Handle 56 Little Bourke Road, Melbourne, 03 9654 6627, annam.com.au
Open Day by day 5pm-11pm
Value Snacks $14; medium plates $19-$21; curries: $27-$30
Vegetarian Order the eggplant and enoki hotpot and vegan wraps of sambal and vegies
Drinks Spice pleasant guwurtz, rieslings and veltliners; craft and Vietnamese beer, tropical cocktails
To take a look at Annam from the road – Little Bourke Road to be actual, the place it glows out of a warehouse-like area behind the Comedy Theatre – you may shrug and assume you have had sufficient of culture-jamming Asian meals set towards a backdrop of pink neon lights and beats. And that may be comprehensible. Restaurateurs and enthusiastic backpacking cooks actually have taken phrases like “hawker stall” and bashed us to inside an inch of our fusion-appreciating capabilities up to now 5 years.
However Annam is not rolling in late-to-the-party with a wok-and-roll mural in tow. Annam is the work of chef Jerry Mai, the mighty power behind quick and recent Vietnamese pho and banh mi stalls, Pho Nom. However the place lots cooks have been opening burger joints and Pezzo bars to subsidise their high quality eating behavior, that is Mai flipping and reversing it, throwing again to her restaurant roots underneath cooks like David Thompson, her time at Longrain, Gingerboy and Zuma in London, and pulling on her private historical past as a Vietnamese-born refugee raised in Australia.
So it’s that some meals is fashioned from first-hand recollections: a Cambodian-style pork hock curry that Mai’s father can nail; entire kingfish cooked over the charcoal grill harking again to household barbecues. But additionally items of pure cheffy invention like a vital beer snack of cuttlefish fried in its personal ink-stained batter, rising from analysis journeys round south-east Asia with hat tricks to Vietnam’s culinary influencers like Cambodia and Thailand.
It is a broad menu of no-fixed-abode that threads collectively as a cohesive menu nonetheless.
However first you may begin on the lengthy granite bar working the size of the high-ceilinged room with a tinnie of Hanoi Beer or Younger Henry’s lager, a crisp riesling No. 5 from the Rieslingfreak crowd, or a tropical, plantation rum and charred pineapple cocktail from co-owner Rani Doyle’s playful, spice-friendly consuming agenda that might stand alone if you end up thirsty and up for a single snack within the ‘hood.
These snacks are kingly: house-made, snappy-skinned fermented pork sausage runs crimson with spicy oil, tempered by a wrapping of recent cabbage leaf, candy pineapple and pickled inexperienced chilli. See additionally a really unique steak tartare. Wagyu mince is galvanized by a spice combine, all cumin and hits of fennel, combined by with roasted bone marrow as a substitute of egg yolk. Vietnamese mint, shallots and Chinese language doughnuts, the superior carb of Asia, make it the perfect of the 36,000 variations you have eaten this 12 months.
There are rice paper rolls, nice as at all times and crammed possibly with recent uncooked tuna, however they pale subsequent to a salad of char-grilled octopus, the small tentacles caramelised in garlic, lemongrass and chilli, curling round an extremely aromatic thatch of Vietnamese mint and the buggish chunk of shiso leaf, with cooling cucumber, bitter chips of inexperienced mango and earthy roasted chillies bringing the gradual delicate warmth.
As with all unique menus, dishes get divisive. Sarsparilla-braised oxtail dumplings have fashioned their very own cult following, the filling having been braised within the natural soda and fish sauce till it melts, and served with a syrupy discount of the sauce. It is a potently candy wallop of flavour that has me finished for after one whereas a desk close by doubles down on their order.
Possibly as a substitute you’ll be able to’t get sufficient of the subtler northern Vietnamese specialty of crab banh cuon. Right here, rice batter is fashioned into skins to order, crammed with loose-textured crab meat and steamed once more like an unstructured dumpling, getting its elevate from recent chilli, bean sprouts and golden-fried shallots.
On the flip facet, the collagen-rich, fermented rice-thickened pork hock curry brightened with pickled fennel and daikon is dense-going to these unaccustomed to mellow, meat-driven curry types. They need to go for the somm la curry that eats just a little like a Thai jungle curry, all galangal and turmeric neatly holding the gaminess of tender goat in examine, with popping pea eggplants giving accents.
Extra refreshing than something, there’s character right here you’ll be able to style, and see. On the wall, Mai’s favorite terrible-excellent kung fu films are being projected. The ground employees are long-time professionals, extraordinarily pleasant, well-tooled to advise, although generally embattled if shorthanded.
However small quantities of chaos additionally really feel proper. The beat of a mortar and pestle retains time with home music. You will watch a number of individuals fail to push the entrance door that truly slides. The closely mirrored toilet entrance combines with a Vietnamese espresso cocktail to create a complicated entice. Undergo an untold story. Get a coconut sorbet and jelly in a cracked younger ‘nut when you’re at it. You will discover each a breath of recent air.
Go-to dish: Chiang Mai pork sausage with cabbage and recent pineapple ($14).
Professional tip: Vegetarians, sing out, there is a separate menu.