Sydney’s multicultural and cosmopolitan lifestyle have blessed Sydneysiders with some of the most diverse cuisines found in and around so many food suburbs of our city.
Leichhardt is known for its old world Italian pizza and pasta, Petersham is a Portuguese hub with its fame bacalao and the array of fine dining Cantonese and chinese seafood restaurants in Sydney’s chinatown is second to none in the city. Vietnamese food has become so popular that Vietnamese beef pho has become a staple diet for many who like noodles in a bowl of flavoursome and tasty broth.
Flemington is 14km to the west of Sydney and this suburb is home to a melting pot of Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian cuisine to name a few. Predominantly Vietnamese, the locals enjoy the convenience of Asian grocery stores, Asian butchers and fish shops as well as a host of restaurants serving some of the tastiest and most flavoursome dishes of any restaurant in Sydney.
We love coming to Flemington because of the choice of restaurants and over the years, we have sampled almost all the restaurants in Flemington although new ones have also opened for business to cater for the growing popularity of this eat street.
I have decided to do this post because many have asked me about good restaurants in Flemington, not that I am an authority. However, from my dining experience at Flemington, I believe the more appropriate question should be “what is the best dish to order at any restaurant in Flemington”?
Therefore, I have compiled my top five “one-dish wonders” which I truly believe showcase the quintessential tastes and flavours for these dishes. These are some of my best loved comfort food when I am famished. Best of all, the serving portions in most of the restaurants are relatively large and good for sharing among a few diners who want to try different dishes.
So here they are, in no particular order, my top five one-dish wonders of Flemington:
1. Mi Bo Kho @ Pho Hoang Gia Vietnamese Rice Noodle Restaurant
Pho Hoang Gia Vietnamese Rice Noodle Restaurant can get quite busy during weekend lunch hour.
This restaurant is especially good for soup-based dishes such as the special Vietnamese beef pho or Pho Dac Biet that come with rare beef, tripe, tendon and beef meatballs. Personally, I would always order some form of soup noodles from this restaurant because the ingredients are wonderfully fresh.
I’m a big fan of fresh, spicy chillies and this place offer loads from the containers at the table.
One of the pre-eating rituals is to eye the tray of sauces and condiments and concoct the one you most prefer from an array of soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin, chilli and XO sauce.
A plate of sprightly fresh beansprouts, mint and lemon usually precedes your bowl of piping hot noodles.
The Mi Bo Kho or Vietnamese beef stew at Hoang Gia is truly outstanding of all the restaurants in Flemington.
This hearty bowl of noodles (served with wanton noodles) with tender pieces of beef brisket, beef tendon and carrots in a herbal broth rivals any Vietnamese pho broth in the taste department. The broth is truly the champion in this bowl of noodles.
The braised beef brisket and tendon are so tender it literally melts in your mouth. This Mi Bo Kho is one of the best interpretation of this classic “goulash” as it is called on the menu of any Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney.
2. Fried hokkien noodles @ Cao Thang Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant
Cao Thang Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant is particularly good with its wok fried noodles and you can be assured of the “wok hei” for stir-fried dishes.
This is a Vietnamese style fried hokkien noodles which is different from the Malaysian fried hokkien noodles with its signature black sauce or Singapore style hokkien noodles.
The noodles are firm and the entire dish has beautiful “wok hei”. I believe the tender pork slices are marinated with a special sauce and fresh beansprouts add an element of crisp in the texture. I can easily eat these noodles everyday even if I don’t have a choice.
3. Fried rice with salted fish and chicken @ Pho Toan Thang
Fried rice with salted fish and chicken is a classic Hong Kong style fried rice but Toan Thang’s version is particularly good because of the “wok hei” aroma that hits you instantly when the dish arrives.
The fried rice is studded with green peas and very small specs of salted fish that is crispy with its distinctively salty pungent taste. There are generous pieces of chicken which I think has been marinated before it is cooked to lend extra flavour and taste.
This fried rice is “dangerous” because I became 10kg heavier than my current body weight a couple of years ago when I was a die-hard fan of this winner of a dish. However, I have since drastically reduced carbohydrates intake in my diet.
The queue to get into Toan Thang can be quite long and the wait at the busiest of times especially on weekends can be at least half an hour.
I would advise going to Toan Thang during off peak lunch or dinner hours if possible. Restaurants in Flemington are generally open all day and they close their dinner trade relatively early at around 8.00pm.
4. Chicken laksa @ Cao Thang Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant
Laksa has become another phenomenon in Sydney dining where most noteworthy diners would recognise this dish. It is served all over Sydney today and is one of the most popular lunch time dishes where executives are seen doning a disposable paper bib to protect their business attire during lunch time rush hour in the city.
To me, the chicken laksa at Cao Thang is without doubt one of the very best in Sydney, if not the best.
Laksa can be subjective because there are so many variations. But there are a few fundamentals to be observed – the spicy coconut broth for this laksa has the “right” level of heat, flavour and viscosity, where it is neither too thick nor watery. The colour is a beautiful orange red and the aromas of chilli, curry and spices are spot on.
Tofu puffs are fresh and slices of chicken meat are tender with the added heat from a side dip of sambal and soy sauce.
5. Hong Kong style fried rice noodles with beef @ Cao Thang Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant
The Hong Kong style fried rice noodles with beef at Cao Thang is strong with the “wok hei”. I dare say this dish can rival any chinese restaurant anywhere in Sydney, be it chinatown in the city, Chatswood, Hurstville, Eastwood, Bankstown or Cabramatta.
The rice noodles are always nicely seared, the tender beef strips are full of flavour and the roasted sesame seeds add a further level of smokiness and texture to this beautiful dish.
Cao Thang restaurant has monopolized three out of five dishes in my review, but this is with good reasons. I believe the tastes and flavours for each of these five dishes are nothing short of spectacular. I especially commend all three restaurants for their consistency because they manage to maintain the same quality, taste and flavours in these dishes over time.
All said and done, there are quite a few other notable restaurants (most of which I have also dined before) which serve excellent food as well. This demonstrates the depth of quality and variety of restaurants in this fantastic dining suburb, and it is just one of so many predominantly Vietnamese hubs in Sydney. Many of these restaurants have also been included in Sydney’s restaurant and dining guides.
Apart from restaurants, diners usually also shop for fresh ingredients at the Asian grocery stores, seafood markets, Asian butchers and shops selling chinese roast duck, roast pork and many other favourites.
One of my favourites after a meal at Flemington is to drop by at the Happy Snack Cafe House, a tiny shop selling Asian desserts, cakes and drinks.
Icy cold fresh sugar cane juice always gives our trip to Flemington the sweet and happy ending that it deserves.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite one-dish wonder?