Saigon Sally, Windsor - review


Having ventured into sister restaurant Hanoi Hannah many times, I'd been wanting to try Saigon Sally for a while. The reason I hadn't is probably a combination of things: it's a dinner-only joint and I often find myself eating out during the day; Vietnamese isn't Mex's favourite so I had to take a different dining partner; being up the duff sends you to bed pretty early and it's not unusual that I'm falling asleep in my food not long after 7pm.

But this week I finally went, and waaahhhooo am I glad that I did!

Saigon Sally calls itself a diner + bar and the decor and atmos definitely suit that theme. 

It's super funky and, while we were there at granny hour on a Monday, I can see how it would be a great place to go for a few drinks and some shared plates on a Friday night. I'll definitely keep it in mind for those purposes when I've regained my evening stamina.

I was excited by the menu from the moment I sat down (well, prior to then - I almost always do menu reccon online before trying a new joint, so I knew what I was in for). It's Vietnamese, yes, but I'd call it Vietnamese with a modern twang and Mexican hemming. 

I reckon even Mex could find something to love here: his gripe with Vietnamese is that the food is generally too plain (probably why I like it - I'm all about fresh, simple flavours where the ingredients sing, rather than the sauces), but this menu is interesting and varied without being too left-field or trying too hard.

I took one of my little brothers and he liked the look and feel of the place too. He doesn't eat gluten so is always limited in his food choices, but there was plenty of gluten-free fare here and the staff were also happy to accommodate/modify his dishes wherever possible.

The menu is divided into small, medium and large plates, with sides and desserts, plus a $59 banquet option. We decided to order a bunch of things a la carte.

To start with we had the Kingfish Ceviche, served with pomelo, green papaya, shallots and chili on betel leaves ($7 each). I really REALLY loved this. 

Since first discovering the betel leaf starter at Longrain around a decade ago, I've been searching for another version that even comes close. This did. It was wonderfully crunchy, tasty without being overpowering and the fish was great quality. I'm totally ordering one of these again. Bro loved it too. I think it's hard for restaurants to make betel leaf starters that really shine, but this one shone loud.

For main, bro ordered the Rare Wagyu Strip served with pomegranate, ponzu, crispy leeks and ginger ($34). 

He thought it was amazeballs: the beef was cooked beautifully, the sauce and accompaniments were interesting without taking over the dish, and the meal was a good size - with plenty of sauce left over for the rice he ordered on the side. He would definitely order it again. I've marked this dish down to sell to Mex so I can go back very soon hehe.

I went for the Vietnamese Chicken Coleslaw with coconut poached chicken, crisp vermicelli and peanuts ($16). I loved it. The chicken was soft and juicy and the salad was fresh and beautifully flavoured. 

If I had to be picky, I reckon they could cut down on the amount of crisp vermicelli and make room for more of the greens: while the vermicelli was nice when mixed in small doses with the other stuff, you couldn't eat it on its own - it's totally doused in oil and oil is all you can taste, so I could only eat a little of it. I'd be surprised if anyone could stomach the large amount of oil-drenched noodles, but maybe that's just me. Having said this, the overall flavour was great and the meal (minus most of the noodles) was big enough for me.

This is the Brussels Sprouts side served with goji berries, maple, anchovies and hazelnuts ($8). This dish was actually the one I was most excited about when I first read the menu - I couldn't wait to see how everything tasted together. The answer? Amazeballs. 

The salty/sweet combo of anchovy and maple worked wonders, the goji berries added interest and the hazelnuts a nice crunch. The only thing I'd say about this one is, I wouldn't order a whole plate of it to myself: even when divided by two, by the end of it we were both a bit over the sweetness of the maple. It's a small portions kind of dish and one that works best as a shared plate.

A rather large serve of steamed rice ($3), and too much for one - even with my bro's appetite! 

You probably can't tell how deep the bowl is from this photo, but it's DEEP. So deep that, when it came out, both bro and I commented on how much rice seemed to be in there and wondered if the bowl (you could really call it a drinks cup) went down the whole way. Bro stuck his knife in and confirmed  that it did. We didn't finish it. Depending on who you're with and how much you've ordered, I reckon this would easily be enough for three.

In sum

I loved everything about this place: the atmosphere, the food, the whole experience. And while we were the first table there just after opening time, by the end of our meal the joint was hotting up. At 6.45pm on a Monday!

I haven't commented on the service yet, but it was efficient and friendly, and the staff were helpful and much funkier than us ; )

While I like sister restaurant Hanoi Hannah, I've found that HH often gives the appearance of serving amazing food - but many of the dishes I've tried aren't that amazing (they just look and feel like they are, but the taste isn't always there). It's possible to find great dishes at HH, but you have to sort through quite a few ok ones to find them.

Based on our first experience, I'd say this isn't the case with Saigon Sally: the food tastes as good as it looks, the overall feel of the restaurant gives you high hopes - as it does with Hanoi Hannah - but Saigon Sally really delivers. The prices are reasonable and it's a good-value kind of place if you choose wisely.

High marks from me. I'm already planning my next visit. C'mon Mex...


2 Duke St, Windsor
+61 3 9939 5181
6pm 'till late, 7 days

You may also like

No comments:

littlewhitetruths. Powered by Blogger.