We've been hoping to visit Nha Hang 5 Sao in Springvale ever since Brianna discovered it a year ago, so an invite from some friends to lunch with them there was eagerly accepted. The restaurant is really close to the train station, so it's not a particularly arduous journey. It's also the kind of place you could easily walk by as a vegetarian looking for food - there are ducks hanging in the windows and a general vibe of meatiness. We investigated further. The regular menu looks like it's got very few veggie dishes on offer but the second, vegetarian menu more than makes up for it, with nearly 100 dishes to choose from.
We had the benefit of Bec and Clamps' previous visits here and let them recommend some key dishes, starting with two serves of the deep fried chicken wings ($4 a serve). This was a big mistake - we should have ordered at least four serves. The 'wings' are a mix of tofu and crispy fried tofu skin and are ludicrously good.
The other mandated dish was the fried kuey teow ($10.80), a smoky wok-fried medley of rice noodles, slivers of mixed mock meat and some veggies. This was my favourite dish of the day, with the mock adding texture and flavour without completely dominating the plate.
We took Vegan Bullsh*t's advice and tried the Kung bo soy chicken ($12.80), assuming we'd have the spice tolerance to do it justice. It had a pretty decent kick, but as long as you steered your way around the dried chillies it was fine. The mix of mock chicken and veggies was great and the slight sweetness of the chicken pieces was a nice match for the hot sauce.
We branched out into some unexplored portions of the menu after that - unable to resist a taste of sizzling venison in XO sauce ($16.50). The 'venison' turned out to be some sort of mushroom-based meat, which I didn't completely love, but the spicy sauce and fresh veggies complimented it well.
We completely embraced the mock meat experience and tried to order the green beans with soy beancurd sausage ($13.80) as our 'veggie' dish, but sadly they were all out of sausage and we settled for some stir-fried Chinese broccoli ($13), which did provide some respite from all the mock.
Nha Hang 5 Sao offer a good line in non-alcoholic drinks - I enjoyed a cooling coconut juice ($3), while Cindy loved her grass jelly and coconut milk concoction ($3)
Nha Hang 5 Sao isn't a fine dining experience - the fit out is basic, the service a little haphazard and the atmosphere very suburban Chinese restaurant, but the food is excellent, cheap and plentiful. It puts the likes of Enlightened Cuisine and White Lotus to shame price-wise, and I don't think either have served up dishes to compete with the chicken wings or the kuey teow (OK, maybe the tamarind fish at White Lotus). It's a definite winner, and well worth making the trip out to Springvale for. It's probably best to visit with a group of people so you can sample widely - we're keen to return and hunt down some more menu highlights.
Brianna and Vegan Bullsh*t have enjoyed the mock meat experience at Nha Hang 5 Sao, while Gourmanda liked its meatier options.
Nha Hang 5 Sao
4 Balmoral Ave, Springvale
menus: one, two, drinks
Accessibility: There's a small step on entry and a fairly spacious interior, including a ramp between rooms. The toilet is unisex, although there was something wrong with the latch when we visited - it was probably too accessible.