Salvation in Noodles opened last year and it must have fallen off my radar amidst all the other ramen bars popping up around the same time. Frankly after the traumatic experience at United Ramen, I crossed out anything that didn’t sound remotely authentic. And admit it, we all have an underlying sense of reluctance to try the other Vietnamese restaurants once we have found our favourite; mine is Song Que.
So when Lichan suggested Salvation in Noodles (SIN) in Dalston, I was sceptical. That said this guy knows his food; I didn’t have a counter-proposal either after Jer hash-tagged ‘yawn’ to Song Que. The small restaurant is simple in its setup, more trendy and stylish with the bare bricks and Plumen bulbs than the usual Viet joint, and it looks more like a coffee shop.
Black sesame crackers
I was the first to arrive and ordered a Vietnamese beer and some black sesame crackers, which came with a syrupy dip. The two Melbournians arrived just in time to start breaking into the massive cracker. Moreish but perhaps a tad too hard for my liking.
Phu Quoc Wings / Crispy Chicken wings topped with fish sauce and crispy garlic (front) &
Goi Cuon / Vietnamese Summer rolls with Pork Belly and Prawns (back)
Ah the battle for best wings in London is on. Seriously good wings with super succulent meat enveloped by a thin crispy coat of honeyed fish sauce marinade. The flavours were on par with the Smoking Goat version; these had a lighter batter but the wings were probably marginally less plump. It’s a close call.
It’s hard to pack surprises into summer rolls, but they took a crack at it by slipping some thin slices of pork belly under the springy rice wrapper. It was more lean pork than pork belly though, so the gelatinous lard was missing. That said with enough noun cham soaked up by the rice noodles paired with bouncy prawns, these can’t go wrong.
Cha Gio / Vietnamese Fried Spring rolls with Pork & Wood-ear Mushroom
These were better than most spring rolls on Kingsland Road too. The finely mince pork mingled with a good ratio of crunchy mushroom and vermicelli to keep it bouncy, wrapped in a thin, brittle shell. Great start.
Pho Bo / Thin Rare steak and beef balls in an ox-tail soup
Lichan and I both opted for the classic beef pho; him with extra beef balls. The beef bone broth had depth, oozing with bovine richness without being greasy. The squeeze of lime lifted the meatiness and added another layer to the soup. The pink wafer thin slices of beef melted in mouth, even better than the ones at Song Que. However I did miss the tendons, tripe and briskets, the beef balls were simply no match.
Bun Bo / Hue Beef Brisket & pork in a hot & spicy lemongrass soup
Jer had a different type of noodles, which was like a thicker vermicelli with more bounce than the slithery pho. The soup looked more spicy than it tasted, the heat was quite subdued in comparison to the lemongrass fragrance. It was a great broth, I just prefer the classics.
I was pleasantly surprised by SIN. I particularly like the short but specialised menu that had a clear focus, keeping things straight forward. Freshly prepared food, quality beer list and a chilled ambience - it was a winner. If Kingsland Road is the centre of Pho Universe, SIN does enough to start its own little galaxy. Salvation in Noodles? Amen.
122 Balls Pond Road
Tel: 0207 254 4534