REVIEW: ACME

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

I tried baking my own bread once. As I ate it, a solid 400 hours after I started the recipe, I thought to myself “I will never try this again”. As much as I love home baked bread, I love the spare time that comes with not baking it myself infinitely more. This embarrassingly lazy philosophy applies tenfold when it comes to making my own pasta. I would sooner eat the thick dust layer which has accumulated on top of my never-used pasta maker than I would even consider opening its box.

Thankfully there are people in the world who are really doing their bit, making pastas of all shapes and sizes from scratch so that losers like you and me can live the luxurious life we don’t deserve. One of these good souls is Mitch Orr, who you’ll find in the kitchen at ACME, the newest restaurant on the last corner of Bayswater Road.

ACME is a joint venture, an acronym started by four friends (Andy, Cam, Mitch and Ed) who you’ve probably seen behind the bar, in the kitchen or serving you coffee at various restaurants and bars around Sydney. Mitch in particular has jumped from kitchen to kitchen since his days at Duke Bistro, honing his pasta skills during stints at 121 BC and Buzo, where his monthly pasta degustations became the stuff of stomach-aching legend.

Some of the dishes from those degs have made their way onto the ACME menu, which contains seven pasta mains, each using a different type of perfectly made pasta. Stand outs include linguine with black garlic and burnt chilli, which tastes like an homage to mi goreng, clearly the height of luxury that all noodle dishes should be compared to. Also fantastic is the rich goat, nduja and olive ragu with wholemeal bucatini, and the malloreddus, which makes up for how hard it is to pronounce by being paired with prawn and old bay seasoning.

Before you even get to the pasta, make sure you order a few pieces of rockmelon and prosciutto, which elevates a simple Italian staple by coating the rockmelon in a dehydrated prosciutto crumb. It sounds fancy, but you still eat it with your fingers, just like you do the baloney sandwich – a fresh baked potato roll stuffed with mortadella and a terrific relish – and what is probably the best dish on the whole menu, the asparagus with brown butter. Just try not to lick the plate once you run out of asparagus. At the other end of the menu are three desserts, one has bacon, another hazelnut and the final a nashi pear sorbet, covered in rosemary meringue and the perfect cleanser after a heavy meal.

The drinks menu keeps it simple too, a few beers and champagnes, a changing selection of well chosen local and imported wines and four cocktails, one sweet with yuzu and shiso, another heavy with mezcal and lemonade. Best is the refreshing celery with rye whiskey and soda.

Service is friendly and personal, open like the ACME space itself. You can see right in to the kitchen and watch Mitch check Instagram as you eat your meal. The fit out is simple and stylish, welcoming and clean.

ACME is the perfect place for those of us who can’t be bothered to make their own pasta from scratch. Unfortunately, for those of us who can’t even be bothered to go out, they don’t offer home delivery yet.

Where
60 Bayswater Rd, Rushcutters Bay

When
Tues-Sat 5-10pm

How much
$12-$24 for a bowl of incredibly good pasta

Contact
02 8068 0932

Related links
Acme website

REVIEW: McClure’s Pickles

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

It’s a coming of age thing. When I was a kid the first thing I’d do after buying a Macca’s cheeseburger was take the pickle off and banish it to the furthest depths of the wrapper. As a teenager I worked out that if you put the pickle disc in the middle of the wrapper and then tugged at the edges it would shoot into the sky and get perfectly stuck to the ceiling. Now when I get a cheeseburger I’ll ask for extra pickles and then complain that there’s not enough of them on there.

If there is a hierarchy of pickles in 2015, McDonald’s thin circular efforts are pretty close to the bottom. At the top though? The king of modern day pickles has gotta be McClure’s. A few years ago they were just another infinitely better version of a thing that you could only get in fancy delis across America, but now the Brooklyn / Detroit based jars of greatness are pretty easy to find here.

