Trying to find a restaurant for my mother's birthday this year required a bit of phoning around but we happened upon Bau Truong in Marrickville, the upmarket branch of the chain of the same name. Here Vietnamese dishes like beef cubes with pepper and crispy rice bubbles with prawn delight. The sweetest finish is a not to be missed salted palm sugar ice cream!
It was a case of Goldilocks and the three bears. When I rang the first restaurant to make a booking for my mother's birthday I was told,
"We don't take bookings, but just come half an hour before and we might be able to sort something out."
The second restaurant had a similar but slightly different policy.
"We don't take bookings on weekends but just call 30 minutes before you come and we can reserve you a table."
While this may be fine and jolly when going out with my friends, my parents are different. They like a sure thing, they're not up for an adventure and a sharp left hand turn when we change plans. They like to know where they're going and go there to eat. No surprises please.
It was when Belinda recommended Bau Truong to me that I hit pay dirt. I've been to the Cabramatta version but the Marrickville restaurant is an entirely different proposition. She dubbed it "Fancy Vietnamese" and what was great was that they a) take bookings and b)are the kind of place that you could take your mum to for her birthday. Prices reflect the more upmarket vibe of the restaurant.
We start with drinks, a lemongrass and ginger tea for Mr NQN and house made lemonade for my mother and me. The tea is soothing while the lemonade is refreshing with just the right amount of sweetness.
Prawns in crispy pastry with orange glaze $12
The first items to come out are the prawns wrapped in crispy pastry noodles and then deep fried. They're served with an orange glaze that suits the crunchy prawns well.
Fresh rice paper rolls $8
The fresh rice paper rolls are good and taste freshly made although I sort of wished we had ordered something a bit more exciting than these rolls given that the "bites" or starter menu was so large.
Banh Beo Tom rice cakes with prawns and pork and a light chilli sauce $10
Lesson to myself: learn some Vietnamese or at least learn the names of my favourite dishes. Because I was hoping for crispy rice cakes and these are steamed rice cakes. We all adore the crispy version but this steamed version obviously doesn't have the crisp bottom. They're soft, slippery and topped with minced prawns and pork with chilli sauce.
Crispy rice bubbles with prawn $26
The next dish comes out by itself and it's eight king prawns (only noted because we each got two each) and crispy rice cakes with a delicious Thai basil sauce.
Double boiled five spice duck $28
The double boiled five spice duck comes in a cast iron pot with a soupy sauce. It's a comforting dish and while it's a little difficult to share because the duck comes in large pieces, it's soft so that with a little chopstick action, you can prise the pieces apart. There are Asian greens and shiitakes in the soup that requires a bowl and some rice to soak it up.
Pork belly with shrimp paste $22
I pop a pork belly cubes in my mouth and it's full of flavour and really quite good. It's my mother's favourite and has flavour from shrimp paste.
Beef cubes with pepper $22
But once I tried one of these beef cubes, I really sort of forgot the pork belly. My kingdom for these beef cubes and the fantastically well balanced sauce that it came with. It sits on a bed of watercress with sliced tomato. The beef is so succulent and it is one of those dishes that you find it difficult to stop eating.
Snapper in tamarind sauce $35
The last item to arrive is the snapper which they debone for us. It's a large snapper deep fried and looks as if frozen mid stream. It comes with a bowl of delicious tamarind sauce on the side which gives the fish a sweet and tangy counterpoint. The fish isn't greasy at all and is delightfully crisp.
Baked egg custard $12
The desserts both come out on large wooden trays. The first is a huge slice of baked egg custard with two layers. It's quite firm and tastes of palm sugar and eggs. Mr NQN likes it but the rest of us prefer the sticky rice ice cream that it comes with the second dessert.
Taro Prediction $12
The second dessert is a taro and coconut layered dessert with a quirky name. It has a side of the most delicious salted palm sugar ice cream. The two components go really well together and I have dreams of at least recreating or trying to recreate the ice cream at home myself and with summer coming up what better time to do it!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like to have a reservation when you go out or are you happy to wing it? Does it depend on who you are dining with? Do you know the names of your favourite dishes in other languages?
This meal was paid for independently.
185 Marrickville Road, Marrickville NSW 2204
Tel +61:(02) 9569 4938
Sunday to Thursday 5:00-10:00 pm
Friday & Saturday 5:00 pm - 12:00 am