297 Exhibition St Melbourne, VIC 30009077 1097
|Opening hours||Monday to Saturday 11am-10pm|
WHERE AND WHAT
Miss Chu is a Sydney import, a Vietnamese cafeteria started by young Laotian-born Vietnamese woman Nahji Chu, who after having the chutzpah to crown herself ''queen of rice-paper rolls'' saw the birth of a marketing juggernaut. Her first Melbourne outpost - there are two in Sydney - is a busy pit-stop offering a decent array of well-known hawker items in a pop-art setting with an emphasis on casual, including no bookings and no table service.
WHERE TO SIT
There are a couple of small pods of seating at low tables at the front but the tight proximity to the crowd lining up to order at the open window might make you feel like you're at risk of being trampled. Venture further in, where there's stool seating at a long wooden counter stretching underneath the open kitchen, while bigger groups of four or more ought to make a beeline for one of a handful of tables.
WHEN TO GO
Monday to Saturday from 11am to 10pm - the main menu is confined to lunch and dinner hours and there's a snack menu in between.
Miss Chu is licensed. A stubbie of Beer Lao or 333 Viet goes well with this food and there's also an appropriately skewed, cheap wine list sold by the glass, carafe or bottle. A few cocktails that can be mixed with or without the alcohol round out the drinks list.
Order at the window and take a seat; the waiters will bring the food to you. The rice-paper rolls aren't made to order but have good combinations such as tiger prawn and green mango or roast duck and banana flower. Dumpling fillings include a sweetly seasoned Shanghai pork or straight-up prawn, although the absence of soy sauce and chilli at the tables seems an oversight: some people like it hot and salty, after all. Vermicelli salads are a great one-bowl lunch - maybe grilled chicken with finely julienned carrot and salad leaves - while Hanoi-style fried spring rolls are great either on their own or thrown liberally into a salad.
The city worker young crowd loves this place largely because of the frenetic vibe and the fast-appearing food that's a notch above the usual soggy sandwich office lunch. On that note, they can also get takeaway delivered to the door on one of Miss Chu's electric bicycles - the only catch is that it has to be within a one-kilometre radius of the mother ship.
Fast, frenetic and fresh - and the food might give you a buzz as well.
Miss Chu - 297 Exhibition Street, city, phone 9077 1097