Kim Son Vietnamese Restaurant
159 Biota Street, Inala, Brisbane
8am-9pm, Mon to Sun
Unlicensed, Cash Only
Our discovery of the rustic ‘no-frills-zero-ambience-but-delightful-Viet-cuisine’ eatery Kim Son Vietnamese Kitchen is one of those rare moments you feel like jumping into the air for joy while the same time punching your fist upwards towards the heavens in sheer triumph. A gesture to tell the world that good Asian food is not completely dead or obsolete in Brisbane after all. The discovery of Kim Son could also be likened to some years ago when we were skeptical about Tan Thanh in Inala, where you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you came in any other colour except fair-brown Asian and looked nervously over your shoulder if you had the guts to stay past dusk. As for approaching Kim Son on foot cautiously once you managed to find a park either off the street or on the part-gravelled-part-dirt road, one notices the rest of Biota Street was a picture of calm—we walked past the Asian newsagent where the Viets got their fix of weekly Powerball tickets and smokes(often both at once), the poker-faced, petite Vietnamese ladies who didn’t seem to notice a soul even as you stroll past their just-sprayed gleaming vegetables in plastic baskets and towering sacks of jasmine rice.
That’s until we finally reached the end of the row of odd shops, which was the glass door entry to Kim Son. Immediately we got a sense that we were being eyeballed by a few of the dining patrons, no doubt all local Vietnamese, who looked up from whatever they were picking up with chopsticks from their steaming bowls. The service staff were a picture of utter Vietnamese efficiency—eye contact, a quick nod of acknowledgement with minimal emotion plus two fingers with raised eyebrows omitted the need to ask, “Table for two?” We were efficiently ushered in to share a long table with another couple. Conversation was still possible with an unspoken code of respect for diners’ privacy by leaving a polite gap between us—the space of an unoccupied seat that shall be reserved until we leave.
The menu was surprisingly comprehensive for a tiny crowded crevice that was this casual family-run eatery without the frills. We ordered the exact same dishes as we usually do in order to compare Tan Thanh, Pho Hung and now Kim Son. Not only was the Pho Tai (rare beef noodle soup) the best among the three, at A$9.50 it was unbeatable value though a smaller serving than at Pho Hung. The beef slices, cooked naturally to medium rare in the steaming hot broth were generous, tender and fresh (odourless too according to my fussy tastebuds) in a soulful consommé of vibrant herbal notes that come alive with each ladle of broth spooned into our grateful, hungry mouths. We dunked in more raw beansprouts for added crunch and used up almost all the sprigs of fresh basil.
Kim Son’s rendition of my favourite dish of Rice Vermicelli Salad with a combo of grilled sugarcane prawn cakes & deep-fried piquant spring rolls floored me. So much flavour left me wondering if it was msg or the real deal—only a delayed headache shall speak the truth. What I loved most was the tangy fish sauce dressing that was particularly well-balanced between the sweet and sour. The addition of deep fried shallots charred to a deep brown was a little interfering for my liking but nevertheless it was still the best Viet salad I’ve had. The fried spring rolls in it were also a better version than at other eateries we’ve tried—best of all my man commented how little of the pork mince he tasted which was just fine by him! We washed it all down with their power-packed thick and creamy iced Vietnamese white coffee that was woahh…let’s just say it had so much brawn it made me worry somewhat if I would be up all night later! All in all—it was a surprisingly delightful find in Inala away from the more popular and busier Inala Civic Plaza area. Eating here had been nothing less than an extremely memorable Vietnamese lunch for champions. That is, once you get past the fact that when you dine at Kim Son it’s solely for the food and the food itself. I know I’ll be back soon and it’s going to be our go-to place for Asian takeouts. Confession: We might even ditch Tan-Thanh for this new find.