October 4, 2012 by eatfreak
Another local favourite, Bay Bua is located between Kings Cross and Potts Point in a pretty non-descript pedestrian mall. Like many Vietnamese restaurants, it is a fairly basic establishment but it’s always comfortably busy and that, plus the forever-smiling staff, boosts the ambience.
This is my third time dining at Bay Bua. The first time was a girls dinner back in 2007 during my first stint in Sydney, and it left a good impression for quality food, reasonable prices, and the benefit of BYO. The second time I visited was only a few weeks ago, again for a girly dinner. I would have blogged about that particular visit, however it’s always tough to concentrate on details when there are copious amounts of wine and girly gossip involved. Also, at the time we were distracted by the early 20s birthday party beside us which was ridiculously rowdy (think drunken speeches and guys taking their tops off completely unnecessarily… seriously, it happened, and I wish I did blog about it!). That unfortunately detracted from the ambience I highlighted earlier – despite the noise-cancelling padding under the chairs and tables! However on this particular dining occasion, it was just a low key Saturday night dinner with my favourite Eat Freak.
Anyway, getting to the point, which is the food and the experience. There’s a large menu to peruse and I’ve only taken photos of the pages that we selected from (click on the pictures to read).
We started with the fresh rice paper rolls. Filled with prawns, pork, not too much vermicelli or lettuce (which just act as space-fillers sometimes) and a subtle mint flavour. I considered these very good on the rice paper roll spectrum, they were very fresh and accompanied by a tasty peanut hoisin sauce. A safe and solid pick.
Our other entree was the Vietnamese pancake. We likened this dish to a quasi omelette-hash-pancake. Filled with pork, prawn and beansprouts, it had an interesting texture (in a good way), light crispy fry on the outside and moist fillings on the inside, but was a bit bland and needed a bit of spice. The light chilli dipping sauce didn’t really give it the oomph it needed.
Onto the mains. The curry beef was a star – thinly sliced tender beef in a mild creamy sauce, but not oily like some curries can be. A hint of coriander came through and the sliced fresh chilli gave a bit of tang. The ingredients included vermicelli, which I was a bit hesitant about as it seemed an odd addition to a curry, but there was only a very small amount in the curry and it was overshadowed by the other ingredients and flavours.
The lemongrass chicken had good spice but was a bit dry. It was a decent dish when served in combination with other dishes, but you might feel a little underwhelmed if served as a standalone.
In true Asian restaurant style, dishes were brought out in a somewhat haphazard fashion. The Chinese Broccoli (Kai Lan) was an ample serve and quite delicious (lots of flavor and not too salty), but was brought out last and almost too late given it had been quite some time since the curry had been consumed and we were running out of belly space. The late broccoli serve also happened the last time I was there with the girls, so maybe mention it to the staff when you order if you would like to enjoy the greens as a side, rather than a course in itself!
Rice ($2.50pp) is served in a tiffin, which keeps it nice and warm.
The restaurant quickly filled up between our 7.15 arrival and 8.30 departure. Families, dates, friends…it was a pretty diverse crowd. There were quite a lot of small groups who looked to be taking advantage of the BYO, and also regulars who were having good chats to the owner and ordering any recommendations provided. Speaking of whom, the owner is extremely friendly and memorises your orders – I always have my doubts in these scenarios and worry that an important dish will be missed but she was 100% accurate and was serving much bigger groups than our humble twosome.
Unfortunately service can be inefficient at times despite their good intentions and smiles – our entrée was delivered to the wrong table (which hadn’t ordered yet), it can be hard to get attention (even thought it’s a small place), and despite booking, our table was made up for us on the fly and was actually a table of four split into two so that we ended up hearing every word of the neighbours’ conversation next to us. Ah well, adds to the community feel right…
Return factor? Definitely. The food is too good and prices too reasonable for me not to. And good quality BYOs near Darlinghurst/Kings Cross can be hard to find (Fu Manchu is probably the next step up from here). You’re not coming here for frills but you are coming here for tasty food, ample servings, and consistent quality served with a smile.