Review: These Vietnamese Spring Rolls & Crepes Will Make Your Bukit Bintang Trip Worth It
Holding up a reputation for the past 15 years in Bukit Bintang as one of the best Vietnamese restaurants the city has to offer, Sao Nam continues to bear that torch with pride. Thanks to strong dishes that use quality ingredients sourced from Vietnam, the restaurant still holds up despite its age.
The restaurant has an eclectic aesthetical charm of an old world colonial shop lot adorned with Vietnamese communist propaganda posters. There's also a fully equipped bar, as wine pairing is a popular dining option for many of its customers, and an upstairs floor used for larger parties and functions.
Mangosteen and prawn salad
We start with one of the restaurant's signature dishes, a refreshingly tart and light salad that does a tremendous job of opening up one's appetite. Sweetness from the prawns and mangosteen work in harmony with slices of slightly savoury chicken meat and shredded coconut, while dried cuttlefish and calamansi dressing rounds out the dish with umami and zest respectively. An all round superb salad, order this as a starter for the table and unless you dislike any of the ingredients just mentioned, you'll be guaranteed a great start. However, keep in mind that this dish is subject to seasonal availibility.
Fresh prawn spring rolls
Another Vietnamese classic, the spring rolls here do not disappoint. Fresh herbs, rice noodles and greens paired with succulent prawn comes wrapped in quality rice paper rolls straight from Vietnam and served with hoisin sauce. The fresh and light taste of the spring rolls really work well with the thicker salty-sweet sauce provided, making for a delicious appetiser the whole table can enjoy. For fussy eaters and vegetarians, there's a deep fried version and a vegetarian version made of soy that comes served with a tasty caramelised coconut sauce that also gets our seal of approval.
A crepe-like pancake stuffed with chicken, beansprouts and prawns, this complete meal on a plate is a famous southern Vietnamese delight that also gets top marks. Served with a side of greens and fish sauce, the crepe is satisfyingly crispy and tasty with a hint of turmeric at the end, which is where the dish gets it yellow appearance from. When eaten with the fish sauce, it adds a delicious tangy and savoury element to the overall package. This dish can be eaten on its own for a one-plate-meal or shared with others as an entree.
Grilled lemongrass chicken noodle salad
If you're thinking of paying Sao Nam a visit for lunch, the restaurant does have a special lunch set menu where diners can choose from over 8 different types of dishes that comes served with two deep fried chicken spring rolls and a salad of the day. While beef pho, chicken rice and many other enticing choices make an appearance, those looking for something light and healthy can opt for the grilled lemongrass chicken noodle salad. Made without a trace of oil, this light yet flavourful dish will make you full but will not leave you feeling stuffed.
When it comes to mains to pair with your carb of choice, diners have a large choice of proteins to choose from. However, three standouts come to mind. Firstly, the restaurant's fish pâté, chunks of tender fish meat stuffed with pâté and served with a tangy pineapple sauce, is a hefty dish that goes well with rice and noodles. The fish is grilled nicely, giving it a slight smoky quality, while the sauce's taste is similar to a lighter version of the Chinese sweet and sour sauce. Because the pâté is cooked, it no longer has its smooth texture, but still retains its wonderful umami quality, making for a tasty fusion of East and West.
Duck in tamarind sauce
Tender braised duck breast is served with a thick savoury tamarind sauce that has a mildy sharp taste. The duck breast itself is tender, with that undeniable gameyness the bird is known for, while the sauce helps to highlight the taste of the meat with the use of tamarind and ginger. While most of the dishes featured here were lighter on the palate and stomach, this dish shifts things towards the opposite end of the spectrum.
Beef in young coconut
A dish that has the consistency of a curry, or a thick stew, stir-fried beef cooked in young coconut water, five-spice, onion and pink pepper makes for another delicious main to pair with your carb of choice. With such a strong flavour profile, this dish works well with plain white rice or noodles to avoid a clashing of flavours. The beef shank used in the dish is tender and fulfilling, complemented by a hefty sauce with a lovely coconut element that really adds depth to the dish.
Vietnamese drip coffee
Finish your meal, or start it, with the restaurant's drip coffee. Strong with a robust flavour profile, the restaurant uses specially procured roasted beans for its full-on flavour. Great served hot, or with ice, be mindful that this strong cup can mess with some of the gentler flavoured dishes.
For the full menu, head over to their official website.