I first met the lovely Lam family when they opened Banh Mi Bale restaurant on Dominion Road. They introduced me to their delicious Vietnamese sandwiches (true fusion food) and other Vietnamese cooking. Then we lost them to the Auckland CBD, where they relocated to Lorne Street.
A return visit was long overdue, but the day I visited Banh Mi Bale was closed and transforming itself into Saigon BBQ restaurant. Now open it its new format, our family of three paid a visit for dinner.
While not all dishes fall into the Cheapeats category, the overwhelming majority do and it would be a disservice to our readers to exclude this establishment because of it.
The restaurant was busy with Asian students, who were making the most of the BBQ Dish on Rice ($11-$14) such as BBQ pork on steamed rice, Vietnamese Rice Dishes ($12-$14) such as beef cubes fried in butter and rice with a touch of honey served on tomato rice, Pasta and Fried Rice ($12-$14) such as shredded duck fried rice, Stir-Fried Rice ($11-$13) such as eggplant/salty fish and pork mince on rice; Vermicelli ($12-$14) such as spring rolls and grilled chicken in lemongrass served with vermicelli; Pho Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup ($12-$13); Noodle Soups $12-$13; Laksa ($12-$13); Stir-Fried Noodles ($11-$14) and Congee ($9).
Desserts ($7-$8) are mainly ice cream with favourite Asian accompaniments such as grass jelly, red bean, lychee or logan.
When we arrived, Kathryn Lam greeted us with a warm smile and helped us through the menu. We were hungry and she suggested we share the 3 Choice combination BBQ Roast- (Roast Duck, BBQ Pork and Crispy Pork) Even though this dish is way over cheap eats budget at $34, it’s a sharing platter so we thought we’d taste it to get a broad sampling of their meat. We accompanied this with Braised Season Veges with Tofu ($18). I remembered their delicious Green Beans With Salty Olives & Mince ($22), so we had that, too. We also had to order their Prawn Fresh Rolls ($6 for 2) and a Mango Shake ($6) made with fresh mangoes.
The highest praise I can give is that after our meal, there was not a scrap left on any of the plates. The meats were all deliciously tender. The duck had a beautiful burnished skin and the crispy pork was truly crispy. Saigon BBQ only uses a special cut of pork for this dish that does not have such a thick layer of fat.
The vegetable dish was the perfect simple foil to the meat while the green bean dish was the flavour hit that I remembered. Perfectly cooked green beans with the salty olives and meat making it a meal-in-one. The fresh rolls generously had three pieces of prawn and were not too thick. The mango shake was very refreshing and the taste of the fresh mango came through. The meal was accompanied by complimentary tea.
Saigon BBQ suits the single diner with its dishes on rice as well as groups with its huge menu. This is definitely a great place to bring some friends along to try a variety of dishes to share. You can accompany your meal with complimentary or special order tea, fruit shakes, beer or bring your own wine.
Watch for the Lam family’s next venture – a more formal classical Vietnamese restaurant called “Pho Saigon” opening up in the Viaduct area.