Not to be confused with Emerald Hill, which sits west of Gunnedah, Emerald Hills is a new housing estate in Leppington. The area is part of Sydney’s rapidly expanding South West, racing out to meet the new airport at Badgerys Creek. While the master plan is dotted with trees, the promised green corridors look a bit bare at the moment, while the massive influx of houses are constructed upon the former lush green grazing lands that made Camden Valley famous.
There’s no waiting for services though, with the Emerald Hills Shopping Village already in place. Currently dominated by an Aldi (Woolworths is coming but they prefer to hold out for bigger profits when all new residents move in), this neighbourhood shopping spot currently offers Italian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, with all three restaurants very well-attended on the evening I visited.
14 North 108 East is an all-day affair, taking you from coffee to pre-dinner cocktails and eats, all with Vietnamese inspiration.
The slightly-hard-to-remember name represents the geographic coordinates for Pleiku, the capital of Gia Lai Province in Vietnam’s central highlands, an area of ancestral significance to one of the team of owners. They’re experienced operators with both the extensive Espresso Warriors chain and the smaller Another Burger Joint outlets under their collective belts.
At 14 North 108 East – itself a younger sibling to a Woden store - interiors are dominated by large-scale, soft-focus, feminine murals by Sophi Odling.
Odling has cleverly worked in colours evocative of Vietnamese landscapes like the famous Hạ Long Bay, known for its emerald waters and rainforest topped towering limestone islands.
Her work, along with organic touches like woven basket lights dangling over the bar, help to soften the harshness of the metal-framed windows and polished aggregate flooring.
The bar produces some colourful, fruit-topped mocktails while we wait for our more complex, alcohol-bearing drinks. Plucked from the specials board, the Phojito ($15) is cleverly evocative of the aromatic parts of Vietnam’s most famous soup, with a pho syrup that’s a little bit savoury against a slightly sour blend of lime juice, sriracha, gin and Cointreau lengthened with soda water.
It edges out a Smoking Old Fashioned ($18) that treats Woodford Reserve Bourbon, brown sugar and orange bitters to an oakwood infusion, serving the lot in a cork-capped flask so you can create a cloud of smoke at the table when you pour your drink.
For drinking snacks, look no further than Son-In-Law Eggs ($12), where deep fried eggs are cleaved in two, and topped with a flavoursome, rather than fiery, XO sauce.
Don’t overlook Thit Nuong ($6) – this well-charred pair of lemongrass-infused pork neck skewers are tender and tasty against a quality peanut sauce.
You’ll find the pieces of the same grilled pork neck tucked inside their delicate, crispy pancake, Banh Xeo ($24), along with king prawns and juicy bean sprouts. The pork is so good against the crisp and savoury turmeric pancake, you’d be nuts to pass up the opportunity to eat it twice in the same meal.
Eating the quintessential version of bo luc lac at Darlinghurst’s now defunct La Mint means I’m a bit spoilt for Shakin’ Beef ($25). While it lacked the black pepper intensity of my favourite, 14 North 108 East’s rendition uses scotch fillet and cooks it gently to show off the high quality, juicy beef. Despite craving more fierceness, it was an enjoyable eat against fresh cherry tomatoes, vibrant snow pea sprouts and crisp red capsicum.
Wok Breath Pipis ($17) proved more to my taste with tiny clams well-coated in tasty XO. Dump a bowl of Vermicelli Noodles ($3) into the dish after you’ve eaten out the shellfish to make the most of the tasty remains, perhaps against a bowl of Asian Greens ($8). Tossed lightly in a wok with garlic oyster sauce, the vibrant greens are both economical and healthy, and send us back into Sydney's South West on-high. If 14 North 108 East is a true representation of what Sydney’s rapid expansion can deliver, bring on the rest of it.
14 North 108 East
Shop 1.07, Emerald Hills Shopping Village
Corner Raby Road and Emerald Hills Boulevard, Leppington
Ph: (0413) 770 125