The contemporary decor of Pepper Leaf complements its lively Vietnamese menu. Every wall gets a different wallop of colour, with aubergine, capsicum and pistachio tones lifting your pre-dinner mood. Live decorations include a monster catfish with whiskers like lengths of lemongrass; the wall-mounted aquarium is his surveillance tower over feasting diners. The dining room is almost constantly buzzing, though on Tuesdays chef Hung Diep and the catfish take a day off.
The Vietnamese favour crabmeat and asparagus soup on special occasions, but you don't need to wait for a celebration to enjoy it here. The menu boasts plenty of meat: scotch fillet appears, as does quail, which is marinated in fresh herbs, lemongrass, chilli and spices then escorted to the barbecue. The rice hotpot is cooked and served in its clay container with chicken, Chinese sausage, roast pork, shrimps, water chestnuts, mushroom and a roof of fried egg.
Wok-tossed dishes are made with foundations of chicken, beef, pork or lamb, with seafood and vegies also available as lighter options. Team these textures with sauces such as basil and chilli, garlic and oyster, or black bean and pepper. When choosing accompanying rice, go for the anchovy fried rice, which will convert you from the ubiquitous 'special' version forever.