This week we were fortunate enough to be invited to Sao Nam, Fine Vietnamese Cuisine located in Bukit Bintang. Situated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s night life, Tengkat Tong Shin, a street parallel to the famous food street, Jalan Alor, only a couple of minutes’ walk from Changkat, Bukit Bintang. Sao Nam is a colourful place that has a mixed array of foods that would delight anyone.
Sao Nam, the ‘Star of Vietnam’ shines from every plate of the food here. They have been the talk of the town and the media since July 2003. It has been voted by the people to be the best restaurant in Tatler’s Malaysian Best Restaurants multiple times.
They welcome you in a post war building with old colonial charm and interior of bright coloured walls with prop art and modern furniture, with a bar that serves Vietnamese rice wine, cocktails and some of the best Vietnamese coffee in town! Before any further delay, lets dive into our dining experience!
Our Dining Experience And Food For The Day
We started our afternoon today with a Starter of Starters. An eight-piece combination platter of Deep-fried chicken spring rolls, Fresh prawn spring rolls, Beef ‘la lot’ from North Vietnam and shrimp on sugarcane.
Deep-fried chicken spring rolls, as known in Vietnamese as Cha Gio, is a popular dish in Vietnamese Cuisine and usually served as an appetizer in Europe and North America, where there are large Vietnamese diaspore. Their fried minced chicken rolls with strips of carrot, yam and wood ear mushrooms are delicately rolled in fine paper and deep-fried to a golden crisp and served with a dipping fish sauce.
Goi Cuon, is a Vietnamese spring roll, consisting of freshly rolled chicken slices with chives, lettuce, mint, vermicelli and a fresh pink prawn showing through a Banh Trang. Banh Trang, a Vietnamese term for rice paper wrappers, rice crepes, rice wafers or nem wrappers. We found the prawns to be incredibly juicy and freshly sourced. Highly recommended as an appetizer!
Beef la lot is an interesting acquired taste. If you are looking to try something unique and different, this is the dish for you. Minced beef with lemongrass, garlic, soy, shrimp paste and fried shallot all rolled in wild pepper kaduk leaves. The leaves are often confused with betel, but they lack the intense medicinal taste of the betel leaves, which makes them winners in my book.
Chao tom, or as we tend to know it as shrimp on sugar cane, are minced prawns and fish paste wrapped round a sugar cane stick and deep-fried. A traditional Vietnamese dish that comes from the Hue region of Central Vietnam.
The platter of spring rolls came with a large amount of greenery around it. There was plenty of fresh salad leaves, mint leaves and basil leaves which you could use to wrap the rolls in to add to that unique fresh taste of summer! They weren’t holding back on herbs which in return provided an incomparable burst of flavour to the food.
As the next dish arrived at our table, you couldn’t help but admire how much attention and effort Sao Nam pays to freshness of ingredients they use in their dishes. Goi Mang Cut, translated from Vietnamese as mangosteen and prawn salad, is Sao Nam’s award-winning dish.
This extraordinary and truly unique combination of the fruit of the mangosteen, dried squid flown in from Vietnam, grated fresh coconut, chicken slices and topped with fresh tiger prawns, peanuts and sesame seed works wonders to your taste buds. Prawns were juicy and literally melt in your mouth. Every bite is a food journey on its own!
Our next dish was Banh Xeo, literally translates as ‘Sizzling pancake’, named for the loud sizzling sound it makes when the rice batter is poured into the hot skillet. It is a Vietnamese savory fried pancake made of rice flour batter. Its taste enhanced with coconut milk, turmeric powder and spring onions. Pancake then folded with minced chicken, prawns and bean sprouts and skillfully fried until the edges are crispy.
Attention to detail as well as incredibly professional service are a highlight of Sao Nam. Waiters regularly kept checking on us throughout the day and didn’t hesitate to explain any dishes we had. Paul, the owner of Sao Nam, acknowledged that maintaining a happy kitchen and front of house staff is high on their priority list, which in return ensures a consistent quality of service and food!
It was finally time for a main course. You may love beef curry, but have you ever tried a Vietnamese beef curry? In Sao Nam’s Beef in Young Coconut, they have expertly blended stir-fried beef with five spice powder, onion and pink pepper all simmered in fresh coconut water. They aren’t holding back on the quality of beef cheek either, you could peel it apart only using a spoon. With a pink middle, the beef was cooked to perfection!
Their Duck in Tamarind Sauce didn’t let down either. Duck is braised with carrots, ginger and tamarind sauce. According to Paul, the chef pours the coconut water over the duck breast and brings it to boil, which in return will reduce the strong gamey taste of the duck. Tamarind adds a nice sweet and sour taste to this incredibly fresh duck.
For our veggies we ordered a Fried Eggplant. Grilled eggplant can be one of the great treats on its own – lusciously tender eggplant, with bits of crispy charred edges here and there. Sao Nam drizzled it with a sauce of garlic, ginger, coriander, chili, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.
This is probably one of the simplest dishes on their menu but nevertheless they have made the flavours work magic with every bite.
With plenty of parking space on both sides of the road, Sao Nam is a hidden gem of Kuala Lumpur. Easily one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in KL, they have an outstanding number of awards and achievements and after having lunch there we can see why! The old colonial building is very well looked after and warm greetings from very friendly and always smiling staff makes you want to keep coming back. Their food is freshly sourced on a daily basis and they certainly don’t hold back on garnish. With advance notice they are very happy to accommodate a party of up to 50 pax!
Sao Nam Vietnamese Cuisine
25 Tengkat Tong Shin
50200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2144 1225