Vietnamese Cuisine has a secure place in my top 5 cuisines in the world and I am a regular visitor of Little Vietnam in and around Kingsland Road. Cay Tre Soho is without doubt an interesting addition to the Soho dining scene, where Vietnamese restaurants are scarce. However, compared with my favourite Vietamese joints in the East End and also compared to the original Cay Tre in Old Street, I liked the food substantially less. Overall it didn’t deliver the fresh flavours and herb explosion that I find in my favourite Vietnamese eateries such as Song Que or Fernandez & Leluu Supperclub.
We started with the Green Mango Salad (8.5) which came with dried shrimp and knotweed. I a sucker for Vietnamese salads but this one was rather mediocre. It didn’t taste as fresh, zingy and herby as better specimens of this kind.
The Grilled Aubergine (6) however, despite being a particularly unattractive plate of food, was utterly delicious and for me the winner of the evening. The sweet taste of the aubergine together with the ground pork on the top worked so well with the flavour of the fish sauce. Very nice indeed and a must have if you like aubergine.
For the mains we went for the very healthy sounding Mushroom Hotpot (9). The menu stated it would come topped with crispy tofu. The flaky thing on the top that you can see here was actually pure garlic and I hate garlic in large, overpowering quantities. Apart from the missingÂ tofu and the garlic overkill, the mushrooms were plentiful and nicely cooked.
The Softshell Crab Curry (8.50) sounded intriguing. It turned out to be very heavy and also surprisingly spicy for Vietnamese food. It almost resembled an Indian curry lacking the subtle flavours of Vietnamese cooking that I like so much and replacing it with a hammer of ground spices. I nevertheless quite enjoyed it and thought that the little vermicelli dumplings for dipping the sauce added a nice touch.
Where Cay Tre Soho wins is with the atmosphere which is about 10 steps up from East London Vietnamese places. Rather stylish with dim lighting and friendly as well as efficient service.
While I was not blown away with the new Cay Tre, I should mention that some other food bloggers whose opinion I rate highly really loved Cay Tre Soho. The London Eater recommends to try the Pho with Ox Cheeks and Greedy Diva highly enjoyed not only the Chef’s Vinh Beef.
Have you given it a try yet? What did you think?
- Food: 6/10
- Service: 7/10
- Atmosphere: 7/10
- Value for money: 7/10
- Chances of returning: 5%
- Verdict: Nice try, Cay Tre Soho, but I will have to continue to travel East for my Vietnamese fix.