'Tis the season for goodwill to all men and Stealth has obviously been very good this year as she has found Regina in her stocking (steady on), a much lauded admirer that the Ewing and I were super excited to properly meet.
Our destination was near Regina's hood, on the Kingsland Road, home to some of the best Vietnamese food in London. Although after promising to display model behaviour, motoring our way though several bottles of pre-dinner fizz at Stealth's before our rendezvous may not have been the wisest idea.
As you can probably see... At least the alcohol helped sustain us on our travails from E&C to Hoxton on a busy Friday night, as well as fueling lots of loud and raucous conversation (sadly mostly unintelligible by this point) to match the restaurant's lively atmosphere.
Things kicked off, in a an edible sense, with the staple summer rolls with pork and prawn. Funnily enough, one of the first restaurants I took the Ewing to was Song Que, stalwart of the Kingsland Road, where I introduced her to summer rolls and funky bowls of pho for the first time. Time has mellowed the experience to a romantic memory, but I'm pretty sure the reality was fraught with some sort of emotional drama. Nice food, though.
This time our starters passed much more peacefully. The rolls were on point, gossamer rice paper folded around juicy chunks of crustacean, noodles and a thicket of fresh herbs although looking at the menu in the clear light of day, I'm rather disappointed I didn't try the shredded pork skin or prawn floss versions.
Aubergine with fish sauce was also very good; the smoky skin split and the virginal flesh anointed with the gentle funk of fermented fish and topped with a tangle of green onions. A Nigella-esque description that doesn't quite convey the swarm of locust-like chopsticks that hungrily descended moments after it arrived at the table.
The comprehensive menu meant we could of had our pick across South East Asia, with delights ranging from char grilled goat to beef wrapped in betel leaf to minced eel, but who can resist a great pile of crispy spring rolls, triangles of prawn toast and sticky spare ribs sitting atop a rustling heap of deep fried seaweed. Not us clearly, and these were classics done with aplomb.
While Stealth and I were dispatched to find more wine - it's BYO, with a pound head corkage - the ladies chose the mains; Regina went with the duck, a hefty portion stir fried with smoky onions and chillies, while the Ewing chose a similar dish, this time with a heap of prawns and the added citrus zing of lemongrass.
Normally, lemongrass isn't a flavour I enjoy too much, reminding me of the hot cloths the stewardesses thrusts at you when you've woken up somewhere over the Atlantic with a cricked neck and covered in your neighbour's dribble, but here it was very nice. I also now have to try and make myself like it, as the Ewing has taken to attempting to grow industrial amounts of it in a window box at home. (still very leafy with not much stalk - TE).
Stealth, before leaving on mission, had asked for 'prawns in a pot', which, after being such a good girl, is exactly what Santa bought her. I have to confess I originally though this was one of her made up epithets for dishes she doesn't really know the name of, but I checked and it's there; stewed prawns in a pot, or number 113 on the menu if you'd like to try it.
Unfortunately I didn't, so can offer only limited thoughts on it. While I would normally hesitate to endorse something Stealth recommends - this is someone who's signature dish is frankfurters and fried eggs and frozen veg, eaten out of the same pan it's cooked in to save on the washing up - it did smell rather delicious, even if my soft focus picture isn't doing much for it.
My request for frogs legs had been replaced by the more staid suggestion of chilli satay lamb in my absense. A clever choice, seeing as they were both sitting opposite and thus sparing themselves the spectacle watching me gnawing on assorted amphibian bits.
At this point a good blogger would say something pithy, or at least something useful, about their dish. Unfortunately, success on the wine finding mission meant that - despite the alarmingly garish hue - I only rememebered eating it after finding the pictures on my phone the next morning. By all accounts I hoovered it all up with gay abandon. So it must have been quite good, at least.
A night out in the East has to end with hipster cocktails in a dingy bar and where better than Shoreditch institution Jaguar Shoes. G'n'Ts and bad dancing in the underground room rounded off a very merry evening with fine company, even if it meant the only festive fizz I could face the following day came in the form of two dispersible aspirin and a Berocca. Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.