Outcome: Unanimous Verdict
Ratio decidendi: Authentic Viet with refreshingly different (and downright tasty) options.
Salient features: Organic charcoal grilled whole chicken ($40), Grilled beef wrapped in betel leef ($-)
Scope of discovery: Grilled silver perch (market price), Crispy claypot rice ($-)
Case Note: In terms of individual accolades, the charcoal grilled chicken stood head and shoulders above the other dishes we ordered. The only thing better than succulent, well marinated, flavorsome, smokey chicken? Well it’s succulent, well marinated, flavorsome, smokey chicken with a side of sticky ‘direct-fuel-injection’ rice. This is the clear must-order dish if you do make the drive out to Canley Vale. The green hue from the neon lighting where we were seated doesn’t do this rookie photographer and favours, you’ll just have to take my word for it that it tastes much much better than I’ve made it look.
Runner up goes to the marinated beef wrapped in betel leaf – a pocket rocket of flavor that you DIY wrap in a rice paper roll with lettuce leaves, cucumber, carrot, pineapple and vermicelli (not pictured).
What ticks this over into unanimous verdict i.e. go on your next available weekend territory is the collective team effort from the menu. The options are refreshingly different to 90% of Vietnamese restaurants in Australia and their typical crowd pleasers like Pho, Bun Bo Hue, Bun Cha, Grilled pork chop with broken rice and Crispy chicken with tomato rice. That’s not to say that Hai Au Lang Nuong is necessarily better than the ‘classics’ (although the charcoal chicken would certainly be up there), but it’s certainly distinctive and worth trying – especially if you haven’t had the chance to visit Vietnam as yet.
Obiter Dicta: Go on the weekends (Fri-Sun) as many menu items including the charcoal grilled chicken are only available then. The service here is not great, so you may have to be especially unsubtle (had to check this was actually a word) in attracting the attention of waiters. Poor service is however a hallmark of many of the best food joints in Asia – so try not to take it personally and roll with it as being part of a fully authentic experience!