One of the great things about blogging is that it takes me to people and places I probably never would have gone otherwise. Tucked away in a corner of The Star’s casino floor is Luke Nguyen’s Fat Noodle, and tonight I was lucky enough to be dining with the man himself while we sampled some of their most popular dishes.
Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s actually in the casino. It may be surrounded by the bright and flashing lights of the pokies machines and cheering punters at the Baccarat tables, but the food is spot on and the prices are very reasonable. Luke tells us that the dishes at his Fat Noodle restaurant are some of the chefs’ favourite hawker style foods found in South East Asia. The menu isn’t limited to a particular region, but spans Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to bring you favourites like pho, fried rice, char kway teow, laksa and pad thai.
The menu is broken up into small plates, rice dishes, noodle dishes and wok dishes. We start with some small plates including these roasted duck and enoki rice paper rolls, which had plump and meaty pieces of roast duck (skin on, of course) inside the rice paper rolls, with delicate little enoki mushrooms sticking out of the ends. The rolls were served with a sweet and nutty hoisin and peanut dipping sauce, with crushed nuts sprinkled on top for texture.
The Tasmanian oysters were an absolute treat, served raw and freshly shucked in the shell. The shallot dressing on top of the oysters was surprisingly sweet and the chopped purple perilla leaves provided a fresh flavour.
The scallops again were served in the shell, and reminded me of the steamed scallops with vermicelli and XO sauce you can get in Chinese restaurants, but with a modern twist. The scallops were seared on both sides and served on a bed of rice vermicelli, and topped with a tangy tomato and chilli dressing and some crispy deep fried wonton wrappers for crunch factor.
The crispy quail is exactly like what I remember eating in Chinese restaurants. The quail pieces are left on the bone, which means you may have to use your hands, but it’s all worth it for the crispy, burnished skin and tender meat. The quail pieces are served on a crunchy pickled vegetable salad that offset some of the oiliness from the skin.
I think everyone on the table was in awe of this dish and it was certainly one of the highlights of the night. Salt and pepper tofu seems like such a simple thing but Fat Noodle really does it well. Luke tells us that they use silken tofu and potato starch to achieve a delicate texture, while the salt and pepper seasoning as well as the fried fresh chilli and garlic pack a punch of flavour! There is only a very thin layer of batter on the outside of each wobbly tofu cube but it is still crisp on the outside and I didn’t hesitate to go back for seconds.
The specialty here at Fat Noodle is undoubtedly the Fat Pho. A telling statistic is that around 800,000 bowls have been sold since Fat Noodle’s opening!
But what’s so special about this pho? A large steaming bowl of noodles is brought to the table and the aroma of beef and spices hits us immediately. Luke tells us that beef broth is simmered for over 24 hours in gigantic 400 litre pots and includes ox tail, lots of medicinal spices and no MSG. The colour of the soup is quite dark but one spoonful and you can tell that there is a depth of flavour in the broth that isn’t present in other Vietnamese restaurants. On top of the rice noodles is some rare, thinly sliced Angus beef sirloin and brisket, and on the side are your typical pho add-ons like bean sprouts, fresh Thai basil, and fresh chilli. I can see why they sell so many bowls of this because it’s warm, comforting and delicious!
I’m not usually a laksa person (probably because I can’t handle the chilli) but this laksa won me over. I can’t vouch for it’s authenticity as a Singapore laksa, but it uses slightly thicker rice noodles than most laksas I’ve tried. As well as the noodles, there’s an assortment of king prawns, fish cake, scallops, chicken breast, puffed tofu, and a boiled egg in the laksa. The soup base is very creamy and mild which suits me just fine.
I’ve definitely reached exploding point by now, so I can only manage a few mouthful of the wok-tossed Angus beef with lemongrass. The Angus beef is served on top of vermicelli noodles with some crushed peanuts and Vietnamese herbs thrown in as well. Luke mixes it up for us so that the sauce from the beef coats the vermicelli and while it’s delicious, I think we’re all so full that we barely make a dent in it.
We thought we had eaten our final course, but Luke brings out a surprise Hainan chicken for us to share! The chicken is silky smooth with the bones removed and is made even tastier with the ginger and shallot ‘salsa’ and chilli sauce. It’s served with a dome of chicken rice using the oil and broth from poaching the chicken.
It’s no surprise to me that Fat Noodle is popular amongst casino patrons and local office workers. You pretty much can’t go wrong with whatever you order, and almost everything on the menu is less than $20 which is great value for money. I would definitely recommend ordering the Fat Pho and the salt and pepper tofu and I know for sure that I’ll be back for a pho fix in the not-too-distant future!
Penguin says Feed Me dined at Fat Noodle courtesy of The Star and Open Haus
Level 1, Casino
80 Pyrmont Street
Pyrmont NSW 2009
Open Sunday to Thursday,11.30am – 2am; Friday & Saturday, 11.30am – 6am
Please note guests must be over 18 years of age to enter.