in the past thinking they’re spring rolls like the ones you get from the Chinese takeaway.
Guys, they’re not. Vietnamese summer rolls are a whole different thing. Served cold, they’re a subtle ode to flavour that have sensibly steered clear of a deep fat fryer. You pick a filling – prawns in my case – then they’re packaged up in rice paper with crunchy pickled veg, fragrant delicate herbs, and noodles, then served alongside a peanut dip. They’re fresh, they’re light, and I could have eaten approximately 45,672 of them.
A ‘bowl of bun’
For main course I chose a ‘bowl of bun’. Rice noodles with salad, their own in-house made pickles, and a ‘nuoc mam’ sauce piled high with your choice of topping. For me, while crispy belly pork and fried chicken were topping, I couldn’t avoid the lemongrass beef curry.
Hearty, fragrant, deep in earthy, spiced flavour that does a little dance with the fall-apart beef on your palate, making you reach for another shovel-full before you’ve even finished the first.
Add a handful of fresh coriander, cucumber, chilli and other herbs, and you’ve basically got my perfect dish. You can even upgrade with a fried egg if you want to, but this was a step too far even for me. I was more than happy with a steaming bowl of noodles, curry and all the other joyous tastebud tinglers that my bowl of bun included.
I’d love to say I could have eaten more but I couldn’t. That didn’t stop me wanting to though. Vietnamese Street Kitchen is a little jewel in Resorts World that you could far too easily miss out to your great loss.
I know there are other chains there that might tempt you – plus they’re on the ground floor and would save you an arduous escalator journey – but don’t be silly. Take the journey, visit VSK, and I guarantee you’ll be pleased you did.
I went to VSK with a contact for my day job and they treated me to lunch. It wasn’t for the blog and I wasn’t expected to write anything, but how could I not when it’s this good.