A few weeks ago I finally visited Fat Noodle, one of Luke Nguyen’s ventures outposted to the Treasury Casino in Brisbane. It opened to much fanfare 12 months ago but has had mixed reviews. When I say mixed reviews, I’m being generous. A quick tour of sites such as Urbanspoon and Yelp! consistently provide poor feedback. Not just one or two negative comments but a constant stream of complaints. To be honest, this is one of the key reasons I had not visited to date. Why would I visit a restaurant where over 50% of reviewers don’t like it? Let’s pick up this conversation at the end, after my review.
It was with much trepidation then that I headed to Fat Noodle for a catch up dinner with friends. The restaurant was around half full but by the time we left a few hours later, it was packed with diners and casino visitors fuelling up after a session at the tables or more likely, pokies. Fat Noodle Veteran Josie advised (insisted really) that we only order entrees and go back for a second order of mains. She told us the food arrives as it’s cooked and a number of times she had ended up with both dishes arriving at once whilst someone else on the table was waiting for their entrée. Duly warned, we ordered only our entrees. These of course arrived in record time and even the ‘made to order BBQ Pork Bun’ with a waiting time of 10 minutes was at the table in less than 5.
Grilled Pork Neck Skewers were small patties with Vietnamese seasonings of lemongrass, coriander and garlic with a zesty pickled cucumber salad. These little grilled morsels were surprisingly fatty, no doubt to keep them moist during cooking. Something to consider if you are on the fence with pork dishes. I’m not on the fence, so I’d go back for these again. The Green PawPaw Salad was refreshing and zingy on the tongue and lips with five perfectly grilled fat prawns topping the plate. Steamed Pork Buns were fluffy and filling. Nothing to write home about but nothing to complain about either. Billed as ‘BBQ Pork Bun’, there were actually three large buns in the steamer. All of these dishes were from the ‘small plates’ section of the menu. Most were $10 and all were under $14. There were absolutely no complaints about the quality or quantity of any of these dishes and in fact, the salad could have easily served as a small main.
A quick peruse of the menu and it was time to order our mains. I sought some advice from our server who was only too happy to explain dishes and smiled when I ordered the Pad See Ew. ‘My favourite’, she winked. The restaurant was incredibly busy by this time but again the meals were at the table before we knew it. The only way I really enjoy noodles is charred and smoky from the wok. This is my benchmark criteria for excellence in Pad Thai and Char Kway Tao and happily the Pad See Ew met the standard. The enjoyment quotient was increased significantly by the presentation. The rice noodles were flat noodle sheets that had been rolled tightly and cut into short lengths then tossed with pork and broccoli in a sticky dark soy sauce. They were in fact ‘fat noodles’. Far too much for one person, Anthony made a valiant attempt to finish this dish but was too full from his own meal.
Beef short ribs are all the rage now. In recent months I’ve enjoyed the best treatment of these I’ve ever had at contemporary Thai Restaurant ‘Morks’ in Canberra. With the bar set very high, the Beef Short Ribs in Master Stock were a winner. Gelatinous and falling from the bone, this was a big hit of umami when combined with the master stock flavoured with star anise and ginger.
So there we sat. Replete with good quality, good value food served by friendly staff in a very timely manner. And yet Fat Noodle languishes in the lower regions in a number of rating websites. Why? There are complaints about the size of the portions but we had no concerns on our visit. Complaints about the pricing and being ‘able to get better meals at cheaper prices in Chinatown’. That’s just not true. Not only is $20 not particularly expensive for a main course, this is the going rate give or take a few dollars in any restaurant in Sunnybank or Chinatown. The days of the $10 dinner are long gone. People have said the quality isn’t there but across the five entrees and five mains we enjoyed, I saw no poor ingredients or cooking techniques. There are also complaints about servers not being able to speak English. It’s true that everyone I saw front of house was from an Asian background and perhaps at least for some, English is a second language. Do you seriously believe though that a flagship restaurant in a premiere venue and tourist attraction would employ staff who can not communicate with their customers?
So again, why the low ratings? I can only put it down to squeaky wheels being the loudest on these websites and unrealistic expectations from punters. You expect good food, good value and good service but please don’t expect a silver service experience for a $20 meal. If you want the best dining experience you have ever had, you will be paying far more (perhaps 10 times as much) for the privilege. Please take my reviews and those of others on review websites with a grain of salt and make your own decisions. They are guides only and not definitive. They are not the big fat deal they are made out to be.
(Treasury Hotel & Casino)
21 Queen St
Brisbane Qld 4000
Visited: 13th February 2014 – Dinner Service