Sapa Rose

Licensed $
79 Harrington Street, Hobart
03) 6234 3806
Open: Open daily 11am to 9pm. Takeaways.

Hoang Bui came as a child to Hobart with his refugee family from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam 20 years ago. He attended Newtown High School and started at the University. But he says his dream had always been to open a restaurant. Despite buying the Noodle Box in North Hobart some time ago, opening Sapa Rose three weeks ago was, he says, the realisation of that dream.

The restaurant is a simply furnished and decorated makeover of Cafe Toulouse on the site that’s seen quite a few before back to the original La Cuisine cafe/patisserie in the late 1980s. Apart from the ground-breaking La Cuisine, none of the other establishments here seemed to have flourished or lasted very long. I hope Sapa Rose breaks that pattern for it’s brought some interesting and very enjoyable new dishes to Hobart.

Although we didn’t order Vietnam’s traditional pho, one dish that will take anyone who has visited the country straight back to its street markets is the wafer-thin, beautifully crisp and flavoured banh xeo pancake. Another is the goi du du, a spiced beef and green papaya salad garnished with sprigs of fresh Vietnamese mint, coriander and peanuts with a fish sauce, soy and red vinegar dipping sauce.

My pick of the night however were the five bo cuon la lop rolls, beef wrapped in betel leaves and grilled to give a delicious smoky, faintly floral flavour, garnished with crushed toasted nuts to be dipped into a chilli-flecked fish sauce.

Vietnam’s traditional noodle dishes, rice paper rolls and crisp spring rolls were fine but, as part of a mixed entree for two, the rice paper rolls came with something I’d never seen before – prawn mince layered inside mahogany-coloured duck skin crackling. Different, interesting and enjoyable.

The English-speaking Vietnamese floor staff are still on their training wheels and you might have to explain how to make a scotch and soda, but the beer comes icy cold, the glasses nicely frosted, the reasonably priced wine selection is adequate, the menu huge in that strangely Asian way and with Hoang’s smiling enthusiasm it’s easy to make allowances for a few service slip ups.

Entrees $6.50 – $15; pho ga $10.80; salads $12; noodle dishes $14 – $18; mains and house specialties $18 – $26.

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