Introducing Mama's Buoi, a home-style Vietnamese restaurant inspired by the fresh and fragrant meals that Vietnamese mums cook for their families.... Sigh. If only all our mums could cook this well (sorry mum).
The interior design perfectly captures the beauty of 'Nam. The distressed and paint-chipped decor, mismatched chairs and colourful tins and tiles are rich in Old World charm, while the heady scents of herbs, chilli and fish take you straight to the streets of Saigon.
Beat the heat with a refreshing rice beer, there's 333 ($8) and Beer Hanoi ($8) or try the luscious Vietnamese caipirinha made with lime and palm sugar sipped through a hollow lemongrass stalk. For starters you can't go past the Hanoi-style fried spring rolls ($7) or the freshly rolled rice paper rolls with pork and crackling ($8) served with nuoc mam dipping sauce. Vietnamese cooking is touted as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, which seems a good enough excuse to order a truckload.
The feasting starts with a plate of mixed skewers ($16). It's a generous platter of eight marinated and charred chicken, pork, beef and Vietnamese sausage skewers accompanied by an abundance of iceberg lettuce, fresh herbs, pickled carrot, daikon and nuoc mam sauce. And you thought Australians knew how to BBQ?
A lemongrass chicken curry on the bone ($15) is meltingly soft, rich and hearty; it's served with slices of soft French baguette — a nod to their French colonial history. The whole crispy market fish with chilli lime dressing and crunchy fried shallots ($29) is sensational, the crispiness extends inside and out and it's garnished with just the right amount of red and green chilli to ensure it has punch, kick and a face slap. For dessert, who in their right minds could say no to the black sesame coated taro doughnuts ($10) stuffed with red bean jam and served with condensed milk ice cream? Doughn't fight it.
Mama will be popping out Buoi's all over Sydney in the coming months, with a Crows Nest branch to open in a matter of weeks and another in Darlinghurst early next year.
In the Surry Hills shopfront, you'll find a question beautifully emblazoned on the wall: "Con có th??ng m? không?" or "Do you love me?" Well I, for one, am not ashamed to say it; I love you Mama!