I'm a teacher, musician, blogger and uni student living in Sydney and always dreaming about living & experiencing a new corner of the world. Visit my blog at www.jessiejournals.wordpress.com.
Published May 8th 2016
Good food, good vibe, good service What more?
Chatswood has really become such a huge hub for events, foods and shopping, which is why when I heard about this place from a friend who lives 50 minutes away from here, I had to pay Chao Ba a visit before her.
Conveniently located inside The Concourse, Chao Ba was by far the buzziest place on a hot Saturday night. The three of us even had to wait for 15 minutes to get a seat, and it was already 8.30pm. We didn't fret though, because we were offered chairs outside the restaurant, where we could sit and people watch- an activity that's become a favourite of mine recently.
Even flicking through the menu was fun! This colourful menu was clipped onto a clipboard, and you could see some very photogenic dishes along with very funky fonts on it. Naturally, it took me a long time to decide on what to order... (For their menu, click here)
We first had some rice paper rolls ($11.50)- duo of traditional fresh rice paper rolls handmade with Asian herbs and vermicelli, and we chose to have it with pork and prawn. Looking around, this one seemed to be a very popular option, as expected! Chao Ba had the perfect proportion of ingredients within the rolls, but their hoisin sauce was the absolute winner. I was lucky that I got to be the one who finished the sauce by drinking it!
We then had a Goi Ga ($15.50)- house special poached free-range chicken salad with shredded red cabbage, carrots, Asian herbs, roasted peanuts, fried shallots drizzled with a refreshing sweet and sour citrus dressing. While we all felt very good about being healthy, we all thought that there was too much dressing on the salad, making it all very acidic and overpowering the natural flavours of the fresh veggies themselves.
I always go with these two friends whenever I feel like having Vietnamese food, and we'd always get pho, so that day was no different. One of my friends got a Pho Tai ($14.50)- tender rare beef. There was an abundance of rice noodles, so she couldn't finish it. Not only that, all the herbs were very much present and in generous amounts too. Her experienced pho eating habit had allowed her to be able to judge the goodness of a dish by its meat to noodle ratio, and she gave it a massive thumbs up. Overall, she was very happy with the dish, other than the fact that it got a bit too oily towards the end.
My other mate got a Pho Ga ($15.50)- poached free range chicken. Now, this is a friend who I call a 'chicken machine', because whenever we go out for a meal he'd always order chicken. So naturally, he devoured every piece of it. Not only that, he also somehow managed to consume his massive bowl of pho within 10 minutes- I wasn't even halfway through yet- and there was no trace of anything afterwards... From that, I could infer that he must've really liked it!
And for me, I ordered a Pho Dac Biet ($16.50)- thin slices of tender rare beef, brisket, tendons and tripe. Yep, I was feeling very adventurous on that day, probably because of all the buzz surrounding me, but I'm not entirely sure why. I've tried brisket, tendons and tripe before, but I didn't really remember if I liked them, so I guess I just went ahead as if it was my first time trying them... I could tell when I was eating the tender pieces of beef that were very flavoursome, but I couldn't differentiate the difference between the other body parts. All I tasted were 'beef with a strange taste and texture,' I guess that was just a lesson for me to be less adventurous with my food orders. Other than the hiccup (my fault completely!), I loved all the variety of herbs Chao Ba had put in my pho, and they all seemed to blend very well with the broth in a huge mouthful. The rice noodles were also very soft and not too thick, to my liking. Just like my other friend, I also thought the broth got a bit too salty towards the end, as I was begging for more water when I was about 1/5 of the way through my bowl, which was accommodated by their many friendly waiters and waitresses. Nonetheless, there's nothing more heartwarming than eating a generous amount of pho- al fresco style- at a restaurant buzzing with people on a hot Saturday night.
All in all, it seemed to me that Chao Ba was a popular place for locals to hang out on Saturday nights, whether they're in a big group celebrating someone's birthday, or they're having an anniversary. Good vibes, good food and good service. What more could we have asked?