Nope, if you’re a chilli-head through and through, you pick the hottest food you can think of.
Which is why a visit to Viet Bistro was the perfect choice on the hottest Sunday of the year so far.
This Lower Briggate bistro is modest on the outside, spacious and cool inside. It’s not set up for a romantic dinner for two – seating is on long wooden benches with pots of tempting condiments on each. The Union Flag bunting made for a quirky juxtaposition with the mural-sized photos of street food kitchens in Saigon.
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But you wouldn’t go to Viet Bistro for the wall art alone. The menu reads like a who’s who of Vietnamese home cooking, whether you’re looking for a vegan, vegetarian or gluten free feast.
My guest went for the pork summer rolls to start – a delicate rice paper wrap with vermicelli noodles, crispy lettuce, cucumber, mint and coriander that was utterly perfect for a scorching summer’s day.
My starter of salt and pepper tofu was a delight – a generous portion of crispy, golden bean curd with crunchy mixed peppers.
And here’s the best thing. Anyone familiar with Vietnamese cuisine will know it’s usual to offer a selection of condiments with the meal. Happily, not the depressingly limp, lukewarm sachets of salad cream so commonly on offer but pots of zingy pickled garlic and chilli, teriyaki sauce, chilli sauce and – the pièce de résistance – roasted chilli paste.
It’s probably the equivalent of someone slathering ketchup over their chips but that chilli paste just brings your dish to life. It pops and fizzes across your tastebuds yet won’t leave you looking for the fire extinguisher.
My guest went for perhaps the most in-demand dish on the menu, pho. The traditional noodle dish of Vietnam, the broth is served with rice noodles, fresh herbs and beansprouts.
Having never tried it before, it’s fair to say that he will be ordering this again – the freshness of the ingredients and comfort of the broth combined with the zing of chilli makes it easy to understand why literally every other table had ordered the same.
I chose the Viet Bistro version of Pad-Thai – stir fried rice noodles with egg, onion, beansprouts in a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. It was fragrant and satisfying – and reached new heights with a generous helping of chilli and garlic.
Service is super-polite and swift while the bill for our food and (several) beers came to just £40.
If you can take the heat, the Viet Bistro kitchen is the one place you really do need to visit.
Address: 159 Lower Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6LY
Telephone: 0113 345 5430
Opening hours: Mon-Thurs, 11am-4pm, 5pm-10pm; Fri, 11am-4pm, 5pm,11pm; Sat, 11am-11pm; Sun, 11am-10pm.