Review: Fat Saigon Boy’s Australian Take on Vietnamese Cuisine Is a Win

Review: Fat Saigon Boy’s Australian Take on Vietnamese Cuisine Is a Win

Pho with smoked and confit duck? Fat Saigon Boy is anything but traditional

Don’t walk into Fat Saigon Boy and expect to get staunchly traditional Vietnamese food. This eatery tucked away at Science Park Drive is run by chef-owner Cang Lai, who fused his upbringing in Melbourne with his Vietnamese heritage and came up with his own modern take on how he wants to present Vietnamese cuisine to us here in Singapore.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee. Photo: Cheryl Tan

We heard good things about the Viet Iced Milk Coffee ($3), so we decided to take a gamble on it even though it was 8PM. Coming in an unassuming cup, the blend inside was a knockout. The coffee was strong and sweet with a hint of vanilla, while the milk gave the drink a creamier texture but didn’t overpower the taste of the beans.

Sourced from Vietnam and roasted there before being shipped over, the beans get their intense flavour from being roasted with salt, butter and vanilla. Don’t drink this at night, unless you’ve got great caffeine tolerance or you’re likely to stay up until 3AM like us.

Vietnamese Nachos. Photo: Cheryl Tan

The Viet Nachos ($6.50) came with traditional Vietnamese sesame rice crackers which were crisp and fragrant thanks to the sesame seeds. The crackers came with a pulled pork and salsa dip, which was mildly spicy. The pulled pork, however, was tender and complemented the crackers very well.

There’s the option for a combo, and we opted for the vermicelli with vegetarian spring rolls to go alongside The Signature Pork ($13). The barbecued pork strips were well marinated with a hint of zesty freshness that contrasted against the smoky char. What really stood out was the spring rolls. The skin had excellent crunch while still staying thin, and the cabbage, mushrooms, shredded carrots and glass noodles filling was generous.

Vietnamese Beef Gyoza. Photo: Cheryl Tan

For another side dish, consider the Viet Beef Gyoza ($6.50/4 pieces). I particularly enjoyed the skin of the gyoza, with crisp edges and a pliable centre. The beef ragu filling was moist and still retained texture while being tender. There’s a herbed sourcream dip which comes alongside that I highly recommend. While the gyozas aren’t too greasy, the freshness of the sourcream does help the dish avoid feeling too heavy.

But let’s move on to the pho. The Da Lat Duck Pho ($14) comes with confit duck chunks, smoked duck slices and duck skin crumble, served in a large bowl with chicken broth being used here. I felt that the broth for this pho was more savoury than the beef one we tried later on, and after adding a squeeze of lime, it was definitely the winner.

The confit duck chunks have an excellent ratio of lean meat to fat, and add a richness and depth of flavour to the dish that the other pho dishes seemed to lack. Tender smoked duck slices rounded out the meat component, while refraining from ever becoming too gamey. The lime definitely helped in this aspect as well.

Beef Eater Pho. Photo: Cheryl Tan

With The Beef Eater Pho ($13), we decided to take it a more traditional route since the broth was a little lighter here. Chef Lai suggested we add pickled soya bean sauce and sriracha to the soup in addition to the lime, and after trying his combination, we’re converts. The combination of the two sauces added a tangy element to the soup and the heat from the sriracha settles at the back of one’s throat, an invitation to take yet another gulp of that delicious soup.

The restaurant isn’t stingy on the meat either, with the beef slices being thicker than what other places would offer up. That does mean the beef slices feel a little tougher, but I do enjoy the meatier mouthfeel this offers. The meatballs are springy and offer just the right amount of bite.

Little Miss Piggy. Photo: Cheryl Tan

Rounding dinner off with Little Miss Piggy ($14), we get five slices of slow roasted pork belly nestled on top of a mound of noodles. The pork belly slices were slightly smoky and charred, but didn’t have the same depth of flavour that The Signature Pork had with the barbecued pork strips. There’s also a reasonable amount of fat here, but I’d recommend people looking to stick to a healthier diet to opt for the beef pho instead.

There’s also a pork skin crumble which is sprinkled into the soup and after soaking up a bit of liquid, it has a slight resemblance to pork lard, which I’m particularly partial to. All the pho dishes come with spring onions, coriander, onion slices and beansprouts to add that crunch and freshness to the dish.

Unfortunately, the noodles were a little inconsistent. Cooked perfectly in the beef and duck pho but slightly mushy and overcooked in the pork pho, it’s these little details that keep Fat Saigon Boy from being even better than they already are.

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