Food News

Thi Le's guide to where to eat in Melbourne

From Afghani bread, the city's best omakase, and bánh xèo made to a top-secret recipe, the Anchovy chef shares her favourite spots for dining out in Melbourne.

By Jessica Rigg
Anchovy co-owners Jia-Yen Lee and Thi Le.
Richmond has long been regarded as one of Melbourne's best Vietnamese food destinations, but the 2015 arrival of Anchovy marked a new chapter in the city's Indochine food history. Chef and Andrew McConnell alum Thi Le has created a restaurant that owes as much to her family's Chinese-Vietnamese heritage as it does her upbringing in Sydney's inner-west. Factor in a strong belief in girl power (see Anchovy's impressive track record of guest chef events) and you're looking at an exciting new force in Australian dining. When it comes to off-duty eating and drinking, Le's picks are as global as the cuisines that inspire Anchovy.
As told to Jessica Rigg for The Local Tongue
The best Vietnamese bakery: Phước Thành Bakery
I'm going to call it. Family-operated Phước Thành Bakery on Victoria Street does the best bread in Victoria. It's fluffy, light and stays super crisp. There's a line out the door every time I go. I opt for crisp pork belly banh mi, jam-packed with crackling. If I'm really hungry I might jam a few xiu mai (Vietnamese meatballs) in as well.
206 Victoria St, Richmond Vic
Game-changing pho: Phở Chú Thể
A great Vietnamese breakfast joint I go to is Phở Chú Thể. Run by two sisters, one is in the kitchen and one is on the floor. I normally order the pho with red beef, tripe and beef balls. The broth is rich without being too beefy and the condiments are what make all the difference, like pickled red onions with the pho. It's a game-changer.
92 Hopkins St, Footscray Vic, pho-chu-the.business.site

Secret recipe bánh xèo: Thanh Hà 2
Go to Victoria Street's Thanh Hà 2 for excellent banh xèo (crisp Vietnamese pancakes). The chef is the only one allowed to make the batter and she won't share the recipe. She even grinds rice for the batter. Her pancakes are super thin and the same size as a wok, but you can easily eat one to yourself. Then again, it's nice to go and share a few dishes. The bánh cuốn (Vietnamese steamed rice noodle rolls) are really good, too.
120 Victoria St, Richmond Vic
Cantonese celebration: Flower Drum
If I have something special to celebrate, I usually go to Flower Drum for expertly cooked Cantonese food. I particularly love the steamed fish with ginger and shallot; it's the best fish you can get. The made-to-order crab dumplings are what dreams are made of.
17 Market Ln, Melbourne Vic, flowerdrum.melbourne
Life-changing omakase: Minamishima
When you dine at sushi omakase restaurant Minamishima your whole world slows down. It's not about gorging, it's about eating. You sit at the beautiful bar and sushi master Koichi Minamishima gives you 10 to 15 bites and each one is special. It's a place to celebrate and indulge, to slow down and relax.
4 Lord St, Richmond Vic, minamishima.com.au
The Afghan connection: Maiwand Bakery
With a huge Afghan community, Dandenong is one of the most exciting suburbs to eat. Recently I saw a queue of people trailing down the road and had to check it out. Eventually we found it was Maiwand Bakery, cooking big Afghan flatbreads in huge tandoors. Well worth the 40-minute drive from the city.
7 Scott St, Dandenong Vic
Taste of Melbourne: Napier Quarter
When friends or chefs visit, I love to take them to Napier Quarter. The vibe is just so Melbourne; a cultural hub full of diversity. It's a great place to just sit, drink a coffee and people-watch. And for visitors, you get to understand and live Melbourne, even for just an hour.
359 Napier St, Fitzroy Vic, napierquarter.com.au
Late-night eats: Wong's Kitchen
There's a great Cantonese restaurant in Box Hill called Wong's Kitchen. It's like Golden Century (in Sydney), but not as elaborate. It does everything from XO pipis to fried rice and is open until two in the morning, so is a great option for chefs and hospo workers.
596 Station St, Box Hill Vic
My approach to Vietnamese: Anchovy
Anchovy is my approach to Vietnamese food. I grew up in Sydney's western suburbs, so you see a mish-mash of cultures on the menu. I love bold flavours and try to keep it light and fresh, people come to eat and have a good time. During Covid, we been cooking with the same ethos but with a focus on dishes you probably can't cook at home. It's kind of crazy because we don't usually get to push premium ingredients, but during lockdown they've been flying out the door. One Saturday night I cooked 13 lobsters and two snow crabs back-to-back. It's amazing to feel the community supporting you and it keeps things exciting in the kitchen.
338 Bridge Rd, Richmond Vic, anchovy.net.au
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