The first thing I liked about Cay Tre Soho is the fact it’s much bigger and more spacious than it’s famous Old Street sister. Paticularly downstairs at Cay Tre in Old Street you just can’t hear yourself think, it is so damn loud. The Soho Cay Tre is a vast improvement. The service also seemed a lot slicker, there’s a greeter and the staff seem to be dressed more smartly, and many of the staff are not Vietnamese. I guess West-end folk are a lot more demanding than East-end folk.
Our first starter was the Hanoi Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters, these were simple but nicely done, not oily at all but the sweet potato may have overwhelmed the prawns a little. You wrap these up in lettuce leaves and add a little nuoc cham (a sweet, citrus fish sauce mix) and eat them with your hands.
The starter of Chef’s Vinh Beef was outstanding, the beef was cooked wonderfully, very tender and it had that wonderful Vietnamese charcoal flavour to it. This smokey charcoal lemongrass flavour is a big favourite of mine.
The grilled calamari and okra starter was disappointing, the large flat piece of calamari was very tough and chewy. The little tentacles were far superior in both texture and flavour however this was just a tiny side to the main body of the squid. A real shame.
The main of Bun Sa was delicious, vermicelli noodles mixed with a whole bunch of fresh herbs and vegetables topped with a meat of choice and coated in the nuoc cham. This is exactly what you expect from Vietnamese food, fresh, strong, clean flavours with a big kick of citrus but all well balanced.
The Indochine Lamb was nice, a strong punch of lemongrass but as it was wok cooked it didn’t have the charcoal infused smokiness that the beef starter had. I liked this dish but it wasn’t a standout and was a poor cousin to our beef starter.
The last main we tried was the Pan Fried Aubergine with Perilla Herb. Perilla is an Asian mint however to me it’s got a more grassy flavour than normal mint. I enjoy it but it can be too strong for some folks. The aubergine was very nice, the spicy sauce it was cooked in was a good mix of spicy and sweet. Though the menu didn’t say this also came with fried tofu mixed in. I don’t really enjoy tofu that much, expecially when it’s fried.
Cay Tre Soho do great food and in a much nicer setting than the Old Street restaurant, it’s also still great value.