Saturday, 27 April 2013

Fat Noodle - another Sydney Restaurant in Brisbane

Like a marauding army on the lookout for new land and territories, Brisbane has been invaded by southern restaurants and restauranteurs establishing extensions of their successful southern restaurants.  It says a lot about the maturity of the Brisbane food market but what it spells out most is 'opportunity' and these southern invaders know opportunity when they see it.  There have been many examples of our souther counterparts opening in Brisbane, almost too many to mention.  One of the most recent invaders is not only a successful restauranteur but also a celebrity chef to boot.  Luke Nguyen of Red Lantern fame and also well known for his cooking shows on SBS has opened up Fat Noodle at the Treasury Casino.

While you may think that the Treasury Casino is a strange spot for a celebrity chef to open up a restaurant, it's not the first time Luke Nguyen has taken this path.  Indeed there is a Fat Noodle in Sydney's The Star precinct which coincidentally is also a Casino, so there seems to be a little bit of a trend here.  There is no doubt that the Treasury building is a fabulous building and the restaurant that Fat Noodle replaced was looking a bit tired, so what better way to refresh the building than with a 'fresh' new restaurant.

Fat Noodle is a very large restaurant that takes over the old Cafe 21 space on the ground floor corner of the Treasury Casino.  There has been an extensive make-over and fit out that looks fantastic, that now includes a very large open kitchen with much of the restaurant having great views of the food being prepared.  There is also a new bar area and plenty of seats both inside and outside of the restaurant.

Luke Nguyen is best known for his Vietnamese style of cooking but the Fat Noodle brand has expanded a little to include Chinese, Thai and even some Malay fare in addition to the expected Vietnamese dishes.  This is a great way to introduce the general public to Vietnamese cuisine with the safety net of more well known Asian styles of cooking.  It's not an extensive food menu with most of the food centring on small plates, rice, noodles soups and woks, with each style offering six or seven options.

I need to confess right upfront that I am not a regular consumer of Vietnamese cuisine, but do like a little Chinese or Thai from time to time, so I was keen to check out Fat Noodle.  We started off the meal with a traditional Vietnamese starter, the King Prawn and Pork rice paper rolls with Hoi Sin dipping sauce.  The rice paper rolls were filled with fresh ingredients are were really quite nice, especially when dipped into well balanced Hoi Sin sauce.  The addition of the crunchy peanuts added a lovely texture to the sauce and I think it worked well.  I got the flavour of the prawns in the dish, but struggled a little to get any strong flavours from the pork.

Our second entree to share was Vegetarian Spring Rolls with glass noodles, wood ear mushrooms, tofu and carrots.  I don't really like spring rolls that much, they are often fatty and to me taste like big 'chiko rolls' and these were no exception.  It's not as if I thought they were poor quality or cooked poorly, I just generally don't like them, but having said that, I did eat most of my two portions.  SC is more of a fan of spring rolls and loved them.

We saw on the menu that the Fat Pho Noodles are Luke's signature dish, but neither of us decided to try the Fat Pho on this occasion, perhaps another time.  SC instead went for the Roasted Duck with egg noodles, tamarind plum sauce and rich chicken broth.  The first thing SC noted was how big the serving was and how much duck and noodles came with the dish.  The chicken broth was nice and clear but not quite as clear as you would see in a good consomme, but clear none the less.  The duck was well roasted and had crispy skin and was full of flavour.  The noodles that came along with the dish were a bit clumped together to begin with, but once SC started to ladle in the chicken broth, the noodles loosened up.  While the dish didn't excite the palate, it was a pretty decent dish and for the price was quite a reasonable serving.

The dish I selected on the night, Mee Goreng with prawns, chicken, octopus sambal chilli sauce and singapore noodles, had more of a Malay influence than Vietnamese.  I don't mind a little bit of heat coming from an Asian influenced dish but equally don't like to be smashed in the mouth with chilli either and the Mee Goreng provided a perfect balance of chilli and flavour for me.  I would suspect that a seasoned chilli campaigner would have thought that the dish was a bit mild though.  The ingredients were all well cooked and worked together nicely.  It was a big plate of food that I did not think I would get through, but I surprised myself and pretty much left an empty plate.

We didn't see any desserts on the menu and were feeling too full to check to see if there were any on offer, so if there were, we will need to check it out another time.

I have heard and read so many mixed reviews and comments about Fat Noodle and looking at the rating on Urbanspoon would have you think Fat Noodle is terrible.  There have been comments about the inconsistency in the food and also some horror stories about the service.  Our experiences with both the food and the service were pretty good, in fact I would say that the service was first rate.

I really enjoyed the food presented to us on the night and if this was representative of the menu would question what others have not liked.  However, and this is a big however, it was fairly early on a weeknight when we went to Fat Noodle and the place was almost empty, so there was no pressure on the kitchen staff or wait staff.  I think that with many new restaurants, there is a little bit of bedding in time, so I can't tell if the Fat Noodle has turned a corner or it was just a good night to go.

I also really liked the renovations inside the Treasury which have helped rejuvenate this part of the Casino.  It was looking old and tired before and now it looks fresh and shiny and new (I love shiny and new).   It seems the jury is still out about Fat Noodle at this time but I am sure that with Luke Nguyen behind the venture it will ultimately be successful.

I love the fact that so many successful southern establishments are looking towards Brisbane as a great spot to expand their empires.  I do wonder though, are the marauding forces from down south stifling the development of a Brisbane food identity or adding to it?


Complimentary Jasmine Tea and an awesome looking cast iron tea pot
Lots of condiment options at the table for the adventurous 
SC loved the tea station
Lovely open kitchen that could be seen from most spots in the Restaurant
More seating in the bar area
Nice night to be sitting outside
Fat Noodle sign is hard to miss when walking past the Casino
Fat Noodle on UrbanspoonFat Noodle


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