Hai Au Lang Nuong

Jackie McMillan
26th Feb 2023

Sydney threw a curve ball at my open-air Saigon-style dining experience at Hai Au Lang Nuong. As we arrived in Canley Vale to music blaring and shuttered windows rolled open for diners to take in the busy streetscape, a storm of epic proportions rolled in. As staff scrambled to close windows, battling damaging winds, we barely looked up from the colourful menu: utterly captivated by the array of grill-focused Vietnamese dishes on offer. We were seated in the rear of the second floor, just down from the dumbwaiter. Without being rude, staff managed to convey that tables of two are somewhat frowned upon. After struggling to narrow the ‘Chefs Special Grilled Perfection’ menu down to the number of dishes two people could reasonably consume, I could see why larger groups are the way to visit.

Starting on familiar territory, we bundled little fingers of betel leaf-wrapped lemongrass and black pepper beef—bo la lap noon than ($40) - into rice paper rolls with vermicelli noodles and a cornucopia of greens and pickled vegetables. Street-style seafood grills, like cockles sautéed with tamarind, shallots and chilli sauce then topped with peanuts - so long xao me ($40) - are so good, they’re hard to tear yourself away from. Ordering them also won us points with the floor staff, who after enquiring whether we liked them, encouraged us to stop and eat the disc of crispy crackling clay pot rice—com chay ($10) -before it got cold.

There was no such worry with the goi dua bon bon tom thit ($40), a tasty pork and prawn salad made more substantial with pickled bullbrush root. Served on rice crackers, it’s actually the tastiest version of this dish I have ever eaten. With thermoses of hot tea on each of the long tables surrounded by white plastic chairs, you don’t really need to order drinks, but the chanh day ($8) passionfruit drink is bright, fresh and acidic, a small range of mainstream beers are cold and refreshing ($7/each) and you can also BYO. Food for thought for next time — and there will be a next time - in this crazy, riotous, delightful space.