It seemed to be a long time coming but those construction hoardings in the bowels of The Galeries finally came down recently to reveal a swanky new food destination. Hmm, I wonder what prompted Galeries to overhaul its food court? Poor figures? The Westfield frenzy down the road? A mosaic tiled and walnut stained staircase now drops from the George Street atrium into a sprawling, dimly-lit dining room partitioned with screens and a variety of seating styles. A scattering of food options line the peripheries with tempting displays of colourful edibles and, what’s that? $5 meals for 5 days?
As an introductory, and perhaps seductive offer, the new Madame Nhu chose to draw customers in its first week of trading by making all of its dishes $5. The only catch – two plates per person while food stocks last. What’s Madame Nhu? It’s the third installment by the team behind Xage, in Surry Hills. Who’s Madame Nhu? Her real name is Tran Le Xuân and if you must, you can read up on her here.
Now, to the $5 bargains. My first taste of the Madame was the slow cooked Berkshire pork belly (10.5). Yup, that’s just me; straight for the good old pork belly. Nice, rich flavours as expected and a decent ratio of meat to skin and fatty blubber. Much better than the one I had at Xage where most of the dish was fat. The signature fresh ricepaper roll of honey tofu wasn’t available on either of my visits so I gave the combination – pork, beef, tofu (8.5) – a burl. Choices of dipping sauce is a nice touch but I couldn’t go past the hoisin as I like it best and just as they did it at Xage, they watered it down here as well. Virtually no hoisin flavour. I really liked the sugarcane prawn (7.5) but the vermicelli didn’t seem to make it to my plate despite being mentioned on the menu. Oh well, what do I expect for a fiver?
I didn’t mind the nem nuong skewers (7.5) of chicken and pork and once combined with the lettuce, herbs and pickled veg then doused in nuoc cham, it was a refreshing crunch. Nice to see they don’t hold back on the chilli in the salad. The fried chicken rice set (10.5) comes boneless with a small bowl of very tasty broth and the salt & pepper tofu (7.5) is just that. A couple of Aussie beers are available but sadly nothing from the mother country. Oh man, where’s the 333? Eight different pho are also on the menu and when I return I’ll probably be joining the loud slurpers in the tight little seating area that’s a mock-up of a colonial French/Vietnamese house.