These pickles are addictively crunchy, the kind of pickles that you can eat an entire jar of in one sitting without having just endured a painful breakup while living in a sharehouse with no job. The Sweet & Spicy pickles in particular are a quite life changing – the sweet smelling brine is alluring enough to convince even the lamest pickle sceptics to try one, who will then be rewarded with a mouth full of HOT HABANERO FIRE! Suck it, pickle sceptics! You’re the worst! Go order a McChicken!

Where McClure’s really shines is in their range of potato chips. The Garlic Dill Pickle flavour legitimately tastes like you’re eating a pickle with each chip – and if you go so far as to eat an actual pickle with your pickle flavoured chip it tastes like you’re eating TWO pickles with each chip! Science! For the ultimate pickle experience you can then dip your double pickled chip into a jar of McClure’s relish and wash the whole thing down with a bloody mary made with McClure’s considerably spicy bloody mary mix. Cheers to you and your now non-stop garlic vinegar breath. Who needs pashes when you got pickles?

How much
$17.95 a jar

Related links
See the full list of Australia retailers here

REVIEW: Redfern Continental

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Menthol ciggies. Hours of brand new Joyride demoes. A paper bag half filled with mini cheeseburgers from Hungry Jacks. These were just a few of the great reasons to visit Dixie’s apartment, which up until a month ago was the hottest venue on Redfern St. A stone’s throw from Railz, Dixie would welcome all guests with a living room filled with mattresses and a PS3 filled with must-watch Don Bradman’s Cricket replays. It was the ultimate late night Redfern destination, until Redfern Continental opened up across the road.

The new venue from the team behind Arcadia Liquors boasts little in the way of cricket simulation gaming (not even Shane Warne Cricket ’99 gets a look in) but it has finally brought a decent schnitzel to the streets of Redfern, available in both the veal and chicken variety, the chicken being the juicier and therefore better of the two. The whole menu has an ‘Eastern Europe comes to Redfern’ vibe, where bratwursts with sauerkraut go hand in hand with a must-try lamb parpadelle.

You can see Dixie’s apartment from the street seating out the front and reminisce about the time that you bundled up his piles of unopened mail from the S.D.R.O. and threw them over his staircase – or you can head out the back of Redfern Continental for a drink in their awesome kind-of-secret cocktail bar. Dixie’s apartment may have a secret second bathroom that’s filled with cardboard boxes and without working lighting, but behind a plain door at Redfern Continental is a bar that drunker visitors may not even realise is there until their third or fourth visit. While the main restaurant is open, bright and busy – the bar out the back is dark, cool and has been described by writers who never went to Eastern Germany in the 1980’s as having a ‘1980’s Eastern German feel’.

I once got felt up by an Eastern German man in his 80’s at Dixie’s apartment, and while that never stopped me from coming back for many a kick-on at 4:30am on a Monday, Redfern Continental’s mix of weissbier and pasta might become my new Redfern St local.

Where
180 Redfern St, Redfern

When
Mon-Sat 7:30am-12am, Sun 7:30am-10pm

How much
$20 for a schnitzel n sides

Things on sticks at the Easter Show

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

A typical interaction between my mother and I while at the Easter Show in the early 90s:

ME: Mum, can I please have a Dagwood Dog?
MUM: No.
ME: What about a Pluto Pup?
Mum: That’s the same thing!
ME: Well can I have one?
MUM: No!

Cue a young me crying into my sick new Coca-Cola tote showbag.

When you mention the Easter Show to me, two smells come to mind: the smell of ‘farm’ (a weird combination of hay and horse poo) and the smell of deep fried hot dogs on a stick. Both of those smells belonged to objects I had never tasted, the former I was fine with, but the latter was something I was desperate to eat for the first 15 years of my life. When I finally went to the Show sans parents, it was on. I ate a sticked hot dog from every stall I walked past and they tasted like sweet rebellion.

