How do you make a banh mi even better? Add pork crackling, I say. They roast their pork belly low and slow at the new Great Aunty Three in Surry Hills, cooked overnight in temperature-controlled ovens and then cranked up in the morning so a layer of crackling bubbles up across the surface.
Service counter with a laughing Buddha
The Surry Hills outpost is the first step of expansion for the Enmore success story that is Great Aunty Three. It's all about fast and zingy Vietnamese classics: banh mi Vietnamese bread rolls, pho noodle soup, vermicelli salads and goi cuon rice paper rolls with Vietnamese coffees or fruit shakes on the side.
Owner Michael Le making banh mi
At the helm is Michael Le, a Vietnamese Australian who worked in the corporate sector for nearly ten years before following his heart and entering hospitality. His inspiration was his Grandma, a successful restaurateur in Can Tho, Vietnam who now works in Cabramatta, Sydney. He calls her bà ngoại, or maternal grandmother, but everyone else calls her Great Aunty Three.
Salad and herbs in the bain marie
Banh mi production line
The Surry Hills store has been barely open a week but there's a genuine sense of energy in the air with a predominantly new team behind the counter. There's not a lot of seating here (currently six stools around a communal table) but they promise there'll be a little more installed soon. Michael will be heading up the store in Surry Hills while his wife, Mai will continue to look after the Enmore outlet.
Goi cuon rice paper rolls $7.50
Tiger prawn, roast duck and chicken fillet with avocado
Prices are a step up from Enmore (where rents are cheaper), but the menu is still competitive with its Surry Hills neighbours. Goi cuon rice paper rolls are packed in ready-to-go boxes at $7.50 for three. There's a myriad of combinations but we tuck into tiger prawn, roast duck and chicken fillet. The skins are soft and sticky, packed tightly with noodles, lettuce and herbs. The sauce isn't the usual hoisin peanut mix, but lighter and sweeter in taste.
Self-serve water fountain
Grilled lemongrass chicken fillet salad $10
Cold vermicelli noodle salads are always a winner in summer. We go with the grilled lemongrass chicken, so juicy and succulent we almost fall off our stools when they tell us it's chicken breast. It's a rainbow of crunch, the slices of chicken curled up on a bed of cold vermicelli noodles with bits of lettuce, carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts, perilla leaves and mint. I wish the nuoc cham dressing had a bit more of a fish sauce punch but the roasted peanuts are fried shallots provide plenty of distraction.
A medium sized bowl will set you back $10. They also do versions with roast crackling pork, grilled barramundi or faux chicken and lemongrass tofu for any vegetarians in the house.
Pork banh mi: The Sydney $9
12 hour roast crackling pork with shredded apple slaw and house sauce
The classic pork banh mi is elevated with slices of 12 hour roast crackling pork. Admittedly $9 is a step up from most banh mi shops, but then so is this pork beauty. The long slow roast means that the pork fat has rendered its way throughout every crevice of meat resulting in flesh so soft and juicy you may just shed a tear. Add surprise shards of crackling throughout and you've got one helluva sandwich.
They're not afraid to break the banh mi rules either, if the soft shell crab, tiger prawn and barramundi fillet ("The Bondi") is any indication. They're mixing everything up here, with lemongrass chicken, roast duck, chorizo omelettes and vegetarian faux chicken options also up on the board.
Crusty banh mi
They do a pho beef noodle soup for an even ten bucks and the ubiquitous gua bao makes an appearance too. Everybody's favourite steamed lotus leaf bun comes sandwiched around soft slabs of pork belly or slices of roast crackling pork ($8 for two).
The coffee machine wasn't working when we visited, but they'll be cranking out Vietnamese coffee with or without condensed milk soon. You can also keep cool over summer with Vietnamese iced coffees, homemade lemonade or frappes in coconut and lime, mango or watermelon, lychee and jackfruit. Sweet.
Great Aunty Three
92-94 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 8882
Monday to Saturday 11am-3pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Surry Hills - Spice I Am
Surry Hills - Surry Hills Eating House
Vietnamese - Pho Pasteur, Haymarket
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11/26/2014 08:39:00 pm