Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New dishes at Sapa Hills, Footscray

I've been trying to think of a fancy way to say it.  But sometimes the simplest is the best.  I love Sapa Hills.  Let me count the ways.


I've always felt a certain connection to Sapa.  It opened not long after I started blogging, and despite being Footscray Vietnamese restaurant number 5,002 (or that's what it felt like), quickly became one of the most popular in the strip.


I love the food but I equally love the staff and the way they put paid to the taciturn Asian waiter stereotype.  They are really friendly and always appreciate one's feeble attempts to pronounce Vietnamese words.


I should do a quick disclaimer here, but it's not really much of one.  I have written about Sapa Hills a number of times in published articles, and they were an integral part of the Rickshaw Run earlier this year.  But they are probably also my most blogged-about restaurant (this will make post number four) - I write about them because I genuinely love them. 


Recently a number of new dishes have popped up on the menu, so this time, the beef in vine leaves got put to one side and the crab spring rolls ($13) stepped in.  These are similar to Sapa's Ha Noi-style spring rolls in that they are wrapped in rice paper, not wheat wrappers, making them devilishly crackly.  You can definitely taste the crab in the mix, along with rice vermicelli and black mushroom.  Nice but I'd be just as happy with the bo la lot.


Just a simple vegie soup ($5.50) to contribute to my five a day.  Simple, cleansing, mighty fine.


Some old dishes have made way for the new, but Sapa would never, ever take off this one.  It's practically their raison d'etre.  It's bun cha Ha Noi - two types of marinated, chargrilled pork (strips and little patties), with tangy dressing, rice noodles and herbs ($13).  Layer it in a bowl, douse with dressing and eat.  So incredibly amazingly wow.


I really wanted to try the green apple salad with crocodile fillet and the fish with Hanoi-style fresh tomato sauce, but the new dish we went for was the lamb cutlets in honey pepper sauce ($25).  This was awesome - the lamb really tender, rich, sweet and completely gnaw-able.  Underneath was a lovely saute of spring onion, regular onion and lettuce that had soaked up all the lovely stock and juices.  I prefer my broc a bit crunchier though - this was pretty soft.


I went back another day for a classic - beef fried rice noodle (dried) ($12).  Always look for that "dry" or "dried" in brackets (or "khô" in Vietnamese) to get the right dish, otherwise you will get a thick, glutinous sauce.  I am mildly obsessed with this dish.  It has only the slightest lick of sauce but the flavour is so concentrated.  A lot of it comes from the char of the searing hot wok it's cooked in.  This is a Cantonese-style dish and can be found in various guises from Hong Kong to Singapore (where it might be known as beef hor fun).  Sapa's version is excellent.


A lot of Sapa's magic comes from owner Long.  He is a total professional and an all-round lovely bloke.  It's always wonderful to see a successful small business, but I'm extra happy to see Sapa doing so well, because I think Long and his wife Ha genuinely put their hearts into what they do.  And that is something you may not be able to smell or touch - but it's something you can definitely taste.

Sapa Hills on Urbanspoon

Sapa Hills
112 Hopkins Street, Footscray
Phone: 9687 5729


  1. Dry! That's the information I've been needing all along. I can't stand the noodles when they come with that gluggy sauce. But all dry and chary = noodle heaven! And love Sapa Hills special spring rolls wrapped in rice paper, so am keen to try the crab version. Friday night takeaway from Sapa Hills it will be.
    Cheers Lauren, Naomi

    1. YES! So glad you have found the secret of the "dry", Naomi! I read it for years on menus and thought "whatever could that mean?" Now I don't eat noodles any other way. PS Sen also do a very nice fried rice beef noodle...(dry)!

  2. Long time reader first time commenter - I work near Footscray and your blog has led me to many an awesome meal, so sending a thank you.
    I haven't tried Sapa Hills but this looks delicious and has been added to the list! x Nat

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Natalie! Positive feedback is what keeps me writing the blog so I always appreciate so much when peeps take the time to let me know they enjoy FFB. Do give Sapa a go, they really are excellent. xo

  3. Oh my goodness - the plates in the rice noodle picture is _not_ normal dinner plate size! I ordered the beef fried rice noodle (dried) for lunch today - and don't get me wrong, it was delicious! But I ate, and I ate, and then I asked for a container, and I _packed the container full_ and then I still ended up leaving 4-5 mouthfuls on the plate. 2 hours later, I am still full! So anyway, I guess it's even better value when I get a full lunch (if not lunch-with-leftovers) out of it again another day :) Sian

    1. Ha! Yep, they are the monster truck of noodles. I just got them to take away last night and the plastic tub fed two hungry adults!!! xo

  4. You are right such a delightful restaurant in all ways. The more you go the better it gets. Thanks for all the legwork.

    1. Hey, George! Great to see you around these fair pages again and glad to know you are still checking in. Glad too that you are also a fellow Sapa fan.


I love getting your comments! They're what make blogging worthwhile. Unfortunately, the amount of spam I get is obscene and it is so tiresome to have to moderate every comment, so I have had to turn on annoying word verification. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but please know how much I love you having your say!

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