I’d heard rumours for quite some time of an unassuming takeaway in Claremont serving up the most fantastic and authentic Vietnamese cuisine but never managed to make the journey out there. I was therefore excited to discover that they were moving into the North Hobart restaurant strip a short walk from home and hurriedly went for lunch on the first day, hoping they’d live up to the hype but remaining sceptical. It was indeed amazing but I needed to go in the next day and the day after to make absolutely sure.
The store hasn’t had much of a refit since its previous incarnation. It’s nothing glamourous but there’s seating for groups and individuals with a lot of trade I saw opting to take their meals away. It’s certainly fast turnover if you’re in a rush to get home even with the majority of dishes prepared fresh to order. Dining in each time I found the service basic, verging on lacking, but always friendly and enthusiastic. You’re not here for silver service though, you’re here for the food. And what food it is.
Banh Mi, the classic dish of a baguette filled with meat, salad, pâté and herbs is well represented. There are seven different options, all good value ranging from $6-$7.50. There is also a lot of flavour here, the pork standing out as it should but the rest is also working in harmony with the freshness of ingredients really standing out. And I’ll repeat the value as it’s a welcome surprise in this part of town.
It’s time for an intermission. As well as selling some amazing Vietnamese and Asian fare it is also the home of fried chicken with a variety of cuts and burgers. It’s an odd marriage. You’ll notice the signage and bain marie on entry. I do genuinely love well made fried chicken but couldn’t be swayed away from the rest of the menu so will leave any judgement for a later date.
“Bun” is a noodle salad which initially perplexed me. First taste was fairly flavourless with some oddly warm noodles for a salad. I’m not a fan of dressing generally but I added a little of the accompanying dish to give it a try and it improved things slightly. About to give in and write it off, I threw caution to the wind and emptied the rest of the dressing onto the dish. It transformed it completely. The warm noodles quickly soaked up the flavour and cooled down, the fresh herbs added zing and the vegetables retained crunch. The meat was superb. Remember when I said service was perhaps lacking? It was one of those dishes that a bit of direction might have helped. Eight different options are on offer including vegetarian ranging from $12.50-$14. As a lunch it left me perfectly satisfied.
Connoisseurs are going to rate this place on its Pho and will leave happy. It’s a very flavoursome broth with fresh herbs and chilli to add according to preference. The meat in the combination is incredible, showing the skill and difference in preparation of the varying cuts. It’s everything a Pho should be and you should visit to experience this if nothing else.
In a block of restaurants chasingr the tourist dollar Saigon Express is indeed refreshing. It’s a place for the locals, those that know where to look beyond the exterior to find chefs serving up delicious and honest fare. It’s my new local. Go give it a try.