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Dragon Den, Darlinghurst

I recently organised a birthday dinner for two of my loveliest friends at Dragon Den, near the Green Park Hotel in Darlinghurst. Planning a dinner for 20 odd people is not always easy, but the staff at Dragon Den were amongst the most helpful, accommodating and flexible I’ve encountered (along with Javed and the team at Delhi O’ Delhi).

They have several banquet options: we went for the cheapest option, the $37 ‘Saigon’ banquet:

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  • rice paper rolls (prawn, chicken, beef or vegetarian)
  • salad (beef, green papaya or roast duck)
  • soft shell crab
  • wok tossed rump steak cubes in black pepper sauce
  • duck leg confit in tamarind sauce
  • salt & pepper calamari
  • stir-fried water spinach with garlic
  • steamed jasmine rice

The rice paper rolls were really good, firm and crunchy with lots of herbs (no coriander thankfully!). I know summer rolls are simple but there are still places which manage to make very ordinary ones! (Yen For Viet still make my favourites.)

The green papaya salad was good too, with lovely bits of deep-fried tofu and crispy shallots (they also do the traditional pork and prawn version). The accompanying prawn crackers weren’t as good as the super crunchy black sesame crackers at Thanh Binh but still, they’re always a nice contrast in texture.

The soft-shell crab was hot, salty and crunchy. How can you go wrong? The mayonnaise-based dipping sauce was good, but a bit rich for me – a simple squeeze of lemon juice was my preferred accompaniment.

The salt and pepper calamari was a standout – some of the best I’ve had in ages. It was crisp, tender and had a slight kick. The sweet chilli sauce accompaniment was unnecessary, however; a bit more fried chilli over the top would’ve been more appreciated instead.

The absolute highlight of the meal for me was the confit duck leg in tamarind sauce. As good as it sounds! The duck was fall-apart tender, and the pairing of tangy, citrussy tamarind with the rich duck meat was pure heaven. I might try to make this myself one day soon.

I expected the pieces of wok tossed rump steak to be a bit bigger… One of the pleasures of bo luc lac is the tender texture of the meat and these were a bit small to have that. Still yummy and peppery though.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant, especially for large groups. The vegetarians were amply catered for as well. Everything went smoothly, everything was delicious, and the value was excellent at $40 per person. Perfect! Thanks to Chloe and the staff for a wonderful night!

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