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.
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.
One of the great things about Sydney is it’s cultural diversity. I love how there are little pockets of Sydney where there are large ethnic communities, meaning that you can go to that suburb of Sydney and allow yourself to be immersed in a different culture for a day. To me, Cabramatta is one of those suburbs. Known as Sydney’s “Little Vietnam”, it’s home to many Vietnamese Australians and lots of Vietnamese food!
Today we’re here to grab some lunch and some snacks. We start off at Bau Truong, one of the more well-known Vietnamese restaurants along John St. Even though it’s quite late the restaurant is still brimming with people. The service is brisk and we’re quickly ushered to our table and given menus, and the waitress comes back several times to try and get our order.
Beef noodle soup – $10.00
Eventually JC and B both decide on getting the beef pho, the beef noodle soup which is a quintessentially Vietnamese dish. The rare slices of beef cook in the hot broth, and underneath the garnish of coriander and spring onions is a mound of slippery rice noodles. The broth is deep and flavoursome and both JC and B are happily slurping away whilst Queen Chu and I await our dishes.