Hot dogs aren’t the only thing with a stick shoved up them at the Royal Easter Show in 2015. In fact, it’s simple to give yourself an on-stick-only degustation, complete with starters, mains, dessert and an amuse bouche of a toffee apple.

Here’s a small sample of the sticks on offer at this year’s Show:

Hot Dog on a Stick

Call it a Pluto Pup, a Dagwood Dog, a corn dog – if you were to eat one from every seller this year you’d have over 30 of them in your stomach plus two to three tapeworms. I choose to eat my sticked hot dogs from The Original Cheese on a Stick, who only serve dagwood dogs and cheese on a stick, deep frying them to order. Never get one from the spots with over 20 things on their menu, those dogs have been sitting soggily for a good 6 hours and even the longest re-dunk in the deep fryer won’t kill the ebola that’s been festering inside them.

Cheese on a Stick

It’s a scientific miracle! A long cylinder of battered cheese with a stick in its bum. The cheese is completely tasteless, so what you get is a stick of batter that tastes like all the hot dogs that’s it’s shared the oil with.

Chips on a Stick

One of the greatest things to happen to festival food in the last decade is also prominent at The Easter Show. A sprialled potato, lightly battered, deep fried and coated with a vaguely flavoured salt. Break a circle of potato off one by one or eat the whole thing like a corn on the cob.

Cake on a Stick

The newest stick to the Show is a deep fried ribbon of cake batter. It looks like shit and tastes like an unemployed doughnut.

Waffle on a Stick

Nothing special here. A long waffle, which is actually pretty easy to eat with your hands, is made slightly harder to eat by being stuck upon a stick. Some spots were selling these with some cool toppings though.

Waffle Dog

Instead of eating a delicious deep fried Dagwood Dog, these jerks decided to encase a frankfurt in a waffle stick. It’s only good if you get a fresh one! Otherwise you’ve got a floppy warm frank in a soggy shit cake.

Choc dipped banana

There’s always money in the banana stand.

Choc dipped strawberries

These lose points for not being deep fried in any way but they’re almost the Easter Show’s take on a salad so eat a few of these when your stomach starts to hurt. The sprinkles will make you feel better.

Oreo on a Stick

An Oreo, covered in chocolate, on a stick. The stick is as redundant as covering something that already tastes like chocolate with chocolate.

Nutella on a Stick

Surprisingly, this is not just a paddle pop stick that’s been dipped in a jar of Nutella, rather it’s a waffle filled with Nutella on a stick. Sold from the Italian spot that was playing a playlist of songs that they had found on YouTube by searching “Italian music”.

END VERDICT: These ten things on sticks went downhill after the Dagwood Dog. You could sample all that the sticked food world has to offer, or you could just eat ten Dagwood’s and puke in a Bertie Beetle Bag for just two extra bucks. Best Easter Show ever!

REVIEW: Subcontinental

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Shortgrain, the bar space beneath Surry Hills’ Thai restaurant Longrain, shut its doors at the start of the year. Situated 90 seconds around the corner from the Two Thousand offices, we poured out a little liquor as we mourned not being able to buy the fried chicken wings / greens ten dollar lunch combo, then waited anxiously for the new restaurant to open inside the space.

First of all, the bad news, relevant only to cheap Two Thousand writers and their interns: the new restaurant doesn’t do lunch. They’re working on a takeaway dinner menu to launch later in the year. The good news? Pretty much everything else about Subcontinental, the new restaurant and bar beneath Longrain is good news!

While Shortgrain offered snackier versions of the Thai dishes served upstairs, Subcontinental changes it up pretty drastically with a South Central Asian menu, as the name suggests. While decent Indian food is hard to come by in the inner city, so too is decent (or any) Sri Lankan, Bengalese or Nepalese cuisine, and it all gets a look in on the Subcontinental menu.

The space hasn’t changed much, save for the portraits of smiling turbaned men which hang over each of the booths, watching you fuck up the pronunciation of half the dishes. The house made pappadums are great for snacking on as you sip on a G&T, something you’d never consider ordering before a round of curries, but after learning that there’s a different G&T on each night at Subcontinental, you get on board. Which begins a theme of realising what the restaurant is trying to do and just going with it.

