Keen to replace last weeks lingering disappointment with something more substantial, we were determined to regroup and move onto bigger and better things with a meal at Little Saigon. Befitting of its name, this small restaurant is monstered by its neighbours in both size and reputation but still offers the same traditional soups as well as a range of other dishes. So, we eventually entered ‘Little Saigon’ buoyed by a collective lack of expectations. Once seated we wasted little time pouring over the extensive menu, quickly settling on a myriad of entrees to share rather than the large individual soups that had so recently been our undoing. With the ordering completed and tea evenly poured we began to wonder what was in store for us. We sat in silence but it seemed we were all quietly contemplating the same thing; whether we were about to strike out or strike gold and discover another of the street’s hidden treasures!
Luckily we weren’t left too long to ponder as the later dinner time as well as the fact that only one other table was occupied suggested that we would be eating quickly. And, surely enough within minutes the first dish arrived. The Char Siu style barbeque pork on a bed of lettuce was devoured almost before it had hit the table. Without an abundance of flavour it still provided a sound albeit temporary remedy for our rumbling stomachs. Shortly after our two coleslaws arrived together; one from the specials board boasting papaya, prawns and pork and the other with beef. Served generously and with the always welcome sight of prawn crackers they both looked great but unfortunately didn’t live up to their appearances. The papaya salad offered an almost token amount of the fruit to differentiate it from that standard ‘slaw and the accompanying pork and prawns added little more than a bit of texture. The beef fared much better, with plenty of succulent pieces of rare meat as well as a punchier and more flavoursome dressing.
Breaking from regular street convention our soups followed next, as per usual Marge and Dizz couldn’t look past the wonton soups while Yask succumbed to the chicken and sweet corn option. A lack of seasoning again marred the dishes, prompting Marge to disappointedly leave three of his five wontons in the bowl. Fortunately Dizz (never one to leave a man behind) quickly rectified the situation by downing the remaining dumplings quicker than even Kobyashi himself. The final wave of food arrived in a flurry with the sugar cane prawns, prawn spring rolls and the quail all hitting us in unison. Fortunately the waitress had the foresight to also drag across an extra table to prevent us from being completely inundated with the new arrivals. Despite her diligent service and constant smile there was little hiding the face that each of these dishes suffered the same flavour flaws as their predecessors. The spring rolls could probably be described as a break even, sitting somewhere in the middle between our best and worst. The sugar cane prawn also offered little to write home about, simply filling the minimum requirements of the dish without giving us a reason to come back for more. While the quail, a usual favourite was an unmitigated disappointment. Although it was labelled as five spiced on the menu it was hard to see where that number had originated. The only semblance of spice came from the two meagre slices of chilli that sat atop the pile of fried bird.
The night ended on a nice note with a complimentary bottle of water each as well as some lollies and a delicious orange but the truth remained that the meal had been extremely underwhelming. Little Saigon seemed to have fallen into the trap of offering too much and not specialising in anything, resulting in a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ situation. Had we scored on service alone it would rank highly but unfortunately and unsurprisingly it is the food that does the talking and on this occasion it spoke quietly. So perhaps fittingly it was with a little sigh that we were gone from the restaurant.
Value 2.5/5 ($105 but we completely over ordered)