Sapa Hills

112 Hopkins St
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9687 5729

Part of Danni and Sylwyn’s itinerary included having Vietnamese in Footscray. I took them there after work on a Tuesday. I personally think the Vietnamese joints in Footscray tastes notches better than the watered-down ones in over-gentrified Richmond. I have grown to love dining out with the girls, their tendency to over-order means I get to go home with lots of food porn and dishes to talk about.

I love Phil Lees’ very eloquent description of the two types of Vietnamese restaurants in Footscray. The run-down and the upmarket. Sapa Hills falls into the “upmarket phở chain” category and I almost totally agree that “interior design is not a handy marker of a great or terrible meal”. This restaurant’s fit out is very modern. Dark wood walls, furniture and white tableware. An entire wall is devoted to a sepia splashback picture of the terraced slopes of Sapa in Northern Vietnam. Now I’m going to be very farang and say that just visiting this joint makes me wanna make a trip to Vietnam to see the “Hills of Sapa”.

The gỏi cuốn tôm thịt (rice paper rolls with prawn) $7.00tasted so-so. The prawns were salt marinated and the herbage a little scant within the rolls. I’ve tasted fresher and tastier rolls elsewhere.

I quite liked the bò lá lốt (grilled beef wrapped in vine leaves) $7.00. The beef was nicely marinated and delightfully grilled. This dish always has an unusual pungent kick to it that I like, I am not sure what it is, it could be fish sauce or the vine leaves. The plate had a lot of greenery going on, like an edible forest. We weren’t exactly sure how to eat it, but I did it popiah-style. Wrapping the beef with a piece of lettuce, adding the herbs and pickled veg, and then having it with a little nước chấm dipping sauce. Delicious. I love greens.
The cút đặc biệt (Sapa Hills special quail) $6.50 was inedible. The fault lies completely with the stupid slathering of an unappetising, awfully sweet BBQ sauce over the poor bird. What indignity. I suspect this could be an act of dumbing down to Western tastes. Poor kitchen decision, a dish couldn’t be more easily destroyed. Even though the bird probably weighed less than 100g, we still couldn’t finish it.

The girls both had phở for mains. Pictured here, Danni’s phở bò đặc biệt (beef noodle soup with the lot). This was a wonderful turning point for me. It’s when the girls suddenly realised they have reached bursting point with respect to their bellies. They loved the soup, but could only look at the massive bowl of phở with dismay because they couldn’t finish it. I helped Danni out by consuming more than half of her bowl. The soup was alright, but I think the ingredients in Phở Chú Thể (Richmond) are better.

Bún chà hà ni (rice vermicelli with hanoi style grilled pork) $11.00 has overtaken bún thịt nướng as my favourite Vietnamese dish. And Sapa Hills serves up a very good version of it. When I first had this dish, I didn’t know where to start. You are served a mountain of herbage and rice vermicelli. In another bowl, you get stunning pieces of grilled pork and charcoaley meatballs. And then there’s a light and piquant sauce with thinly sliced green papaya, red chillies and carrot. I first tore up the greens, took bits of everything and ate it together in a separate bowl. After sometime, I just dunked all the sauce into the grilled pork bowl and that really upped the sauce’s flavour with deep charcoal tones. When I was more than half way through, I basically threw everything together on the big plate, gave it a toss and gobbled every last bit. Even all the herbs were devoured! Loved it. This dish was so fresh, healthy and scrumptious.

The last of my bún chà hà ni, after the final toss.

Sapa Hills is excellent with some dishes like the bò lá lốt and bún chà. The servings are very generous and the prices are very affordable. Some of the dishes like the quail may disappoint as they appear to be leaning towards Westernisation. All that said, I will continue to patronise this joint because I find their bún chà hà ni just unfaultably good

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