I’ve been spoilt when it comes to Vietnamese food, since I’m lucky enough to have Vietnamese friends who have taken me to restaurants around Cabramatta and Canley Vale, brought me along to all you can eat picnics run by the Vietnamese community, and invited me to their houses where I’ve had the pleasure of eating food made by their parents.
So I rarely go out and seek Vietnamese food around my area (with the exception of a steaming hot bowl of Pho every once in a while) and I was surprised to find Bay Tinh – a restaurant which I must have walked past a thousand times on my way to a ramen fix at Ryo’s. We start with some drinks – a ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced white coffee) for me and a lemon soda with sugar for Sir D.
The menu is extensive, with several pages of entrees and mains alone. We want to try lots of different dishes but since there are only two of us, we stick to the well-known favourites as well as some of Bay Tinh’s signature dishes. The grilled pork skewer doesn’t arrive as a skewer as I would have thought, but is already pre-cut into pieces and arranged onto lettuce cups with rice noodles, pickles and fresh mint. The pork is fragrant with lemongrass and is wrapped up in the lettuce leaf, dipped into a nuoc cham dipping sauce and eaten along with the other accompaniments.
We can’t not order the goi cuon (fresh prawn rolls) just to see what they’re like here. They are definitely fresh but we’re a little disappointed as they lack flavour and need quite a lot of dipping sauce just to give it a boost.
Sir D loves his sugar cane prawn so we order this which looks pretty much the same as the grilled pork skewer in presentation. The prawn paste is bouncy and sweet from the sugar cane and pairs well with the pickles. Each lettuce cup is again filled with pickles and rice noodles and are ready to eat, but I miss the DIY element of this dish that I’ve experienced at other Vietnamese restaurants, where all the ingredients are piled onto a plate and each person makes their own lettuce wrap.
After being introduced to some delicious Vietnamese steamed rice noodle and rice cake dishes by BLT, I was keen to try the banh khot (little rice cakes) on the menu. These UFO-shaped cakes reminded me of chawanmushi, or steamed egg, and they were so delicate that it was hard just to transfer them to your own plate. The innards were creamy and silky smooth, and they were topped with what I think was a dried shrimp paste to give it some flavour. Absolutely delicious!
It’s hard not to be drawn in when you see the words “bonfire” on the menu. A signature dish of Bay Tinh, we ordered the bonfire prawns and beef which arrived as a small stone pot with blue flames dancing around it. We waited until the flames burnt out (which was quite a while!) before opening the lid to reveal a jumble of beef slices, onions and prawns cooking away in the pot.
We were instructed to put the beef and prawns, some lettuce, bean sprouts, pickles and mint onto some pre-soaked rice paper sheets, drizzle it with some spicy anchovy sauce and roll it up to eat. I really enjoyed this dish but the two of us struggled to finish it and the flavours became a bit too same-same after a while. Next time I would definitely share this between 3 or 4 people.
Our last main was Bay Tinh’s house specialty of Ballotine of chicken. This was a deboned chicken that was stuffed with a mixture of minced pork and spices, slow cooked then baked before serving with a plum sauce and sesame seeds. Without a doubt, this dish requires lots of technique, and the recipe and method is stated on the menu as being a secret known only to Bay Tinh’s owner who prepares the dish himself. It was a large serving for a quarter chicken, and after eating a few pieces it seemed as though there was more stuffing than chicken! To be honest, this dish didn’t wow me and although I was impressed by the level of technique needed to make it, the flavours didn’t mesh well together and the meat was quite dry.
The atmosphere in the restaurant was great and it was packed out on a Saturday night. Owner Harry Hoang was super friendly and went around to each table chatting to the diners and making sure everyone was enjoying themselves. He showed us a little wine bar area at the back which had a “Vietnamese tapas” (or “Vapas”) menu which sounded interesting and definitely something I would be keen to try out next time. Crows Nest is a little devoid of Vietnamese restaurants so if I ever get cravings for Vietnamese and I’m not bothered to travel out to Cabra, I know exactly where to go now!
Penguin says Feed Me dined at Bay Tinh courtesy of Wasamedia.
16 Falcon St
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Ph: +61 2 9438 5118
Lunch: Friday to Sunday from 12 noon
Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30pm