Monday, October 3, 2011

Cong Tu Bac Lieu, Westville Central

UPDATE:  This restaurant is now closed and as of August 2012, most shops in Westville Central

July to Sep 036

The Westville Central apartment and shopping complex has recently opened up the top of Nicholson Street, giving us lots of new nooks and crannies to investigate.  Its flagship store seems to be the expansive (and expensive) Footscray Asian Buffet Restaurant, which in its short lifespan seems to have dramatically plummeting prices as the weeks have gone by.  I think it is dear because they have all-you-can-eat seafood but if you don't really want to do nothing but pig out on prawns, the price has made it kind of off limits.  They are down to $17.99 for an adult for a weekday lunch, though, so maybe it's worth trying.

July to Sep 030

Nha Hang Cong Tu Bac Lieu (or, "the long name place") is a dear little restaurant tucked away inside offering a Southern Vietnamese-influenced menu that punches above its weight.

July to Sep 032

I love the thoughtful decor and the menu is pretty cool too, with quite a few unusual dishes like Cha Ca Chien Com Chay or "fish paste on crispy rice", caramelised shrimp with pork and goat casserole.  Sadly a lot of these more unusual things were not available that day - hopefully it was just a recently-opened thing.

July to Sep 019

Pandan tea comes as standard which is a refreshing, floral South Vietnamese touch.

July to Sep 026
Banh mi xiu mai, $10

A DIY sandwich with meatballs and pickled carrot and daikon.  The meatballs were really good, pleasantly fatty and so juicy.  They were so soft and tender, it somehow defies physics that they stay together.  In hindsight this was probably a bit overpriced when the same thing, un-deconstructed at Nhu Lan is $3.80 but relatively overall it is still cheap.

July to Sep 023
Bun chao tom, $9.50

If you haven't gathered by now, I love bun salads.  Minus the nuts and depending on what meat you choose, they are virtually fat free.  Sugarcane prawns are a kind of prawn/fish paste formed around a sugarcane stalk and grilled/fried.  This was a good version - the prawns were not as plump as say, Sen's but still really good.  The salad was spanking fresh and I would wager the golden, thready shallots were fried on the premises.

July to Sep 024
Com Tam Suon Ci Cha Trung, $9

This was an excellent version of a classic.  The pork chop was really tender and tasty with a not overpoweringly sweet marinade.  The "cake" on the left is cha trung and it's a kind of steamed meatloaf made with pork mince, rice vermicelli noodles, black wood ear fungus and then topped with egg.  You can see a recipe here (thanks to Wandering Chopsticks).  Above is the bi or shredded pork skin with rice powder.  This is a great option for kids as there are just a few token vegetables but they get to try a lot of different textures.  It came with a delicious bowl of chicken broth.

July to Sep 027
Banh Tan Bi Soc Trang, $11

Billy had tweeted somewhat teasingly when he first had this that he had just eaten a Vietnamese dish he had never had before.  If you know Billy, that is saying something!  Indeed, these Soc Trang-style noodles are totally new to me too and they are fantastic.  Soc Trang is a province deep in the south of Vietnam.  Its original Khmer name was Srok Kh'leang meaning "silver depository" as it was the location of the Khmer (old Cambodia) king's silver treasury.  It comprised thick, white, spaghetti-like bun bo Hue noodles, meatballs as featured above, salad, bi and crazy crazy COCONUT CREAM!

The coconut coated everything giving it all luscious slipperiness while the tangy tomato of the meatballs shone through.  The coconut made it taste slightly Thai which might represent Soc Trang's location in the deep delta.  I shared Billy's delight in this unusual and unique regional dish.  See here for more info.  Interestingly, the Bac Lieu in Cong Tu Bac Lieu's name is a neighbouring province to Soc Trang while Tra Vinh just down Nicholson Street is yet another neighbouring province.

I really hope NHCTBL's gaps in the menu are only temporary as it is so refreshing to find regional specialties among the sizzling plates.  Meanwhile Westville Central's shops are slowly filling up.  Next to NHCTBL is a bubble tea place that as well as pearl drinks, sells balut (fertilised chicken eggs).  Cool!

