Review by Tuan

Ruby – Modern Vietnamese

I was going to start by quoting the lyrics to Kaiser Chefs – Ruby, but perhaps I’ll save corniness for another time. Saturday night, the lady and I scrubbed up and headed out to dinner, she in a sexy black dress, I in a not too shabby black get up. Ruby at the top of the mall was the destination and Vietnamese was the cuisine. I’ve been here for lunch once before and was very happy with the food then, would dinner be as good?

There’s the usual array entrees, soups, land and sea based proteins, vegetable dishes, noodle soups and set plate meals ala Vietnamese street food. Most of the mains are around the $20 mark, which isn’t ridiculously expensive but not cheap either. There’s some fried rice options too, but I fail to grasp why anybody would pay more than 10 bucks for rice with a bit of sauce chucked in. You’re all idiots!

We sat down and ordered our food and whilst waiting a family of four came along and plonked themselves down beside us. The little chubby boy was one of those obnoxious spoilt little brat kids, making a huge noise and whacking his dad with a balloon. The father pretended he didn’t know that little rascal and didn’t do anything, nor the mother, so I decided to practice my angry death stare that I will one day use on my own children on this poor unfortunate little boy. He promptly turned around and shut up, much to my satisfaction. He started up again a minute later and this time I gave the mum and the young daughter the look too, but less intense. They were all quiet from then on.

With that sorted, our Vietnamese spring rolls ($8.50 I think) arrived 25 odd minutes after ordering. We had unfortunate timing with two large groups coming before us, it otherwise would have been a quiet (and quicker) night me thinks. The springs rolls had a very nice filling and weren’t anorexic like the ones you get from the other Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon Star, 50 metres away.

Pork in caramel sauce

Yum. Reminds me of my child hood days.

Next up was the pork in caramel sauce ($18.50). Classic Vietnamese food, it reminded me of my young and innocent days growing up with mum and dads cooking. Those were the days where one could eat 5 bowls of this stuff without worry about the consequences. Back to the present, the sauce is absolutely divine accompanied with white rice, but there wasn’t a whole lot of it compared to the last time I had it here and from what I am used to. That aside, the sweetness is balanced nicely with a load of pepper, of which I’m not the biggest fan, but here it just works beautifully.

eggplant with pork mince and XO sauce

The eggplant was eggcellent. Sorry, couldn't help myself.

Next up came the eggplant with pork mince and XO sauce ($17.50). Now I believe XO sauce is Chinese in origin, but what the hell, nothing wrong with some across the border inspiration as this dish was pure sexy. The chef showed good technique in keeping the intense colour of the eggplant whilst cooking the insides to silky smooth perfection. The lady and I agreed that this was one of the best eggplant dishes we’ve had in a while.

Ruby - Char grilled pork ribs withsweet and sour sauce

Dodgy photo, epic pork ribs.

Last but not least, char grilled pork spare ribs with sweet and sour sauce and pickled vegetables. The lady ate all the salad and decided she was full, leaving me to eat 5 chunky bits of meat on a bone. That’s fine because these were bloody epic, up there with the ribs at Prickles in Parap even. Yes, that good. The sweet and sour sauce isn’t the Chinese style one ala sweet and sour pork, but I suspect uses tamarind instead. My favourite dish of the night, but the most expensive at $28.50, holy shit boss.

The service was ok, if a little unenthusiastic, it seems to be a family operated business with two of the kids helping out. I used to help my parents out a lot back in the day so I understand their desire to be elsewhere. Is a smile and a ‘can I get you anything else’ too much to ask?

Overall, an excellent modern take on Vietnamese food. I like that they haven’t Darwin-ised their menu and offered the usual boring as bat shit options like sweet and sour pork, beef and black bean etc etc. Not really cheap, but quality comes at a price my friends. So if you’re bored of Chinese and Thai, how about some Vietnamese?

Contact details

Shop 48-50 Smith Street Mall (Start of The Mall, Knuckey Street end)
Phone: 8941 0933
Email: rubydarwin@internode.com.au

  • Jason

    I love the traditional ‘Ruby Pho’ with the brisket, tendon cuts, this is a great little restaurant!

  • Mark

    Been in Darwin for 30 years and have always known “Top of the mall” to be the Westpac end.

    • Tuan

      DCC needs to install some signage.

  • http://twitter.com/DarwinOlympicSC Darwin Olympic SC

    One of my faves is the Ginger clay pot chicken, absolutely epic provided that it comes with a bit more sauce (which can vary from visit to visit).

  • http://twitter.com/katgerste Kat Gerste

    One of my faves is the Ginger clay pot chicken, absolutely epic provided that it comes with a decent amount of sauce (which can vary from visit to visit).

  • Jack

    Did you get the wonderful experience of the filthy bums hanging around the front of the restaurant?

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