It’s been over a year since we first ate at Chao Ba in Chatswood’s Concourse and we were eager to try different dishes from the menu to see if their other offerings were just as good as last time’s.
To start, we had the prawn and crab spring rolls. These were plump mini springs rolls with a vermicelli noodle wrapping that was fried until crispy. Although we couldn’t taste the crab, the filling had a dominant prawn flavour and was soft and moist. Melt-in-the-mouth and juicy, these are seriously addictive and will leave you wanting more.
We were pretty impressed with the banh dishes we had tried previously so we ordered another, the Banh Cuon, which was steamed handmade rice noodle sheets stuffed with pork mince and wood ear mushrooms. The rice noodle was warm, soft and the right thickness, keeping the abundant, juicy pork and subtle, earthy mushrooms in check. The flavours were simple, with the pork and mushroom shining through, and the accompanying sauce provided a slight sweet and salty punch. The raw bean sprouts, fried onions and herbs provided a crunch and added to the freshness of the dish.
The Pho Dac Biet, special beef pho with slices of beef, beef meatballs, brisket, tendon and tripe was warming with very tender cuts of beef. I really enjoyed the 24 hour beef broth, which was very clean and clear, but if your preference is for a strong, beefier broth you may be a little disappointed.
The Bun Bo Hue, which was spicy beef and pork noodle soup, came with tender, cooked beef and pork meatballs. It was deceivingly mild at first. The floating clumps of chilli eventually catches up to you – a perfect spicy dish for the cooling weather.
The Banh Xeo was sold out the last time we were here, but we didn’t have the same problem this visit. The golden crispy rice flour crepe arrived on a big serving board, filled with marinated slices of pork belly, prawns and bean sprouts. You could taste the subtle flavours of coconut and tumeric in the crepe, mingled in with the rich fatty pork and well-cooked prawns.
We certainly weren’t let down by our revisit of Chao Ba with close to faultless food and service. It’s very rare to like almost everything that you’ve tried from a restaurant’s menu. I’m looking forward to my next visit already!