In a lime green reminiscent of the lush Mekong Delta, Xuân Sang, or ‘spring comes’ has emerged in Leichhardt as a breath of fresh air.
The modest yet cheerful restaurant presents a homely take on the food of Phú Yên province, that is located on Vietnam’s south-central coast and known for its mountains and beaches. White painted metal chairs extend from the narrow dining room out onto Norton Street where colourful parrots chatter in the trees overhead.
With delays for liquor licenses clearly still a Sydney-wide issue, you can currently bring your own wine. I suggest buying it elsewhere, as the chain-brand bottle shop across the road from the restaurant is better known for cheap plonk than it is for a wide range of quality wines. A lighter white - Riesling - will suit Viet standards like the Vietnamese Pancake ($15.50) that arrives a little over-crisp and dried out, with a filling of pork and tiny tasteless prawns. It’s improved by being wrapped in a leaf with fresh mint and house-made cabbage, carrot and radish pickles.
Their signature Nem ($16.50) are seven grilled pork patties that eat very well in rice paper that you soak and roll yourself with loops of benign red chilli, more pickles and fresh mint. They’re served with a thick sauce that’ll have you tasting raw garlic for a while, but it’s worth laying on with a trowel anyway.
With a whole page of dishes designed for one person, Xuân Sang would be an easy and inexpensive pit stop on your journey home from work. Chicken Congee ($12.50) is simplicity personified – a slow-cooked rice and chicken broth garnished with a small amount of shredded bird and some fresh herbs and crisp onions.
Shredded chook is also a part of the Xuân Sang Chicken Rice ($14.90) perched next to a yellow mound of gently flavoured rice and yet more pickles.
The most unique thing I tried was Sam Bo Loung ($5) that arrived looking a bit like a science experiment in a glass of super-sweet and kind of medicinal tasting brownish fluid. With seaweed, water chestnuts, bamboo fungus, jujubes (dates), lotus seeds and dried apple pieces, it’s a textural adventure, though these flavour combinations as dessert might be an acquired taste.
148 Norton Street, Lilyfield
Ph: (02) 8084 0489