Chef Cuong Nguyen created the cult brand and eatery Hello Auntie many years ago. First kicking off in Marrickville, the home to the best Banh Mi in Sydney, then it expanded into Haymarket with a more glamorous look. It’s famed for its street food favourites, and how it pushes the edges of Vietnamese cuisine into less traditional territory. Add a good wine list, interior design, some punchy cocktails, homely service and you have a winning combo.
As the truffle season is now upon us, the challenge to the chefs was to push the chopstick boundaries just a bit further. This time they have devised a range of savoury and sweet dishes including a cocktail design to be paired with dessert.
We leave our Vietnamese hangups on the coat hooks and enter Marrickville HQ!! It’s a wintery lunch time and a seat by the window gives plenty of street action. A Vietnamese Bia Saigon beer and Torpez Petite Bravade Rose from Provence settles us in nicely.
We kick off with “Banh Ga Bap Chien” ($22). It’s a pair of golden nuggets, each topped with a single shaving of truffle so large it almost covers the entire croquette. We stare for a while wondering if it’s something you tackle with chopsticks, fork or hands! They are so delicate that a small bite into the creamy chicken, corn and truffle construction means a swift second hand rescue scoop is needed. Our recommendation is to order more than one each. Crunchy, creamy goodness.
Two dishes arrive together, one noodle, the other fried rice. We are urged to eat the Mi Nam Truffle ($35) first. No problem there. It’s a glorious mushroomy tangle of crispy lardons and house made egg noodles cooked in a creamy truffle sauce with lashings of freshly sliced truffle. It’s one of our hands down favourite dishes and really shows off the truffle with texture, balance and indulgence.
The “Com Chien Truffle ”($45) is a twist on their legendary fried rice. It’s a sensory plate of wood ear and king brown mushroom, sweetcorn, spring onion, garlic shoots, truffle salsa and fresh truffle. It would have been great paired with the roasted barra but we couldn’t hold back! The Barramundi is perfectly cooked, with an impressively hard crunchy skin which is better than pork crackling, served with a soy chilli sauce. Crowd pleaser Banh Xeo is next. A golden yellow turmeric crispy pancake is designated its own stand (like a pizza) so our noses and pancake are at the same level! We add prawns to the filling but today’s serve is overpowered with bamboo shoots, which makes it a bit watery, missing the fishy, crunchy punch of other versions.
Not to be defeated, we return to the truffle menu. This one sounds a bit bonkers – “Banh Artichoke Nam Truffle” ($25) which is a reinvention of a traditional torte with spiced Jerusalem artichoke and truffle. The reality is more like eating a carrot cake, soft and juicy with a truffle cream cheese frosting. The shaved fresh truffle is a desert taste combo that might challenge some.
We skip the “Banh Socola Keo Xop Truffle” ($12) , a fun filled choc-chip cookie sandwich with truffle marshmallow and strawberry gel; instead we opt for “Banh Truffle Pho Mai” ($25). Which is basque cheesecake. Famed for its technical difficulty, ours has a sturdy texture and unique structure from baking in an oven so hot the outside burns, however the custard stays smooth. It’s topped with, yes, more truffle!
We finish with a Viva La Truffle cocktail. It’s a sassy blend of 27 Bourbon whisky, truffle honey and fernet branca which arrives in a retro glass with a creamy foam topped with truffle.
There is a lot to enjoy on the menu both truffle and traditional. The chefs have pushed the creative Vietnamese basket boats out to new waters, so grab a life jacket, hang on tight and get rowing!
Hello Auntie:Marrickville: 278 Illawarra Road, Marrickville NSW 2204
Darling Square: 16 Nicolle-Walk, Hawmarket, NSW, 2000
Hours; Wed-Thurs 12-2.30pm & 5.30-9.30pm, Fri-Sat 12-2.30pm & 5.30-10pm, Sun 12-2.30pm & 5.30-9.30pm