A nice day or even a half-day trip from Brisbane, Burleigh Heads is an excellent option to visit the coast and try some different food. Better still, right near the stunning Tallebudgera Creek and the national park, there’s a Vietnamese Restaurant in Burleigh Heads called Jimmy Wah’s. We hadn’t been to Burleigh in some time and on this occasion, we met the in-laws halfway (they live in Lennox Head) to try somewhere new.
It was my father-in-law’s birthday and as it’s a busy restaurant, we’d booked Jimmy Wah’s for the typically unsavoury time of 2:15pm. However, when we got there it was still packed, which is a good sign! So why the name Jimmy Wah? For us older folk, you might remember in the film Good Morning Vietnam there was a bar owner named Jimmy Wah. The character from the film, Jimmy Wah, is pictured on the wall as you walk in.
Jimmy Wah’s Vietnamese restaurant in Burleigh Heads is located on the busy Gold Coast Highway, not far from the beach. It’s a lively place as there are tables on the sidewalk, where it’s a good place to people-watch and be amongst the action. Inside, the restaurant is open plan – being one big room – and as it was packed when we arrived, the din of people chatting was almost overwhelming. However, we seemed to adjust quickly and any fear we had of it being too noisy soon dissipated.
You can sit at the bar up the back of the restaurant, which is a good option, but we had arguably the best table in the house as we were in front of the open windows just inside the footpath. We had a large round table, we were in the middle of the action and it was interesting being in such a lively atmosphere. The waitstaff were moving around efficiently and I was cracking my usual silly jokes, which they engaged with (or put up with) well.
We didn’t waste any time celebrating, getting straight into the drinks. My father-in-law Wayne (or ‘Mr M’ as I affectionately call him) tried the Jimmy’s Lager on tap, which he loved. He’s a pretty fussy beer drinker and as he was impressed, he gave me a sip. I thought it was surprisingly good for an in-house beer. As we’ve experienced, in-house beers are not always good! I ordered a Balter XPA and later a pinot noir, although the girls were doing their usual cocktail sessions.
I had a few sips of my partner’s cocktails, which were surprisingly good, as I don’t typically like cocktails. The signature cocktail of this Vietnamese restaurant in Burleigh Heads is called ‘Good Morning Vietnam’. When the waitress repeated this phrase after placing it on the table, I fired back ‘it’s hot, dam hot!’ She got the movie reference and gave me a chuckle. This one has bulldog gin, domaine de canton ginger liqueur, paw paw jam, grapefruit bitters and lemon juice. From a non-cocktail drinker, I totally recommend it! Plus, when in Rome…
The Food – Grandma’s Surprise List
One of the perks of eating out with the in-laws is that Sue (my mother-in-law) typically orders for all of us. I love this as she knows what I like and I don’t have to do anything. So, we ordered a bunch of plates to share, which we staggered throughout the next hour or so. I totally recommend this as it’s a fun way to eat! Saying that, if you’re unsure what to order there’s an option where you can say ‘feed me’ and the chef’s will create a special experience for your table.
We started with a ‘betel leaf, tempura barramundi, charred corn, peanuts & chilli’ dish, which looked very Vietnamese. It was light, yet tasty and novel. The accompaniments were complimentary too. This was a fun dish to eat and our experience at this Vietnamese restaurant in Burleigh Heads was off to a great start!
Next, we ordered crispy spring rolls with chicken and pork, and nuoc cham dressing. I didn’t indulge in this one, as I’m not a pork fan, but everyone enjoyed the dish, wrapping the rolls up in cos lettuce and dipping them in the cool, yet zesty dressing (I tried the nuoc cham).
Next, on Grandma’s surprise list came chargrilled pumpkin with peanut satay, sesame and chilli. I didn’t love the satay sauce earlier, as my son ordered it separately with rice, but with this combo it totally worked. So light, refreshing, tasty and cooked well, and the mint on top gave it added freshness. I’ve noticed the Vietnamese love their mint! Additionally, at this Vietnamese Restaurant in Burleigh Heads, there was a lot of peanut on the menu.
