Overall, I liked this place. We received good service and the food was engaging. Yes, the meal did not come cheap at > $50pp, but we consumed ingredients like duck, lobster and crab in a expertly designed space located in a bayside suburb. Somehow, we were all ok with that. Yes, the restaurant was loud, but at least it had atmosphere and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Hell, our table was probably the rowdiest.
As for the authenticity of the tastes, I'm pretty sure that's not the point. Dandelion is more appropriately classified as inspired Vietnamese cuisine. In a way, it reminds me very much of Chin-Chin. The menu is set out in a similar fashion with most of the dishes designed for sharing. However, the flavors are more subtle and the tastes are suited to a much gentler palate. I feel that comments about the blandness of the food are unjustified since Vietnamese food tends to be fresher in taste than other Asian cuisines with a stronger preference for using uncooked ingredients.
For starters we had a refreshing salad of lotus root, mustard sprout and banana blossom salad, sesame and hot mint. It was slightly tangy, slightly sour but mostly crunchy! I was definitely left wanting more.
Then came the various rice paper rolls with their own special dipping sauces. By consensus, we all agreed that the soft shell crab was the best. They had even cut them up into 5 portions so that we could share them easily amongst us.
As for the mains, I was most pleasantly surprised by the ribs although, I'm not sure whether the accompanying leaves given to wrap it in was necessary. I preferred to tear the meat straight off the bone into my eager mouth.
The goat curry had all the right flavors and tasted right, but the goat itself was a bit tough. Ironically it was the pieces of white radish in the dish which left a rather whimsical taste in my mouth as it reminded me of my mother's traditional Shanghainese cooking.
The fish was fresh and simple, but it wasn't as popular as the other dishes, and perhaps this is because it didn't really complement the ribs and the curry as well as they complement each other. However, the sweet potato fries were a delicious afterthought and helped us to mop up all the residual sauces.
Deep fried black sesame icecream with palm sugar caramelized figs was my favorite pick of the three!
Unfortunately, the kitchen spent too long trying to perfect the plating of the other desserts and the berry sorbet had melted to almost liquid form by the time it came to our table. The most frustrating part of that fiasco was that we sat immediately next to the kitchen and sat there watching our dessert melt down into the surrounding ingredients.