It was with thanks, yet again, to the Ompty gents that I got to visit this local family-friendly, no frills, no pretentiousness Vietnamese restaurant in Randwick. La Sen is part of the fantastic food culture that is Randwick, a place in the Eastern suburbs I would love to live if I decided to move over the bridge. So much awesome in a great suburb and that cinema as well – an ideal JK destination.
LA SEN VENUE:
The La Sen venue is a narrow one. It has a rustic and pretty entry as per the above pic. The kitchen runs half of the left hand side of the venue with bright green walls. The right hand side is bright yellow and the back half of the lower level offers a great wooden roof piece with faux plants hanging out the sides and some fantastic lamps hanging in between. It’s relaxing and comfortable.
I did notice a staircase near the entry and it is highly possible there is an upstairs section but don’t quote me on that. Zomato lists the venue as having an outdoor seating area and a smoking area (whatever that is in modern Australian venue dining!!).
LA SEN FOOD:
La Sen is traditional Vietnamese but we never ate Bahn Mi or Pho – and I really wish we had. They are easily the two most recognisable Vietnamese foods and I worship them both immensely. That is not to say the food wasn’t up to scratch – the food was delicious.
We started with immensely moorish Homemade Crispy Spring Rolls – Minced pork, carrot, taro, wood ear mushroom & mung bean noodle. They offer a prawn, a pork and a veggoe spring roll. They are all served with a tangy housemade fish sauce. Loved them.
SALT & PEPPER SQUID
I have a small addiction to salt and pepper squid ever since I ate a phenomenal salt and Sichuan pepper squid about twenty years ago. I will nearly always order it and this was no exception. The Salt and Pepper Squid from La Sen is seasoned in a very light crispy batter, wok tossed with butter, garlic and diced capsicum & onions. I would have loved more spice but the squid was fresh, tasty and delicious.
VIETNAMESE CRISPY PANCAKES
La Sen offers three crispy pancakes, a duck pancake, a traditional with pork and prawns, and a vegetarian option. I am gathering you assumed without consideration that we went the duck. The duck pancakes are meant to be a venue favourite. It was nice and we ate the lot. It went well with the tangy fish sauce however it wasn’t overly crispy and without the fish sauce it was a little on the bland side. I would prefer the traditional pancake next time, it sounds great. Traditional crispy pancake filled with prawns, pork, mung beans, shallot, onions and bean sprouts. YES PLEASE.
When reading the menu I requested this dish for the three of us to eat. Both my dining companions weren’t too keen on it. It was a simple caramelised fish slow cooked in coconut juice. Even when it arrived no one was excited by it, not even myself, it looked very un-sexy and we all ate everything else before getting in to it. And then everyone agreed – easily the best dish of the night. The caramelisation gave it a salty sweet sticky flavouring that went well with rice and more of that sauce. The only thing that got me was a few bones that unexpectedly showed their sharp talons mid-bite.
LEMONGRASS AND CHILLI BEEF
Next up was a comfortable flavoured beef dish. Lemongrass & chilli beef wok tossed with seasonal fresh vegetables. Quite a standard dish but cooked well and something I would regularly order for takeaway if I lived in the area, a comfort home dish if you will. I love lemongrass and anything with chilli is a winner. And who doesn’t love baby corn.
We had to have a vegetable accompaniment dish for the meal. And there was nothing better than the water spinach wok tossed with garlic & chilli. I LOVED this dish. Delicious greens and beautiful flavours plus a kick from the garlic and chilli. My second favourite dish of the night and something I would happily eat for a meal on its own.
I enjoyed La Sen, it is comfortable, welcoming and offered some great dishes. I think by missing out on trying the Pho I missed out though on having that Vietnamese experience to truly blow my mind. It is probably our meal choices but nothing truly was standing ovation worthy – the fish was pretty much there however. The menu at La Sen is quite vast with us only trying about 10% of it. Their noodle dishes sound epic and the vegetarian dishes are as accomodating as the carnivore meals.
I will return in the future to indulge in more and look forward to having my mind blown by the food. Food that many of my foodie companions rave about.
La Sen Deets:
Phone: (02) 8065 5207
BYO: Yes – Wine
BAR: Yes – limited
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
Mon – Thur: 5pm to 10pm
Fri – Sun: 11am to 10pm
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment. However, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such.