So, what’s next grandma? Next came the tempura spiced cauliflower with green chilli, soy and black vinegar, and chilli mayo. The cauliflower was nicely cooked – not too mushy, nor firm – and once again, the combination of food at Jimmy Wah’s was superb, particularly for hotter weather! I can really see how Vietnamese cuisine suits humid, tropical weather. Typically perfect for life in Australia!
The next main dish, and our last in this Vietnamese Restaurant in Burleigh Heads, was grilled barramundi with yellow curry, snow peas, green beans and sprouts. I’m going to use a well-worn cliché here and say this was the ‘piece de la resistance’. Waow. Just waow. The flavours were good, as were the textures, but what made this dish was the barramundi, which was fresh and cooked superbly. It was succulent – with deep grill marks on the outside – and the flesh was soft and heavenly, with faint reminders of its pelagic past.
This was a dish that I wanted to devour all to myself. I was doing the polite, ‘no you have the last bite’ (and thankfully the birthday boy Mr M had it), but really I wanted it. This dish made me greedy for more!
The Desserts – Vietnamese Restaurant in Burleigh Heads
We’re not typically dessert people but as we were here for Mr M’s birthday, we thought, ‘bugger it’. My partner and I went halvies (as we were pretty full by this stage) in the ‘coconut pandan rice pudding with mango sorbet and black sesame praline’. This was a dainty dessert and reminded me that this Vietnamese restaurant in Burleigh Heads is quite masterful at portion sizes and combinations. The rice pudding on the bottom was subtle, not too filling, the sorbet took up a larger part of the dish and it was bordered by praline. Again, this contained light with flavours that went well together.
However, I think Grandma ordered the cracker of the day – the fried bao, cinnamon sugar, salted caramel, peanut ice cream and perilla. This was the most visually striking and it looked exceptionally indulgent. Grandma was well-chuffed and said it was wonderful. She certainly looked like she was having a good time eating it!
I’m fairly fussy with my places, being an ex-chef and ex-barista, and I was pretty impressed with this place, as the food was really good. However, what made this place stand out for me above others was the service. Quite frankly, this little Vietnamese restaurant in Burleigh Heads put on the best service I’ve experienced in ages. The staff perfectly blended friendliness, professionalism and attentiveness.
We were never too bothered, nor too neglected. Additionally, the staff were down to earth, seemed genuinely happy and jokey while being professional. Rarely, if ever, have I seen such a combination achieved with such aplomb. Hats off guys, well done! The team were also gracious with my cheeky jokes.
Our Thoughts Overall
If you’ve been reading along, my thoughts here will come as no surprise, but if you’ve just jumped to this section I will say, Waow! We were all blown away by Jimmy Wah’s, the little Vietnamese restaurant in Burleigh Heads that could (and most certainly did). The food was excellent and reminded me how wonderful Vietnamese food generally is, particularly when done well. However, the outstanding service just topped it off and the location is in a fun, busy part of Burleigh Heads.
In all, put this as a must-visit on your list! It’s safe to say we’ll be back and I know Mr M and Susy grandma are already plotting our return. Another thing, it’s just so nice to write a review where I have nothing bad to say at all. As I don’t like doing it (but certainly do, if you read my other reviews).
Thanks Jimmy Wah’s. You’re hot, damn hot!
A Few Fast Facts
- Jimmy Wah’s is located in Burleigh Heads and as there’s no train station nearby, you’re best off driving here from Brisbane. Get a lift if you have to! The restaurant is about an hour’s drive from Brisbane CBD.
- Jimmy Wah’s has lots of gluten-free and a few vegetarian options.
- The restaurant typically plays ’50s, ’60s and ’70s tunes, but I don’t remember hearing this above the chatter.
- Be sure to make a reservation, as this little Vietnamese restaurant in Burleigh Heads can get mighty busy!
- If you’re not sure what to order, you can simply say ‘feed me’ and the chefs will create a special menu for your table.
- Jimmy Wah’s food is Vietnamese ‘with a modern Australian influence’.
- Owner Shelly Greaves started Jimmy Wah’s in 2016. The restaurant is renowned for its wines, which is one of Shelly’s passions.
- As there’s a lot of peanut on the menu, Jimmy’s Wah’s might not be the best place for those with severe nut allergies. Of course, contact the restaurant to confirm this.