Finding a park around the restaurants on Hardgrave Road always takes a while. After driving around the block once, I fluked one just around the corner from the Tibetan Kitchen. When I walked through the door of Dakbla, the place was packed - usually a good sign. I found our table and noticed that they'd printed out a place card with our name on it - a nice touch. After a quick flick through the menu I was wondering why I'd never been here before.
Although the menu was extensive there weren't many entrees which really grabbed me. I ended up ordering the san choy bao roast duck. These were really good. The duck filling still had a bit of bite to it, and was a lovely consistency - lacking the oil which can drip out of inferior san choy bao as you bite into it. The lettuce leaves were crunchy and fresh, with a layer of crunchy noodles on the bottom. So far so good.
My wife ordered a serve of the veggie and tofu soup to kick off her meal. This is comically described on the menu as "ideas for vegetarians with veggies and tofu". It was ok and full of tofu, but wasn't overwhelming our tastebuds. There are probably better entrees on the menu.
If you're looking for alternatives to the soup, other entrees include spicy chilli quail, Vietnamese spring rolls, prawn & pork rice paper rolls, grilled skewered pork and chao tom (minced prawn wrapped around sugar cane, deep fried and served with fresh lettuce, herbs and vermicelli).
There are a huge range of meals for main course. I won't even try to cover them all, but the menu is divided up into omelettes, vegetarian, seafood, chicken, pork, beef, house rice, noodles and chef's suggestions (always my favourite).
Meals that took my fancy out of the chef's suggestions were mud crab with tamarind, fresh pippis with rotti bread (apparently a must try dish according to the menu), bird's nest seafood, Vietnamese chicken salad, green mango and papaw salad, and ca kho to (silver perch or cat fish slowly stewed in a clay pot with pork belly).
Because of the overwhelming amount of choices, it took me ages to decide what to eat. I eventually went for one of my favourites, and ordered pho. It sounds a bit boring, but we'd been to Paniyiri for lunch, where I'd filled up on octopus, cabbage rolls, haloumi, rice pudding and Greek wine. By this stage of the night I was after something clean and healthy. The pho was good, but not memorable. It was made in a more delicate style, where the soup didn't overwhelm everything else. A side dish was brought to the table with bean sprouts, lemon, basil and chili sauce. This was exactly what I felt like for dinner, but I didn't quite manage to finish it.
We also ordered the lemongrass tofu salad style - tofu marinated with seasoning, lemongrass and chilli, then deep fried and tossed with fresh garden salad & lime dressing. While my pho was enjoyable, the tofu was superb. I would have happily eaten it for a main course. There were three huge pieces of tofu, which all carried the flavours of the spicy marinade. Although it had been deep fried, the tofu still had a lovely texture, mainly because the chunks were so big. The fresh garden salad turned out to be a delicious, fresh coleslaw with a really zingy dressing. I'm not a vegetarian, but this was one of the best tofu dishes I've tasted in a long time.
Before our main courses arrived (but after we'd ordered), the couple next to us had an amazing dish brought to the table. It looked and smelt so good I just had to ask what it was. Turned out it was the deep fried flounder. It was served as a whole fish and our neighbours proceeded to completely devour the entire plate. Next time it will be deep fried flounder for me.
Although the menu is mainly Vietnamese, there's a smattering of Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Indian dishes to keep your options open.
Dakbla is BYO and our meals went down extremely well with a Cape Mentelle semillon/sauvignon blanc. My wife had the home made lemonade, seeing as our new bub was only a couple of days away.Service was snappy throughout our meal. The room at Dakbla isn't very big, and it's mainly wood. Given that the restaurant was full, it was fairly noisy - it's not the place you'd want to be wandering into for a big date on a Saturday night. Two courses each and the lemonade only came to $40, so it's excellent value.
If you haven't eaten Vietnamese food before, Dakbla is a great place to start. And if you are a fan of Vietnamese, book yourself a table this weekend. As someone who enjoys Vietnamese food, I was excited by the scope of choice, and will be going back as soon as I can.
What does all this mean? A huge range of interesting, fresh and tasty Vietnamese food that's great value and BYO.
food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Casual, lots of wood
Value for money - Great
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Great
65 Hardgrave Road
West End 4101
P - 07 3844 0594
E - Dakbla65@yahoo.com