Vibe: 4 stars
Design: Mod warehouse chic with a street style energy.
Comfort factor low, but authentic in its Vietnam inspired buzzy atmos.
Food: 3.5 stars
Damage: minimal, $30pp sees you full and happy.
Ancient sage Lao Tze famously once wrote that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Wise old words Tze, so why not co-opt this novel concept and apply it my blog? And hence, I found myself single steppin’ it out to superb loco viet fusion establishment xage (pronounced ‘sage’), a mere 100 metres from my own doorstep.
xage opened at the end of 2009 to a fair amount of hoopla. Terry Durack gave it rave reviews. Time Out couldnt get enough of its friendly street vibe, the blogerati sang its praises. Needless to say, Ive been keeping a lazy eye on its rise and rise to see whether it would withstand the tsunami of love, or if it would flop like Mum’s xmas pavlova. After last weeks visit, Im happy to say that it has not only survived, it has flourished!
On our visit to this mod-viet easy-dining hole in the wall, the place was pleasingly half full with a nice summertime holiday vibe. Without a booking we got a table out front on the footpath, surely the best rubber-neckin’ seat in the house. Inside is pretty buzzy but when its full, can sound like the Rabittohs are running training drills on your table. Nothing worse than a noisy restaurant as far as Im concerned and if you can’t hear my witty repartee how could you possibly be enjoying yourself? If its busy, wait for a table out the front or find an ear trumpet.
A couple of cool things that set this restaurant apart from other like minded Surry Hills diners;
1. BYO – seriously, how few restaurants do BYO these days? If youre out for a bit of buzzy vibe but wanna keep it laid-back, sometimes keeping it easy on the hip pocket is what its all about. And if youre a wine snob then you can control the quality of your quaffer. Everybody wins.
2. The most expensive item on the menu is $19.90. Our meal cost $30 per head inc corkage and tip. Nuts.
3. Mama’s own authentic Vietnamese food, served up street style with a modern twist and an atmosphere worthy of the most bustling Ho Chi Minh laneway cafe.
Restauranteur and chef Minh Nguyen’s fairly comprehensive menu reads like a vietnamese hit parade. From the Crispy Chicken Spring Rolls with nuóc chám dipping sauce to the Spicy-Sweet-Sour soup with tiger prawns; Duck Papaya Salad, Càri Gà chicken yellow curry, Wok Fried Beef with Butter soy, all the old favourites are here but with a refreshing honesty of flavours worthy of the best Mekong Riverbank restaurants.
To go down a treat with your ‘ba-ba-ba’ (333 beer to those of you of the non-viet speaking variety) I recommend the Crispy Chicken Spring Rolls. Super crunchy, long thin cigars of chickeny goodness that’ll have you wanting to order more. Don’t, coz you’ll need room for the oh-so-melt-in-your mouth Marinated Grain-fed Beef Rump slices with betel leaf in butter soy. Oh my lordy. Lip-smackingly good. So good in fact that my dining pals gave the whole meal 5 stars based on this one dish alone. (sorry about the crap photos…iphone camera only has so much capability!)
Rounding out an all round great weeknight meal was the tasty Coleslaw of Grilled Prawns in chilli lime vinaigrette. A tart, juicy little number that’ll have your taste buds zinging.
The only stumble across the whole meal was the somewhat unattractive fried Silken Tofu with Sichuan pepper salt and chilli. Not really spicy enough and looked fairly ugly on the plate. Presentation counts. After all, we eat with our eyes just as much as our mouths!
But don’t let this minor hiccup dissuade you. Cheap, cheerful and a cracking good atmos makes xage a surryhills2010 winner in my book. Would I go back? You betcha! Next time you’re in the mood for some buzzing, viet-style street action, check out xage. You wont be disappointed.
333 Crown St, Surry Hills
T: 02 9332 3344
Open 7 days a week for dinner