There are loads of Vietnamese eateries on Hopkins Street Footscray yet HM Quan still manages to stands out. Mainly because of its crazy, Hawaiian-tiki inspired decor and toddler-sized furniture (for kids and adults alike).
Step inside and you’ll be bombarded by a party of fake grass, indoor straw huts, tiny knick-knacks placed on every bit of available space from ground to eye level plus a flowing water feature in the corner. I’m not sure what ‘theme’ they were going for in the interior design other than ‘comical kitsch’.
The menu has some Vietnamese standards and then some standouts. I highly recommend their banh trang HM Quan ($9.99) – a large pile of crispy rice paper rolls hidden under a mound of radish, apple, dried fish, chilli and roasted shallots. All finished off with a squirt of mayonnaise. Hunt around and you’ll find some quail eggs in the mountain of rolls too.
Their bun was pretty ho-hum, with lots of rice vermicelli noodles and only a smattering of grilled pork or tofu fish and some rather sloppy presentation ($8.99). I wasn’t particularly excited by the pickles or the sauce and overall I think the smoky version at Sapa Hills is better.
Their Guo Cuon (spring rolls) were freshly made and stuffed with prawns, rice vermicelli and veges ($8.99). They came with a pungent fermented shrimp sauce rather than the usual hoisin based dipping sauce.
HM Quan is well known for their very cheap rice/congee combos where you pay $2.99 for a bowl of rice or congee then add as many side dishes as you like for $2.99 each. We tried the sauteed mushrooms, slippery little shiitakes sliced and lightly pan-fried, as well as small chunks of caramelised pork which were sticky and crunchy at the same time. You can customise your seasoning with the little pots of table-side condiments – soy, fish sauce, salt shrimp and pepper. It was a fun way and filling way to try lots of different dishes – and if you don’t like your salted egg then it would have only cost you $3!
Those who are tall or not flexible will probably find the seating at HM Quan too uncomfortable after a while, but it’s not really the sort of place to linger so you’ll be in and out quickly. It’s cheerful and cheap, even by Footscray standards (our party of 4 adults and 2 kids paid just under $50 for dinner) and the novelty factor means it’s worth a try.