05 June 2009

Little Saigon

Booto and the Sponge, having known the Deliberator for far too long, made a booking at Little Saigon for 8.00, but wisely told the Deliberator the reservation was for 7.30. As 7.30 approached, Booto and the Sponge casually went about their business, attending to Stinks and discussing their pre-dinner snifter (‘was this the $5 white from the Re Store?’, ‘oh, no no no, this one was $7.80 from Dan Murphy’s… so don’t quaff it, enjoy the fine flavours and sip slowly woman’). However, for possibly the first time in the Deliberator’s 1.5 year history of Beaufort Street Blogging, the Deliberator was home, dressed, shoed, washed, texting the others furiously and ready for action by 7.20. This left Booto, the Sponge and the Brains in a never-before-experienced situation. They were going to be early.

On arrival at Little Saigon, the Bloggers were happy to discover their pre-booked table ready to go, complete with a high chair for Stinks. Booto, the Brains and Stinks happily sorted themselves out while the Deliberator and the Sponge went across the road to the Merchant for more of their favourite cheap piss. During their absence, our fabulous waitress made all the appropriate looks, sounds and movements in front of Stinky to keep Stinks well pleased with himself for the next 2.5 hours.

Entrees arrived and they were tremendous. We ordered 2 serves of prawn and potato cakes, 1 serve of stuffed chicken wings and 2 serves of rice-paper rolls with hot (hot!) beef. The prawn and potato cakes are outstanding – shredded sweet potato wrapped around a huge, plump prawn and deep fried till crisp. There’s so much surface area on these things that there must be about 4 tablespoons of oil in each one, which makes ordering them very worthwhile. The stuffed chicken wings were not the monsters we’re used to, but were far more flavoursome than their Viet Hoa or Phi Yen counterparts. And fresh rice paper rolls with steaming hot crispy beef? Heaven. We really wanted to try the stuffed squid but couldn’t justify more food – could someone please try it and let us know how it is?

While we smashed our entrĂ©es and bottles of cheap wine numbers 1 and 2, we watched other people’s mains pass us by, until one looked so fantastic we stopped the waitress on her way out the kitchen and asked what it was. It was the old Vietnamese favourite, lemongrass and chilli chicken, but it was done better than anywhere else we could recall. For mains we also chowed down on a plate of lightly deep friend salt and pepper squid (fast becoming a benchmark we use to compare all Beaufort Street eateries) which was perfect, pork with anchovy sauce (amazing ribs cooked in that pan-Asian method - being grill the shit out the food, add salt, serve), goat curry (which was delicious, but a bit sinewey and tripey, and loaded with cloves, and although we consider ourselves adventurous, apart from the Deliberator we are all a bit more Caucasian than we’d like to think when it comes to food preferences), and finally, on a crazy and embarrassing whim, mixed vegetables. All in all outstanding Vietnamese cuisine.

And now to the service. What a delight. The fellow who took our order was charming, courteous and ever-so-friendly. And our waitress, who turned out to be the chef’s sister, quickly fell in love with Stinky (and who wouldn’t?). Stinky got cuddles, kisses, 2 trips to the kitchen to meet the chef, a couple of photos with the waitress and even a free Vietnamese desert.

Our meals came out in good time, we were quickly supplied with the 5 or 6 ice buckets we needed, the Sponge smashed a glass which was swiftly swept up and replaced with a minimum of fuss (he also managed to smash another one later that evening on the Balcony of Broken Dreams. This time, with the Deliberator as the host, there was a maximum amount of fuss and a refusal to replace, leaving poor old Sponge drinking straight from the bottle for the rest of the evening) and smiles all round from the wait staff.

In summary:

Service: A joy. Particularly thanks to the due appreciation the staff showed for Stinky’s fine looks and impeccable behaviour.

Food: Really really good, flavoursome, fresh Vietnamese food.

Ambience: A cosy restaurant lit with pretty Vietnamese silk lanterns. The Aerosmith CD was an dd choice though.

Highlight: Definitely the crispy potato cakes with prawns.

Lowlight: Nothing really. While the goat curry didn’t float our boat (except the Deliberator's), it was an ordering problem, not a cooking problem.

Rating: 4.4 goi cuon out of 5.

Will we be back: Absolutely. It’s a perfect place to take parents too – good food, not too noisy and it’s not grimy and plasticy like the Vietnamese restaurants in Northbridge (and no disrespect to those places, we love them, but we know the older generation sometimes struggle with them).

Details: Little Saigon is located at 489 Beaufort St, and can be contacted by phone on 9227 5586. Reservations are strongly recommended. 3 good sized entrees and 4 mains plus vegetables and rice came to a low low $35 a head.

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