Restaurant News

Coming soon: Melbourne's Anchovy to open a bánh mì thịt store, right next door

The lockdown sandwich side-hustle is turning permanent.

By Yvonne C Lam
Anchovy co-owners Jia-Yen Lee and Thi Le are set to open a permanent bánh mì store this year. Photo: Mark Roper
During Melbourne's extensive COVID-19 restrictions Thi Le and Jia-Yen Lee, partners in life and business at mod-Vietnamese restaurant Anchovy, sold takeaway rolls of khao jee pâté, the Laotian baguette sandwich traditionally stuffed with pâté, pickles, herbs and sai gork (Lao grilled pork-and-herb sausages).
They were a hit, with the pair continuing to sell the sandwiches on Saturdays even after Anchovy reopened its dining room. When the premises next door to the Richmond restaurant came up for lease, they took it as a sign to turn their sandwich side-hustle into a permanent business, five days a week.
For Melburnians, it's a matter of following the smoky, heady fragrance wafting down Bridge Road on the weekends. "All the meat is cooked to order on our wood-grill, and people are attracted to the smokiness," says Le."It's all you can smell when you walk in the area – the scent of lemongrass and garlic."
On the grill might be pork sausages one day, duck sausages another; perhaps suckling pig or chicken marinated in galangal and turmeric. A slab of giò thủ (Vietamese pig's head terrine) might make its way in between the folds of bread.

The khao jee pâté are now referred to as bánh mì, but the resulting sandwiches are Le's own interpretation of the South-east Asian sandwiches, shaped by her childhood growing up in Sydney's Cabramatta and snacking her way around the sandwich shops there.
"When I was young, there used to be a shop near Vinh Phat yum cha that sold bánh mì for 90 cents, or I'd go to [Vinh Hoa], the one that's open for 24 hours on John Street. Then when I got my driver's licence I'd go to Marrickville Pork Rolls."
True to Anchovy's tagline "Asian, Australian, a little bit in between", the bánh mìs look like the sandwiches of Le's childhood, but she's not afraid to shake things up a little. There's a rainbow of the usual salad suspects – cucumber, pickled carrot, coriander – but there might be the odd surprise cameo, like pickled pine mushrooms. The mayonnaise is made in-house, but she's stopped adding pâté to the filling. "It kind of kills the flavour of the grilled meat."

The bread, supplied by Phước Thanh bakery in Richmond, is perhaps the only rule Le isn't willing to break. "Bánh mì needs to be this light crisp bread that's a vessel for everything else."
There are still details to iron out. A name, for one – Le's floating "Cá Com", the Vietnamese name for the black anchovy used to make fish sauce. Then there's the build. Le and Lee were planning to open in May, but now there's a vague completion date for sometime within the next three months, with Le pointing to a lack of supply for essential building materials like timber and door hinges. "Hospitality might be experiencing a worker shortage, but the building industry is in the shit," says Le.
Until then, Melburnians wait with bated breath, and the lingering weekly fragrance of Anchovy's smoky grilled meats.
Anchovy's bánh mì shop is set to open in the next three months at 336 Bridge Rd, Richmond VIC
Follow @anchovy338 on Instagram for updates.