249 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Long standing Vietnamese
Thanks to Jennifer Lam from The Bamboo Garden for inviting me to check out the menu at the long standing Saigon Bay Restaurant. This place has been around for decades it seems and has certainly stood the test of time on Oxford Street where so many restaurants have come and gone. Visiting at lunch time and just before Christmas proved a quiet time for trading and my table was the only one dining. The 'Closed' sign accidently left up upon arrival probably didn't help as well although lunch delivery requests seemed to be a more popular option for them. After an initial confusion about the Head Chef Thai Nguyen expecting us the previous week it was down to business and I left it up to him to decide what we should try. Overall the food was enjoyable but there were a few things I'd tweak in some of the dishes. I only sampled a small number of dishes so hard to get a fair idea of what their best dishes might be. The Vietnamese Crispy Pan Cake ($13.50) was crispy as hoped with a nice filling. Went well with the fresh lettuce cups and mint although the tomato seemed out of place on the dish and would have been better replaced with pickled radish perhaps. Beef in Wild Betal Leaf ($10.90, 4 pieces) had nice flavours and again not sure about the tomato on the side.
The Special Camp Fire Beef ($22.90) cooked on the table added a bit of dining theatre. Watch out for the flame when serving yourself. It was a tasty dish and involved a bit of skill wrapping in a rice paper sheet but successful efforts were rewarded. Vietnamese Spring Rolls ($9.90, 4 pieces) had a very white peppery overtone but decent crisp and would have benefitted from some pickled radish to place in the lettuce cup with the carrot and mint. Papaya salad ($18.90) had a nice crunch although the flavour seemed a tad on the sweet side. Salt and Pepper Calamari ($18.90) was tender as hoped with batter just a touch floury. I would have loved a lemon pepper dipping sauce on the side and some dressing on lettuce underneath. Service was unfortunately a bit non existent due to no extra staff on hand and the only chef needing to cook for us plus lunch deliveries. Decor is quite simple which could do with a bit of a refresh to make the place more warm and friendly but I guess with a few more people dining would make the place more buzzing and filled with atmosphere.
PROS: Extensive menu, Ingredients pretty fresh, House wine is reasonably priced
CONS: Service wasn't really available at the time of dining and the only chef had to manage taking our order, phone orders and cooking which had its challenges and affected the dining experience
MUST TRY: Revisiting to try other dishes although I'd order the Special Camp Fire Beef again which was probably my favourite of the day
VERDICT: A restaurant that's been around for ages so obviously has its local fan base. The decor and setting can seem a little dated and simple so a refresh would probably benefit the dining experience.
Vietnamese Crispy Pan Cake filled with prawn, pork, bean sprout with salad & fish sauce ($13.50) — crispy as hoped, tomato seemed out of place on the dish
Beef in Wild Betal Leaf ($10.90, 4 pieces) — nice flavours although quite small
Special Camp Fire Beef: Beef marinated with onion, tomato, shallots cooked on the table, served with salad fish sauce and rice paper ($22.90) — pretty tasty
Vietnamese Spring Rolls with mince pork, crab meat & vegetables deep fried and served with fish sauce ($9.90, 4 pieces) — very white peppery, decent crisp shell
Papaya salad with shredded papaya, prawn, and herbs with lemon chilli jam sauce ($18.90) — enjoyable crunch, flavour a tad sweet
Salt and Pepper Calamari ($18.90) — tender as hoped, would have loved a dipping sauce
|Goundrey Unwooded Chardonnay WA ($26.90) — I love a table bucket|
|Unfortunately with no table service around it was hard to get a top up of table water when needed|
|Quite an extensive menu|
|Upstairs available for large groups and private functions|
|A few bar options|
|Table support flat which gets the tick from me for comfort|
|Clean toilet although could do with a bit of an update|