Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Bon Bistro Vietnamese Deli, Sydney.
Sydney has lots of things to offer on the Vietnamese food front, no question, but vast variety isn't one of them. Compared to the diversity of the city's Italian offerings, say, or its Thai food, we're getting only a small part of the picture. That means any menu that strays from the usual suspects is automatically of interest - and that goes double outside the Canley Vale/Cabramatta/Bankstown axis of awesome.
Which brings us to Bon Bistro Vietnamese Deli, a very new player on Broadway. I'm not sure what they're getting at with the deli part, but it's got a bit of a bistro vibe, it's Vietnamese, and it's good.
Timber shutters, distressed timber tables and cushioned banquettes under birdcage light fittings and a ceiling fan produce a somewhat distant intimation of the Indochine vibe. The napkins are paper, but they're not dispensed from a tissue box, and the dimmer switch is dialled to the mood lighting end of the spectrum rather than the convenience-store theft-minimisation glare more commonly favoured by entry-level places this side of town.
There's promise in the kitchen. The chefs make the hu tieu with pork ribs, give the pork in the vermicelli salad a good grilling, and send out the pork chops and broken rice with the classic complement of a pork "custard".
Then there's the stuff you don't see everywhere: sautéed corn with dried prawns, say, or the southern-style rounds of steamed baguette with minced beef and fish sauce. The pucks of sticky rice known as xoi man are a bit too large for their cargo of wafers of lap cheong sausage, spring onion, dried prawn and pork floss to have serious impact, but the flavours are true.
There's also banh mi in a soup-and-sandwich combo with the soup of the day - pumpkin, perhaps, or egg and tofu. And the Vietnamese coffee - served with condensed milk - is made with coffee from Vietnam.
Bon Bistro Vietnamese Deli, 155 Broadway, Ultimo, NSW, (02) 8541 8511.
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