There are two generations of Vietnamese restaurants in Footscray, Melbourne. The first emulates the tile-and-mirror-walled, cheap metal table joints of the streets of Saigon. The architecture sends a message that hosing down the walls could be a priority, the hall of mirrors effect suggests that the appearance of being busy is as important as really being busy. The second generation is identical to upmarket phở chain, Phở 24 with dark timber panelling, dark timber seats, white plates, the appearance that they’re one frappucino short of a Starbucks.
In Footscray, both tend to serve the same menu; interior design is not a handy marker of a great or terrible meal.
Sapa Hills opened in November 2009 and falls into the second generation with the added bonus of shots of the actual terraced hills of Sapa on the wall. The menu isn’t from northern Vietnam – it’s much the same as every other Melbourne pho joint – but there is the occasional plate from the north, like the above bo la lot: fatty and peppery beef mince wrapped in a betel nut leaf (although here, vine leaves substitute(?)), topped with peanuts.
The argot of Northern Vietnamese food is meat and the above is bun cha at it’s blunt meaty best. Grilled thin slices of pork and well charred meatballs with a thin vinegary, green papaya-topped stock. Greens are varied and bun noodle serve are generous.
Location: 112 Hopkins St, Footscray VIC 3011