If you’ve been to the recently opened level 5 foodcourt at the new Sydney Westfield, you will know it’s a foodie Mecca,
a Rolls Royce an Aston Martin of food courts, if you wish.
Many of Sydney’s top restaurants and eateries have set up express operations in the opulent surroundings, and now, there is a new kid on the block, fresh from Saigon: Wrap and Roll. The eatery has reinvented the concept of traditional Vietnamese street–stall fare in a comfortable, clean and contemporary restaurant setting. Move over baguettes and pho!
Update (August 2011): Wrap and Roll now also do catering. If you’re sick of munching on sandwiches during office meetings, check out Wrap and Roll catering menu.
Wrap and Roll invites us to now fall in love with the country’s hawker-style street food. The offering is not only flavourful, but completely preservative-free.
I was lucky enough to attend a soft opening of the premises at lunchtime today thanks to my foodie friend [A], and despite finishing touches being put on the place while we were there we were most impressed with both the food and highly attentive and friendly service.
The menu of 23 dishes representing the best of Northern, Central and Southern Vietnamese cuisine is divided into starters, noodles, mains, sides and tasting plates. A small selection of vegetarian dishes is also available and all dishes are cooked to order. Presented with these wonderful choices we went for 8 dishes to share amongst the 4 of us, including a couple of signature ones. A selection of dipping sauces accompanies most dishes.
Firstly, we sampled Pho Cuon ($8.90) – tender pho flavoured beef strips with lettuce, onion and coriander rolled in freshly steamed rice paper rolls. Meltingly soft and flavourful, they are truly a must for any Pho (yes, ‘fur’) fan. They were [A]’s favourites, too.
We then moved on to the other signature dish, Banh Xeo ($15) – paper thin egg pancake stuffed with prawns, pork, bean sprouts and vegetables. Served with fresh herbs and lettuce leaves as well as its own special sauce, the idea is to wrap your own using lettuce leaves as the skin. A great dish for those who’d like an extra serving of greens in their diet without compromising on other flavours and yummy godness inside. Bear in mind that at $15, the dish is big enough to share between 2 people.
Since this was a pre-opening tasting, we couldn’t go past the three more substantial tasting plates. First up on our journey through Vietnam, the Taste of Saigon ($15) which is also the restuarant’s signature dish and includes a sample of Goi Cuon – prawn and pork rice paper rolls with a Southern peanut sauce and Chao Tom – juicy grilled prawn paste wrapped around sugar cane skewers served with vermicelli, herbs, lettuce and roll your own rice paper wraps.
Next up the Taste of Hue ($15), home of Last Emperor. The platter comes with the usual trimmings of vermicelli noodles, lettuce, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs to accompany a serving of Nem Nuong – grilled pork meatballs, which are moist and have a wonderful barbecue flavour. A generous serving of Banh Cuon Tom – finely shredded prawn wrapped in freshly steamed rice paper completes the dish.
My personal favourite though, is the Taste of Hanoi ($15). Home to the historic and alluring capital, Northern Vietnam cuisine retains many French influences from a by-gone era. The platter consists of Banh Cuon – mushroom and minced pork steamed rice paper roll with freid shallots. It’s melt in your mouth perfection of flavours and textures and by far my favourite dish of the day. I’m a big mushroom fan but my fellow diners tend to agree that the rolls are something else! The other part of the Hanoi experience is Cha Nuong Ha Noi – grilled marinated pork skewers served with the wrap your own trimmings. They taste fresh and are a good serving of all meat for those who prefer their protein in the form of meat.
My close second favourite of the day was Goi Ngo Sen ($8.90) – lotus stem and mix vegetable salad with grilled pork and prawn. Crunchy and fresh with a wonderful blend of lime juice, fish sauce and peanuts in the dressing. It’s a side salad, but it’s big on flavour and generous in serving – I would happily order this as my “main” and be completely satisfied. Oh and it comes with a handful of prawn chips on the side, that’s always a bonus.
To round up the experience we also tried one of the few fried dishes on the menu, the Cha Gio ($14) – lightly fried spring rolls of crab, prawn, pork, egg mushrooms and vegetables, and Cuon Roi ($9.90) – a vegetarian tofu and vegetable steamed rice paper roll. While the spring rolls were nice, I am probably the last person who should be commenting on them because I’m not a big fan of fried foods, but those who tried them enjoyed them very much. The vegetarian tofu roll, on the other hand, has easily made it into my top 3 favourite dishes. Lightly smoky and really fresh, wrapped in soft rice paper pastry.
The food was super fresh with generous amounts of herbs, lettuce and pickles to balance the flavours of meat, extremely flavourful and each dish had its own characteristic flavour, which was nice to see. The menu is easy to navigate and you can order by numbers, as well as practice your Vietnamese as all dishes are spelled out phonetically as well. And yes, Pho = fur.
The absence of preservatives and a healthy serving of fun with every meal will definitely have me going back for more. A great concept and fine execution. And a place where grown ups can play with their food.
Thank you to Tu Anh Nguyen of Wrap & Roll for having us.
Click here for a special promotional voucher for September 2011.
The store opens tomorrow, 15 June 2011.
Wrap & Roll
Zone 2, Retail Level 5, Westfield Sydney City, 188 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: 02 8072 7050 W: www.wrap-roll.com.au