429 Little Collins St, Melbourne
The best thing about Little Brother is the menu. It looks sharp and the food sounds tasty – particularly the bo kho, a dish I’ve never tried before. The location is cool as I love to walk down the city’s “little” streets and the interior is neat also, sticking out as an on-trend place to go for business-people on their lunch break. It’s nice to have a glass of water and sit down eating banh mi while “Jump” by Kris Kross plays on the speakers. Maybe the other items on the menu are good. I was looking forward to going to Little Brother. The banh mi is very mediocre.
I don’t get the lettuce thing. It seems almost every place that serves lettuce in banh mi is a let down. And $8 is a lot more than the usual price for banh mi. Props to the spring onion, probably the only highlight. I ordered the xa xiu pork (one of my favourite things in life) but it was quite dull, sitting there as ornament almost. The hoi sin sauce is applied too generously and nullifies the pate and butter that in a good banh mi work harmoniously with the meat. It’s too sweet. And where is the chilli? I barely taste any until the last bite where it rocks me, all stacked up in the farthest corner of the bread roll. That bread roll was overly soft and didn’t bond well with the hoi sin sweetness. It’s been too long since I had a solid bread roll.
Little Brother is evidently popular. A stack of Uber Eats orders were being prepared on the counter and many people came in to order while I was eating. So it took longer than expected to get the banh mi, only a slight considering the poor result. I seem to have become grumpy and critical this BMM comeback, but still yet to be blown away by new banh mi. Hoping that will change soon.
169 Toorak Road, South Yarra
When I first went to Master Roll, a while back, I was pretty smitten. Like, I thought they did great banh mi, one of the best in Melbourne. What happened… Did I visit this time on a dud day? I’m disappointed. Something has changed.
Master Roll is housed in those sort of appealing ancient barn-style buildings that you only really see in the affluent suburbs South Yarra and Toorak. Inside it’s a pretty standard cafe though. They pump really awful commercial pop in there, so I would suggest getting the banh mi and bailing. I just stayed inside to use the table for a quick photo.
In the photo and with my own eyes, the crispy roast pork looks delicious. That’s why I ordered it. It fell flat though. Sure, it’s nice, but doesn’t have that knock out sweeping power of the very best. It goes down without making much of a mark. I might need some input on the next point: I can’t tell whether it is pickled white cucumber in the banh mi, or daikon, but alongside the pickled cucumber, there is too much tangy sweetness. I’m not sure what’s wrong with the typical strip of cucumber. The banh mi was almost served instantly, a pleasant thing, but it was pre-made, meaning the pate and butter soaked into the bread and lost its flavour strength. Also meant the bread was too soft. A pivotal joy of eating banh mi is the balanced texture, not mastered here.
A harsh review, although it did still taste nice. Knowing what Master Roll is capable of, it is worth visiting in the hope that this was a one off.
Shop 109, 111 Merchant Street, Docklands
After well over two years since the last post, I’m trying to revive the blog. No bold statements declaring “I’m back” because last time that turned out to be a false promise. Trying to come back. I’ve been eating banh mi across town and I want to document them again. Some I’ve had since the last post are up there with the best.
Docklands is a pretty dubious suburb. A manufactured community, knocked up in a few years to tackle Melbourne’s fast population growth, it’s all skyscrapers and empty streets, lacking a sense of identity. I have been going there recently though because there is a brilliant library that looks over the water. They even have table tennis upstairs. Down the road from the library is Vintam’s Cafe, usually busy from construction workers on their lunch break. There are always sudden loud noises in Docklands from building sites.
Vintam’s has a groovy orange 70s tinged sign above a flash new store. It’s also a cafe so there are other nice looking things on the menu other than banh mi. I only wanted banh mi. Taking it out of the bag, it’s a glorious sight; I’m pleased to be taking photos of these things again. The colour balance is well considered at Vintam’s, amazing how photogenic the banh mi can be. Back to my roots, I ordered the BBQ pork (note: in this new incarnation of BMM, I plan to shed more light on non-pork and vegetarian banh mi options) and it was tasty but a little too dry. It was marinaded with star anise, which I am very down with. Keeping up with the dryness, not enough added dressing to the banh mi left it wanting. The chilli had great kick. A few years ago when I was originally doing this blog I was a loser and sidestepped chilli; now I can’t do without it. Essential to banh mi experience. Most bakeries don’t have a glass of water on hand though, so carry a water bottle with you everywhere. I’ve been trying to do that recently. A few small tweaks and Vintam’s could be flying.
101 Chapel Street, Windsor
Daily Bell has disappeared. Perhaps it has relocated, or the recently opened Hoang’s Bakery could be a re-branding of the long-standing shop. I’m not sure, and it doesn’t matter.
The BBQ pork is mushy and it doesn’t have much flavour. Hoang’s is another place that serves lettuce, which is not necessarily bad, but when overstuffed into the roll it shadows the other ingredients. Pate stocks were running low, I should have waited for a stock up given its remarkable capacity to transform a banh mi. The bread is poor, its crust way too soft.
50 cents cheaper is too little to sway me from going to Truong’s across the road. Hoang’s is better than its predecessor, but still mediocre.
Truong’s Food House is now known as Mister Truong’s (with a popular sister store in Brunswick West). This probably means it is under new management. I have not been here since it changed.
62 Chapel St, Windsor
The Maniac is back! It’s been a horrible time since I’ve been gone from the blog, barely any banh mi for months, and the only new bakery I went to was in Belleville, Paris. Thanks Saigon Sandwich for the French take on the iconic Franco-Vietnamese concoction.
Recently Truong’s Food House opened in the Windsor end of Chapel Street. Unfortunately in the last week the price has gone up 50 cents. Bearable considering how consistenly good the banh mi is (for I have been here many times already). The roast pork is delicious, a nice portion of crackling to tender meat, and thankfully they pile it in. Remember to ask for pate, because it is an added (free) option not listed anywhere. It boosts the roll tenfold, adding to a great salad, the pickled carrots and spring onion on point. It’s all topped off with a good crunchy bread roll. There were crumbs everywhere.
As a “Food House” Truong’s also serves Vietnamese dishes such as pho and vermicelli, plus the more western breakfast bacon and eggs fare. I recommend – if there is enough time to eat inside the restaurant – ordering the Vietnamese ice coffee with condensed milk, served in a cool pot. Alongside the banh mi it is a very worthwhile lunch.