Little Saigon Grill is a larger, bigger reincarnation of it’s old days at Rowes Arcade.
As someone who’s never worked in the CBD, I’d never heard of this place. Nonetheless, I am always on the look out for great tasting, authentic food. It’s tucked away in Albert St behind the Coffee Club with a modern fit out with recycled wooden tables, bright red signage and hanging edison bulbs and lights.
After opening for just 3 days, Nic and I joined a small food blogger’s lunch hosted by the owner, Thanh Tran. Don’t mistake this as a small lunch, small is referring to the group size. No, no. This was a huge lunch! 😀
We started off with a hands-on experience with refreshing entrees and salads.
The bahn xeo (Vietnamese crispy pancake) filled with pork and prawn as well as bean sprouts. This was wrapped up in a lettuce leaf with pickings from a basket of fresh ingredients such as mustard leaves, perilla, mint, carrot and cucumber. Together this was dipped in nuoc cham (a Vietnamese dipping sauce which is basically a sweetened fish sauce). The pancake itself was quite dense and could be a meal on it’s own. It also had a great coconut flavour in the batter which is often missing in other versions of this.
The rice paper rolls we sampled were the lemongrass chicken and the hoisin roast duck served with a hoisin and peanut sauce. There’s lots of varieties available. I was saving space so I didn’t try these. Using fresh ingredients like most, I don’t see these being a lot different to other rice paper rolls though. The key is variety though, with LSG offering over 10 different types!
The accompanying salads were the pickle lotus and duck salad with sesame crackers and the green papaya salad with poached chicken and sesame crackers. Both were a great mix of sour flavours with most of the ingredients for colour and crunchy texture. The duck salad was my favourite out of the two as I’ve never been a huge fan of papaya (it’s a childhood thing). The sesame crackers were HUGE and fun to nibble on. These were really filling too. Great for healthy lunches on the go.
We shared 3 different mains all eaten with plain rice:
- Grilled lemongrass pork chop with apple and cabbage salad
- Vietnamese chicken curry with coconut, sweet potato
- slow braised pork belly in coconut juice with boiled egg
The pork chop was a little dry but they were aware and apologised. It’s usually not! I like that the pork chop was pre-cut, saves the difficulty of cutting through it. The bits of bone were great to gnaw on though! It had the familiar lemongrass flavour which was good.
The chicken curry was rich in coconut cream (big tick!) and the gravy was delicious. I’ve never had a Vietnamese curry before but this reminded me of Singaporean/Malaysian-style curries which are quite soupy and great with rice. I really liked this.
The pork belly was gelatinous and the fat melted in your mouth. *cue drooling* The broth is cooked with coconut juice, which made it a lot lighter in flavour than other versions of this that I’ve had. The boiled egg was cooked just enough so that the yolk was still runny which thickened up the sauce and enhanced the richness. This works well with the lighter broth. The saltiness of the dish is overcompensated as it is meant to be eaten with rice alongside vegetable dishes and not on it’s own.
All the dishes were mild in heat in order to be accessible for everyone – additional chilli in the form of sriracha sauce and other condiments are in the centre of every table.
Many at the table hadn’t tried durian before. But, boy, was I excited to hear they had durian smoothies on the menu! They’re lots of other exotic fruits available too – soursop, custard apple, jackfruit..!!! Tranh nicely prepared one for us and then we each had a small taste of it. I enjoyed it immensely. I could definitely return if not just to fix my durian cravings!
We also sampled a coconut slushie – a mix of frozen young coconut juice and flesh with your choice of fruit. We had a pineapple, ginger and lychee mix. I’ve never had this combination together. The ginger provided enough bite without taking away from the pineapple. Nods and slurps all round (some in relief of getting rid of the durian flavour). Another winner! Perfectly refreshing for Queensland weather. I can see these being extremely popular.
A colourful platter of fresh fruit rounded out this fantastic long lunch.
Currently they’re having grand opening specials where main meals (Vermicelli Salads, noodle soups, rice dishes etc) are just $9.90! Some of the dishes such as the pork belly are part of the daily lunch specials which won’t be on the menu but will be on display in our hot bain maries.
Like any other Vietnamese place, LSG also offer Vietnamese coffee, bahn mi as well as Pho noodle soups. These secret to LSG’s Pho is 15 hours of cooking time with Black Angus Sirloin. Sounds like another must-try dish that I will have to return for!
I can see that this would be a great place to have meals in groups just because it’s cheap and caters to everyone from vegetarians to gluten-intolerant people! From what I’ve heard, it’s quickly becoming a popular lunch time spot too!
There’s plenty that I want to try here and I would love a casual place like this to eat late-night Pho after drinking!
Little Saigon Grill
Open for lunch on weekdays, plans to open up for dinner and on weekends
Ground floor, 123 Albert Street, Brisbane (behind The Coffee Club)
Nic and I dined as guests on behalf of Little Saigon Grill.