Ok ... so putting aside prejudices we decided to grace the clean, modern halls of Footscray's concension to the burgeoning anglo-saxon dollar, Sapa Hills. And if I tell you that they have been successful enough to have opened another branch in Hawthorn, you may perhaps surmise the type of clientele this place is aiming at. However, this does not necessarily have a transverse effect on the quality of the food as we sheepishly discovered on a recent CBA Friday.
Sapa Hills has upped the ante in the interior design stakes, and I guess a greater amount of care, or should I say an equal amount of care is given to housekeeping concerns, at least at front of house if nowhere else. Staff are also nicely turned out in crisp(-ish) white tops. Prices are comparable to everywhere else these days, although I have to say that the South side (the market side) of Hopkins Street will need to start bucking their game. The last 2 visits at previously deemed favourites were not quite as memorable.
The menu attempts to provide some background on the sort of cuisine they serve, which is a nice touch. We jokingly thought of ordering spring rolls, lemon chicken, fried rice and beef with black bean sauce. But what we did try was firstly the Stuffed Chicken Wings.
Not quite sure what this was actually stuffed with, but I'm thinking it was a mixture of chicken and pork, but I could be wrong. It sort of reminded me of the frozen meals our ex-landlady, who's Vietnamese, used to ply us with. She'd stuff at least 2 or 3 different dishes into the same plastic bag so that it formed an unearthly conglom of unappetising colourless meat. Despite not being quite certain what the stuffing was, we enjoyed our chicken wings, especially when dipped into the accompanying bright red sauce, which tasted like a mixture of honey, diluted tomato sauce and lemon ... ok that doesn't quite read the same as it tasted ... which was yummy!
We doused this down with an Avocado smoothie each. Is there anything better? Well, maybe the Indonesian style which is served with Gula Melaka. Still feels like swallowing phlegm (sorry readers I had to go there!) but in a nice way ... hahaha.
We also had the Rare Beef Coleslaw ... HEA-ven!!! This is a must try. Full of fresh herbs and flavours ... the highlight being thin slivers of lemon rind all through the salad ingredients. Amazing.
For extra protein, we ordered the salt and pepper rockling, which tasted like a healthy alternative to your bird's eye fish fingers served with a smattering of crunchy fried noodles. Sapa Hill's version is not drenched in oil or msg. And we recommend scooping up the bed of assorted diced vegetables that the fish pieces sit on into your rice.
To complete the meal, our vegetable option was the Water Spinach and preserved beancurd. I have to say this dish does not do it for me at all, and never really has, but M is an absolute fan. He said that it was delicious and one of the better versions he's had. I still find like its eating greens drenched in baby sick, or something that has been cooked in the water from a Singapore drain ... harsh I know ... but I call it as I see's it. *snap snap* I don't mind having the preseved bean curd as an accent or a dipping sauce, but not right through a dish. Still if you like that sort of thing, then this is the dish for you. The greens looked shiny and bright and were just the right side of crunchy.
So yes I will eat humble pie and admit that not all plastic fantastic places serve watered down and overpriced cuisine. I should keep my reverse prejudice in check.