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Sensational Saigon roll on square is the only bao to go; South-east Asian eaterie serves up epic feast.

Byline: Anna Burnside

In the early 80s, while a student at Edinburgh University, eating out was not a thing.

Potterrow, one of the unions, did a good macaroni cheese. I have a vague memory of soup at the bottom of David Hume Tower. Seeds, in nearby West Nicolson Street, was 30-odd years ahead of its time. Its vegan dishes, made of root vegetables, miso and buckwheat, all tasted of earth.

I was never sure if they had failed to wash the parsnips or had gone to a lot of trouble to achieve the same effect.

One or two stalwart businesses have survived the relentless march of coffee and innovation. The shop that sells high vis jackets and chef's whites is still there, as is the pottery place where all the dishes are decorated with sheep.

They now share a postcode with Ting Thai Caravan and its spin-off, Saboteur. These offer a range of south-east Asian edibles that would have blown my tiny 17-year-old mind. I racked up considerable cool points with Carb Boy's two grown-up sons by taking them there for lunch.

This is a no bookings place.

The customers, like the food, turn up when they feel like it and hope for the best. For the first time in recorded history, Boy 1 and Boy 2 were 15 minutes early so secured us a good table.

I would have preferred a chair with a back but then again, I'm not in Saboteur's target demographic.

There are also two internal bus shelter-type structures which act as booths. But I'm willing to forgive a bit of bonkers hipster interior decor for food that is so fresh and sparky. Even the maddening modern habit of dishes arriving haphazardly is fine when the kitchen is so quick and efficient.

We passed on the many enticing soups for the purely practical reason that they are impossible to share. A treat for next time.

Vit curry, Boy 1's choice, was the star of a very strong line up. A good chunk of roast duck breast sat in a yellow coconut milk sauce throbbing with chilli and turmeric. Lurking beneath were tomatoes and lychees. These are not something I would ever have considered putting together, or had ever tasted together before. I've been missing out.

The sweet pop of lychee and the acidic note of the ripe tomato sat very happily with the chilli fire and fatty meat. Neux Namon Hoi, a spicy beef stir fry, was a deluxe version of the economical dishes I threw together in my wok back in the day. It was very good, with lush strips of meat, broccoli and peppers, but lacked the thrill of the new that the duck curry offered.

To everyone's astonishment, Boy 2 suggested a salad. One that contained prawn, squid and moo yo. And glass noodles and salted peanuts. Plus enough chilli to blast a hole in the most congested sinuses. It turns out that moo yo is a south-east Asian luncheon meat, which would have put me off ordering this if I'd realised.

But the boys ate it quite happily.

As the slithery noodles, flecked with chopped chilli, in a srirachabased burning liquor, were too hot for everyone else, it all worked out in the end.

Bao buns, the spongy white rolls that are the Asian equivalent of Morton's, are not easy to cut in half. But they come in pairs, in a dinky takeaway box, and sharing is caring, so I gave it a go. What we each got was two scant mouthfuls of pillowy dough filled with a hefty slice of pork belly in a deep anise-fragranced sauce, pickled daikon and cucumber.

A Vietnamese person might not agree but I took it as the Saigon version of a roll on square with HP.

It was epic. So epic that the males around the table started pawing anxiously. We had put away two meat dishes, a noodle salad, two rolls on Saigon square and several portions of rice. I was done. They were ready for more.

Also, they added sheepishly, there were no desserts. Another round of bao buns, this time with crispy tofu, pickled ginger and chilli sauce, did instead.

Carb Boy watched amazed, as his sons finished a meal with fried bean curd rather than ice cream and donuts - and raved about it afterwards. We all loved Saboteur.

It's the kind of place the boys could afford to go for a date or a birthday dinner with friends. I would jump in for a bowl of noodles between Fringe shows. Carb Boy will probably make a solo pilgrimage so he can try all the different bao buns without me rolling my eyes.

If this is what progress tastes like, bring it on.

Anna's Hot Plate leaders' table BABA 24/30 130 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 4JZ BASTA PIZZA 21/30 561 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G11 6HU Brodi es 20/30 2 Altrive Place, Holm St, Moffat DG10 9EB Bistro Deluxe 20/30 81 Holyrood Road Edinburgh EH8 8AU Pizz a East 20/30 575 Duke Street, Glasgow, G31 3PY The Citiz en 19/30 24 St Vincent Place, Glasgow The BacH 19/30 31 Meadowside, Dundee DD1 3DE HARMONIUM 19/30 60 Henderson Street, Leith EH6 6DE Black Ivy18/30 Alvanley Terrace Edinburgh EH9 1DU The Ivy On The Square18/30 8 St Andrews Square, Edinburgh EH2 2BD MEZZIDAKIA18/30 73 St Vincent Street, Glasgow G2 5TF Pie & Brew 19/30 129 Bath Street, Glasgow G2 2SZ NAM TUK 18/30 Partickbridge Street, Glasgow, G11 6PL VAPIANO 14/30 235 Buchanan Street Glasgow G1 2NG DYNASTY 6/30 162 Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4EE TOTAL 20/30 SABOTEUR Tel: 0131 623 0384 Website: saboteur restaurant.com Disabled access: No. Opening hours: Sat to Weds, 11.30am-10pm. Thurs and Fri, 11.30am-11pm Bill for two: PS40.80. Food: 7/10 - Big bold flavours cleverly put together.

Decor: 3/5 - Super industrial and modern. Service: 3/5 - Speedy and cheery.

Toilets: 3/5 - Keeping the industrial theme going.

Value for money: 4/5 - Daytime menu stunningly well priced, only slightly dearer at night.

CAPTION(S):

EXOTIC TASTES... From top: Bao pork, Namon hoi and vit curry at Saboteur PIC: CALLUM MOFFAT
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 3, 2018
Words:1037
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