See Billy's visits here.

Nha Hang Cong Tu Bac Lieu
Westville Central, 4/62 Nicholson Street, Footscray
Phone:  9004 2013
Hours:  7 days, 9am - 9pm

View Footscrayfoodblog reviews in a larger map

Cong Tu Bac Lieu menu 1

Cong Tu Bac Lieu menu 2


  1. I would never pass this place if you guys hadn't blogged abt it. Didn't know there's shops inside that new plaza. Can't wait to try the Banh Tan Bi Soc Trang. mmmm

  2. Is this the one down the escalators?

  3. Fatboo let's FATGOOOOOO!

    Temasek, no it's on street level. There is more downstairs?! I thought it was only the mysterious "supper market".

  4. Argh... Totally wrong idea to visit your blog at 3am in the morning! Super hungry and conflicted abt whether or not to eat/sleep it off now lol... Will def need to pay this place a visit after reading abt it from here and Billy's blog! =)

  5. I just dined there tonight. Sadly it wasn't a good visit.

    Pointed at Bun Rieu (crab noodle soup) $9 saying "never had this crab noodle soup, I'll try it!". What arrived was 2 crab pieces in a thick soup w udon-thick noodles. Didn't enjoy it, couldn't finish and then got charged $16 for it, with the explanation that I ordered a special crab noodle dish. I pointed at the Bun Rieu $9 and told them that's what I ordered, so why was mine $16. They sort of evaded the issue and said the picture I pointed at was a different dish, without showing me which dish was the $16 crab dish I ordered. None of the dishes on that page of that menu cost more than $12. Still, I paid up, reluctantly.

    Later on, I scoured the takeaway menu, the closest approximation to that crab dish I had was the "Special Crab Meat And Starch Noodles" $12

    I understand it may just be a case of miscommunication, but that bowl of crab noodles did not taste like a $16 bowl of noodles. And I can't shake off that niggly feeling as if I've been taken for a ride.

    If you're dining there and am not familiar w Vietnamese food, I'd say be concise w what you're ordering, tell the the dish number even. And check your bill.

  6. Oh dear - so sorry to hear that. I had been keen to try that too as they bill it as their special.

    I have never had bun rieu either and have another tip for it at another place nearby - maybe I can make it up to you with that version!

  7. Have I told you how much I learn from you and appreciate your writing?

    Bummer fatbooo's experience wasn't stellar but hopefully it was an off day?

  8. James In FootscrayOctober 7, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    Temasek, the one downstairs is called Mo Cay - a review on urbanspoon says the owner used to run a food stall at Laverton Market, interesting!

  9. Hey I just wanted to let you know your new post on Phong Dinh is coming up on googlereader but not on your website :)

  10. Hi kat... yes, I fumble-fingered the "Publish" button when it wasn't ready! It will be published 8am tomorrow. Thanks for letting me know :)

  11. James In FootscrayOctober 10, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Mo Cay shut down! Oh no!!!

    It's sad, isn't it, that Westville Central is so quiet. I wonder why it hasn't really taken off.

  12. Now the buffet is also shut down and reopened as a regular restaurant!

  13. James In FootscrayOctober 29, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    The buffet has closed again (with a notice in the window about the landlord entering the premises!). And you can't access downstairs in Westville Central at all now. However, on a brighter note, there's another restaurant opening inside, near Cong Tu Bac Lieu.

  14. James, SO random. Looking forward to checking out the new restaurant though! Thx for the updates.

  15. I visited Westville last Sunday, decided to do some googling and found this blog. Sadly all the shops there were either closed for the day, or were repossessed by the banks. It's a dark, cold, desert of a place there now. Sadly it's a tough economic climate out there where only the strongest survives!

    1. Yes anon... It's totally bizarre in there now. I really should put a note up the top of this post saying this and all the other shops are closed. Apparently the building had bad feng shui as it looked out over a funeral parlour. Kind of not cool with all the tenants' home addresses on the letters stuck to the windows!


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