Saigon Sally : 2 Duke St, Prahran

September 1, 2013 at 9:06 pm (Asian, Bar, Prahran, Victoria, Vietnamese)

Riding the wave of Hanoi Hannah’s popularity is the more upmarket Saigon Sally, opened around the corner a year after the queues started forming for the High St hawker bar.  Billed as a more sophisticated take on Vietnamese flavours, the older sister was quick to make a bold statement, both in her presentation and menu.

Saigon Sally - Exterior

Located on a laneway off Chapel St, it’s not hard to pick – just keep an eye out for the distinctive street art covering the length of the concrete block.  The interior walls are similarly adorned with striking artwork, a sexy mural by Michelle Pham taking pride of place overlooking the central bar area.  Dramatic lighting and well-placed greenery add to the exotic, sultry vibe that wouldn’t be out of place on the riverside strip in Hoi An.

Saigon Sally - Bar

Chef Adrian Li’s Vietnamese-themed sharing menu is embellished with other Asian flavours.  Appearing alongside traditional Vietnamese dishes of banh cuon, a breakfast staple of mince-filled rice noodle rolls, and banh xeo, a turmeric pancake filled with prawn, pork and bean sprouts that is served taco-style, are Li’s interpretation of Korean rice-bowl bibimbap, rendang curry, Japanese salads and crispy quail stuffed with a Cantonese-inspired, pearl-chicken-esque sticky rice mix.  With a vast range of small, medium and large sharing dishes to select from, a ‘Feed Me’ option is the cheat’s way out, providing a well-rounded sample of the menu at a reasonable $59 per head.

Kingfish tartare is light, fresh starter to whet the appetite; a ceviche with Vietnamese flavours, pairing large chunks of silky kingfish with a sweet, slightly tart mixture of citrus-y pomelo and green papaya, served atop a betel leaf for easy one-mouthful consumption.

Saigon Sally - Kingfish Betel Leaf

Fried eggplant is a good as you can get, light crispy battered fingers that are soft and creamy in the centre, served with similarly tempura’d, bitter turkey berries and a punchy XO sauce studded with chunks of mushroom that we would have liked more of.

Saigon Sally - Fried Eggplant

Hanoi Hannah’s poached chicken salad is outshone by Sally’s version of goi ga; a flavoursome, textural mix of black bean poached chicken, pickled carrot, bean shoots, plenty of fresh basil and peanuts, piled on top of crispy fried vermicelli.

Saigon Sally - Chicken Coleslaw

Similarly flavour-packed, papaya salad delivers a spicy, fragrant combination of shredded green papaya, herbs and golden fried shallot.

Saigon Sally - Papaya Salad

Perfect accompaniment for duck curry; duck maryland, meat falling off the bone, cooked in a coconut rendang sauce that is  rich with a heady mix of spices (and again, we would have loved more of it).  Plump jackfruit pieces inject a sweet, tropical flavour that is a genius match for the duck.

Saigon Sally - Duck Rendang

Saigon chili crab is a must try.  Succulent pieces of deep fried soft shell crab are slathered in a tomato and black bean sauce, served with fresh herbs, cucumber, chili and lime to deliver the perfect marriage of sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavours that makes Vietnamese food oh-so-good.

Saigon Sally - Soft Shell Crab

Sally promises a happy ending and those with a sweet tooth certainly won’t be disappointed.  Ask for a recommendation and you’ll most likely be directed to tira-mi-Sally; layers of Vietnamese coffee parfait, peanut brittle and condensed milk sandwiched between layers of chewy coconut macaron that’s sure to be a hit with ‘ca phe’ addicts like yours truly.

Saigon Sally - Tira-mi-Sally

The dessert fusion continues with decadent Mekong mud cake and salted galangal caramel, and a silky smooth creme caramel pudding served with tart yuzu jelly, chunks of coconut macaroon, praline and goji berries.

Saigon Sally - Creme Caramel

Cocktails are the focus of Sally’s drinks menu and the central positioning of the bar puts the spotlight on the bartenders preparing Tom Stonnill’s inspired concoctions.  Spiced drinks are excellent tummy-warmers for colder evenings; my pick would be the deliciously sweet spiced pumpkin and maple mule made with pumpkin liquor, maple syrup and ginger.

Saigon Sally - Spiced Pumpkin Mule

Enough to say that Saigon Sally does a lot right (just give us more sauce!) and I would be interested in trying some of the more traditional Vietnamese dishes given that our Feed Me line-up was fusion-centric.  Daresay I’d get an earful from my Vietnamese-Chinese mother for paying more than $4 for banh bo though….
 
Saigon Sally on Urbanspoon
 

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