Categories
Vietnamese

Dong Ba – Cabramatta NSW Restaurant Review

I’ve been searching for a good bun bo hue ever since my initial transformational experience at Nem Kitchen in Waterloo back in 2020, and judging from the all the internet hype surrounding Dong Ba’s reportedly authentic food I thought I had finally caught the dragon. It is a shame, therefore, that I didn’t really think the bun bo hue was all that great.

The bun bo hue ($14) was quite a disappointment. I thought that the soup was a bit watery, and nowhere near as rich as I had remembered or expected. There was plenty of meaty fillings and fresh herbs and bean sprouts to dunk in, but the thin, low-taste broth really kind of let it down. All of this was also worsened by the fact that we had a piece of plastic in our bowl, and judging from the complaints from this Chinese woman who insisted on speaking Mandarin to the proprietors of a Vietnamese restaurant we weren’t the only ones.

Luckily the banh uot cha lua ($13) was actually quite delicious. The rice noodles were very thin, soft, and delicate, and there was a huge mountain of herbs hidden underneath that gave it an amazing fresh and herbacious flavour. The cha lua was nothing particularly special, but portioned well so that each mouthful could be had with some rice noodle, some herbs, and some pork. The dipping sauce added a nice flavour but also importantly moistness to the meal, and though I don’t really remember what the red thing is (I did at the time), it was also a nice addition. Overall this was a good dish, much better than the bun bo hue whose name is hung on the wall.

The avocado shake (?$6) was actually also quite good. It was very thick with an avocado flavour as well as a white sugar flavour, and extremely cold so I suspect there is some ice blended in also.

Two cats from across the road.

THOUGHTS
I went to Dong Ba for bun bo hue, but what I found was that their banh uot cha lua was much better. I had hoped that this well known Cabramatta restaurant would become my go to, but unfortunately I’d advise any bun bo hue pilgrims to keep looking.

Dong Ba (John St)
5/117 John St, Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9723 0336

Categories
Vietnamese

Saigon Senses – Wollongong NSW Restaurant Review

Following the advice of a somewhat fanatical online poster, and in the unfortunate situation of Viet’z Eatery not being open during the crucial Wednesday-Thursday period where I usually find myself in Wollongong I decided to try Saigon Senses’ alternative offering of Vietnamese food. While I visited in person, the current COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in NSW meant that I had to take my food home to eat.

First up was this rather disappointing Cracking Pork Roll ($10.50). Whilst at first it appears unassuming and normal, this banh mi was way too salty for my liking. Your classic pork roll is a mix of umami proteins and a balance of fresh salads, however I felt that in this case even the salad components were too sauced. While I did enjoy the large quantity of pork as well as the addition of crunchy pork crackling, the fact that each and every bite had a strong and inescapable soy sauce flavour ruined the experience for me. That, and paying $10.50 for something you’d pay $8 for in Sydney, puts this particular roll into no re-match territory for me.

The spicy beef noodles ($11.50), unlike the crackling pork roll, was actually both cheap and good. This bowl featured thin round vermicelli, rare sliced beef, and spicy sour broth served separately. Saigon Senses is well set up for take-away, clear from the fact that the separately packaged soup and noodles fit perfectly into the disposable plastic bowl when recombined – thoughtfulness that not many restaurants exhibit. The rare beef was tender, cooked just a little by the hot soup. While I’m used to bun bo hue containing multiple types of meat, including beef brisket, rare beef, and cha lua (pork sausage), I’m reliably informed that it is also acceptable to just have rare beef slices by themselves. Regardless, this was a nice, tasty, and warming bowl that I can recommend to anyone.

Saigon Senses
Wollongong Central (opposite Coles) 200 Crown St, Wollongong NSW 2500
0481 368 009

Categories
Asian Fusion Vietnamese

Banh Xeo Bar – Rosebery NSW Vietnamese Restaurant Review

Banh Xeo Bar in Rosebery is a mixed-race family affair. Helmed by Benjamin Sinfield and Tanio Ho, the restaurant serves up Vietnamese inspired dishes with a dash of Western flare. This sense of co-operation is also seen in the staffing at the restaurant – with front of house being run by Caucasians and the kitchen run by Asians.

We were initially skeptical about this hip looking bar with a clientele of mostly Eastern Suburbs types (although we ourselves are technically Eastern Suburb locals at this point) and $15 banh mis, but quickly settled in to an authentic and tasty meal.

The Vietnamese iced coffee ($5.50) was really good! It was not too sweet.

We started with the crispy pork trotter in salt and vinegar butter ($12.50). This dish consisted of two deep fried pork trotters in a butter sauce with a slice of lemon. The pork was very deep friend and crispy, and the internal fats were nice and rendered. The meat itself was very oily, and I thought that the lemon was absolutely necessary to cut through the fat a bit. The butter was a bit of a superfluous addon to such an already heavy and oily dish. Overall a recommendation.

Our first main was the Banh Xeo with roast berkshire pork ($26.50). This was the first time I’ve ever had Banh Xeo, and I didn’t quite know what to expect. The egg pancake was fried to a very good warm and cripsy level. The filling inside, with pork and bean sprouts, had varying textures that amused the tongue, with a good umami flavour. The banh xeo was served with lettuce wraps and BXB’s marinated carrots and pickles, which when eaten together were able to provide multiple levels and types of crunch, crispiness, umami, and cut through the fat. This was an absolutely delicious dish.

The Combination Special Bun Bo Hue – beef flank, beef tongue, and pig head nugget noodle soup ($22.50) was a delight. We optioned it with 2 additional eggplant croquetas (on the plate in the photo), to be described separately.. I really like all the different types of meat in this soup – and also that despite being in the Eastern suburbs they didn’t shy away from serving things like beef tongue and pig head. I loved the varied textures of the meat, and also the high meat and vegetable content of the soup – there was never really a boring spoonful. A special mention goes out to the pig head nuggets, which were just delicious parcels of meatiness and fatiness that added a whole different dimension to the beef tongue and flank. The soup itself unfortunately doesn’t make it into my top soups, as my personal feeling was that it had too strong a soy flavour for my liking, but I recognise that this probably just a personal preference – I enjoyed the The Combination Special Bun Bo Hue more with the supplied lemon squeezed in. The lemongrass and chilli condiment, allegedly made by Ho’s mum, was good however didn’t find much use in this dish.

The eggplant croquetas (2 for $5) were enjoyed by my partner but not me. They were very smooth inside, and the form is made purely by the fried exterior, which I guess is a technical achievement. I think I’m a little bit allergic to eggplant.

Overall I can really recommend Banh Xeo Bar in Rosbery. It manages to straddle the line between authentic Asian cuisine and the rice paper rolls and banh mi that are more easily palatable to the South East Sydney populace. There really is something for everyone, to post gym yoga mums to two hardened deep-Asian diners.

4.5 Yums.

Banh Xeo Bar
11/61-71 Mentmore Ave, Rosebery NSW 2018
(02) 8542 5259