If you are familiar with Sydney and its large Vietnamese community, then you’ve probably heard about the suburbs of Cabramatta and Canley Vale in Sydney (about 40 minutes from the city center). And in searching for some good authentic Vietnamese food in Sydney, I stumbled upon reviews of Hai Au Lang Nuong Restaurant.
It was a late night trip out to Canley Vale for dinner at this Vietnamese style barbeque restaurant, but with neon signs, it was an easy one to spot. Reviews mention crowds that this place attracts on weekends — when they open up the restaurant to expose their large barbeques to the streets, luring in customers with the smell of grilled banana leaves and meats — so I doubt it’s ever difficult to find.
The restaurant seemed small from the outside, but step in and you’re in another world. The attention to decor inside this restaurant must be mentioned! It’s not something you generally find in a Vietnamese restaurant, but this one had SO much charm. I would take the Cameras and Cuisines crew with me here for dinner if they came for a visit in Sydney.
They do serve Wagyu Beef, or direct Vietnamese translation – “Massaged Beef”, here for DIY grilling. But I came here for something else.
Lucky for me, it was a Friday night and the Ga Chay Bo Nuong Than (grilled free range chicken) was on the menu! But I had to “Hurry, Hurry, Hurry while it Hot?????”
The chicken is freshly grilled in banana leaf and is served with a slightly sweet Vietnamese glutinous sticky rice. Despite being grilled, the chicken retains its juiciness and was incredibly soft in texture. It was perfectly charred and you get the hint of sweetness from the banana leaf. Oh gosh, it was good.
Hai Au is also known for its menu offerings of grill-it-yourself dishes. This dish is a rare one to find in any Vietnamese restaurant. In fact, I’ve only ever had this one at home. Missing my mom’s Vietnamese cooking, I ordered this dish to feed my craving. With this dish, you are given a cute little grill set up, along with a basket of fresh lettuce and herbs, vermicelli noodles and rice paper for rolling. What you do is grill, then roll up the meat (along with the betal leaf) with some vermicelli and lettuce into the rice paper to create something like a Vietnamese salad/summer roll. And this is eaten dipped into some fish sauce to taste. A very authentic dining experience. I totally recommend everyone to grab a Vietnamese friend and drag them out to a restaurant like this to learn the ropes. This dish at Hai Au, was just like home. But at that price, I’d hesitate to try it again… ahh but again, it’s Australia and not Canada. So I guess it’s fair price-wise! Regardless, a must try – at least once.
Missing the delicious Butter Beef from Phnom Penh [Vancouver, BC], I was hoping to find a substitute here in Australia. Unfortunately, this one totally was not what I was expecting. Though the tangy beef was good, the salad did not meet my expectations overall. The shrimp chips didn’t really work well in this dish and I ended up eating them separate from the beef salad. I wouldn’t order this dish again.
We also ordered some drinks and desserts. We got the avocado milkshake, which can be found in most Vietnamese restaurants. You can’t really fail at making one of these, so it was good but not extraordinary or anything special. I’d recommend it for anyone to try anyways. We also got the Sam Bo Luong, which is quite an adventurous drink for those not familiar with Asian desserts. It is a Vietnamese dessert of Chinese influence, that generally contains dried logan, lotus seeds, barley, thinly sliced seaweed, sugar, water and ice. Again, you can’t really butcher making this dessert.
Overall:I'd come here again for sure. Their food and dining experience is both authentic and unique, so it's a great place to introduce people to Vietnamese food. Most of the clientele were young Vietnamese and even on a late Friday night, this place was busy. One advice? Order the grilled free range chicken.
*Our scoring system is out of 5. With 5 being the highest score.