223 High St
Prahran, VIC 3181
I seem to have been on an inadvertent streak of eating at restaurants named after animals recently, but I’ll say straight up that Firebird is easily the best of the lot. The food here – a flame and charcoal-heavy reinvention of Vietnamese flavours – is phenomenal, with huge flavours and an irrepressible sense of fun. The atmosphere and service are also immaculate, the fashionably dim deck-out and bubbly staff effortlessly creating the social dining-hall energy Melbourne is so fond of. Enough said, just go ahead a book a table.
Rating: 16.5/20 – irrepressibly fun.
Must-order: grilled squid noodles, scotch quail eggs (but it’s all good).
The Scotch Quail Egg ($9ea) is the stuff of snacking legend. Crunchy on the outside and oozy in the middle, add on some of the salted duck egg relish for a spot of savoury-sweet.
My heart however, lies with the Grilled Squid Noodles ($24), which actually have no noodles at all – not in the traditional sense. Instead, thinly sliced witlof and papaya shreds add a light, fresh crunch to the ribbons of smoky squid. Toss is through with the pungent caramelised nuoc cham, and you get all the flavours and textures that make Vietnamese cuisine sing.
Chicken is not the boring option, not when it’s Charcoal Free-Range Chicken ($39, half) with crispy skin and juicy meat, doused in smoky burnt chilli nuoc mam, and ready to be eaten off the bone.
Vegetarians are well-catered for with the Wood-Roasted Cabbage ($29), which contrasts charred edges and tender leaves, layered with a thick, turmeric-heavy curry sauce, and plenty of herbs for freshness.
Dessert kicks off with a house-made Burnt Coconut Fudge ($4ea), the woody exterior hiding a smooth, milky white chocolate centre. Also on the menu is an amazing Mango Custard ($18) – photo not included because it was decidedly not amazing – which layers tropical flavours in wafts of cream, glittery granita crystals, and chewy jelly bits. It’s refreshing yet indulgent all at once.
To drink, the Pear + Quince + Shiso ($14) sounded like the tastiest of the lot. Funny enough, it tasted like neither pear, quince, nor shiso. But it was a very refreshing, sparkly little number.