For somewhere that claims to be pretty close to
Vietnam, Beijing struggles to cook its food. Thankfully there’s Susu, which has been head and
shoulders clear of a pretty underwhelming pack of
Vietnamese restaurants for five years now. The original siheyuan location continues to churn out dependable
renditions of Southeast Asia’s greatest culinary hits in
an atmosphere that belies its generous price point.
Like the rest of present-day Beijing, Susu’s offshoot,
Xiao Susu, is located in China World Mall. What the digs
lack in hutong charm they make up for with tastefully
modern decor, with a fantastic L-shaped bar – a pleasure
to perch at – dominating a buzzing, east-facing room.
A saunter through Xiao Susu’s menu yields a great
many options: our pork and prawn cold rolls are
delightfully fresh, our lemongrass chicken a more
complex and substantial win, but we’re here for two
things: pho and banh mi.
The shimmering baguette of our classic meatball
banh mi is a sight for sore eyes, a liberal outer glaze
offering a chewy textural counterpoint to the softness
of the mince. This thing is gorgeous, and while the
leanness of the meat and little in the way of paté make for an
uncharacteristically dry sandwich, the bread alone is
enough to make us moan.
Our pho arrives with the flair for presentation Susu is known for. The broth, cleaner than that of its competitors, smacks of trademark anise and slow-boiled beast and is perhaps the best in the city. Meat quality is good, rice noodles perfect and the rest blissful history.
Xiao Susu works at both lunch and dinner, but beware:
our midday visit featured a queue several parties long. A
testament to a great new option in a location full of hungry office workers.