Monday, October 17, 2011

Cay Tre Soho: Fancy Vietnamese with a Heavy Helping of Delish

The fashionable dining space at Cay Tre Soho.
Name Cay Tre Soho
Address 42-43 Dean Street, London W1D 4QD
Phone 020 73179118
Web site
Main dish price range £8-11
Rating 3.5 Stars.  Not the most authentic spot, but a great place to impress a picky date! 

Recommended dishes La Vong Fish, Slow-Cooked Mekong Catfish

Here at the blog we've recently been on a bit of a Vietnamese kick, inspired by the yummy Banh Mi place that recently opened down the street from our apartment (post forthcoming).  So we decided to finally try Cay Tre Soho, a French-influenced Vietnamese place recommended highly by a Vietnamese friend here in London on a recent Friday evening. 

The restaurant definitely has a different vibe that a lot of places we review here. It's decked out in sleek, white-topped tables, and has a very design-y entrance, with bits of the menu scrawled in white letters across a glass wall. It would be the perfect place to go to impress a date or ease a friend not accustomed to hole-in-the-wall ethnic places into the wild world of ethnic cuisine. (We haven't been, but are told for a more downmarket, authentic option, try Cay Tre's location near Old Street.)

Desert or dinner?  Slow-cooked Mekong catfish.
Despite it's trappings of fanciness though, Cay Tre definitely did not disappoint. Our friend recommended the La Vong Grilled Fish appetizer (£6.50), and it definitely was the perfect way to kick off the evening-- the waitress brought a hot plate right to our table and cooked it in front of us, in a little wok piled high with fresh dill and cuts of monkfish so fresh I imagined they caught the fish out back. Also impressive was the Slow Cooked Mekong Catfish (£9.50), which was cooked in a carmelised fish sauce. As I got tipsier as the evening went on, I kept trying to sop up more and more of its sweet, delicious sauce with my rice, unable to let any bit of that dish go away uneaten.

BBQ with Rice Vermicelli.  Photo courtesy of Flickr.
One thing that's great about Ca Trey-- and good Vietnamese food in general-- is that freshness can be king in a cuisine like this, and one can leave the evening without feeling loaded down with heavy creams and starchy foodstuffs. For food along those lines, we loved the Lemongrass Wok Fried Squid (£10), which was hardly fried at all, but instead a mix of super fresh, high-end vegetables, including some delicious tiny, green heirloom tomatoes. Lemongrass, Chinese celery, green chili, and dill rounded out the dish, which managed to be delicious and somewhat healthy all at once.

The only thing we had at Cay Tre that we wouldn't get again was a dish we got on a subsequent visit-- the BBQ Pork with Rice Vermicelli (£9). This has long been a favorite dish of mine at some Vietnamese restaurants, but here the staff added their own twist, choosing to garnish the tender pork slices with fried spring rolls and bits of daikon. The fried bits took some of the focus off the meat and added a dose of crunchy tastelessness. I will give the kitchen staff credit though for nicely dusting the whole thing with peanuts and fresh chilis.

UPDATE: After vacillating between giving this place 3.5 or 4 stars, we've decided to leave Cay Tre at 3.5. We'd like to note though that the Old Street location has made us feel more positive about the Cay Tre brand. Although the Soho locale has a fancy, precious feel, Nick and I have come to really enjoy the vibe at Old Street, which has the same menu, but a much more diverse clientele. The giant, ridiculous-looking cocktails on offer, however, still cause us to raise our eyebrows. Supposedly they're "Vietnamese inspired" but they don't remind us of Vietnam. 

Cay Tre Soho on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Toby said...

I eat Vietnamese from time to time, and I can see your point about the BBQ Pork dish. Perhaps some fresh green veggies instead of the fried pieces would've been a good addition and would've added some great color to the composition as well!