The crisp Pani Puri aren’t quite as exciting as the ones you’ll find in Harris Park but, they’re probably the only ones you’ll find in the city. Filled with tamarind water at the table and eaten in one gulp. Ever seen buratta on an Indian menu before? You’ll see it on your plate with a light green sauce and herby orange salad and it’ll be gone before you even work out if it makes sense. If you order the pork belly curry expecting a soft brown mess, you’ll be surprised by an excellent piece of roast belly, complete with crackling, half-submerged in a dark and spicy broth. Order a Tandoori lamb cutlet and try your hardest not to pick the thing up and eat it with your hands.

While there’s a good deal of decadence on offer, it’s just as easy to keep things cheap and classic with a simple vege curry, a bowl of basmati and a chapati to eat it with. The addition of fresh, sweet pineapple to the raita makes it a must-order, and the biggest misstep on the menu (a beetroot pickle that tastes like little more than raw beetroot) is very easily remedied (there’s a classic mango & chilli pickle which is ten times better).

Subcontinental is a welcome addition to the series of Surry Hills streets that are forever half-closed due to road maintenance. It speaks volumes that the Longrain team were able to close and open an entirely new restaurant in about one tenth of the time that it’s taken the Sydney City Council to install a flowerbed.

Where
8 Hunt St, Surry Hills

When
Tues-Sat, 5:30-10:30pm

How much
Mains from $24

REVIEW: Taj Indian Sweets & Restaurant

About ten years ago, at an Indian Home Diner, or some other similarly terrible franchise on Enmore Rd, you could get an off menu item called an ‘Indian kebab’. Thinking back, it probably wasn’t even on the off menu, but at 11:30pm one night I watched in horror as my drunk friend ordered the man behind the counter to make him an Indian kebab, forcing him to wrap two pieces of chicken tikka in naan bread and cover the whole thing in curry sauce. My friend then announced that this would cost him seven bucks and he inhaled his creation within 30 seconds of paying. For many years, this experience summed up Indian food in Australia for me.

Obviously, there are much better Indian food options than a drunken mistake in Sydney, hell, there were probably much better Indian food options on that takeaway store’s menu, but in Harris Park, there are streets filled with the best Indian food Sydney has to offer. The choice is like staring into a servo freezer, trying to decide which of the 50 Magnums you want. There are some 20 Indian restaurants in Harris Park, and they all look (and smell) pretty good.

My father-in-law took me to Taj’s Indian Sweets, right down the end of Wigram St, four years ago and since then I have trouble venturing inside any of the other restaurants around it. I’m sure they’re good too, but remember that year you first had a Magnum Ego and were then able to confidently select it again and again from the freezer in a heartbeat, free from the fomo that comes with not trying those colourful new ice creams? Taj’s Indian Sweets is my Magnum Ego.

Their name focuses on the sweets, which you can see lined up along on the counter as you enter. Those sweets are excellent, each one as different tasting as it is different looking and hard to remember the name of, but before you get to the sweets, you’ve gotta make your way through the actual menu. Taj’s is one of the few places in Sydney that serve puri – an amazing south Indian snack that comes in different variations (just like Magnums!). At Taj’s you can get pani puri; small crunchy balls filled with chickpeas, potatoes, chutneys and tamarind water, bhel puri; puffed rice with chickpeas, vegetables, tamarind and mint sauce and sev puri, crackers topped with all of those aforementioned ingredients. The pani puri are addictive and probably the highlight of the whole menu.

The curries at Taj’s aren’t amazing, best served in small amounts as part of a thali (which they offer a southern and northern variation of), or on the side of a dosa the size of your head. The food is fun, filling and great to eat with a big group. That huge menu ensures return visits to try it all as well – I’ve eaten at Taj’s at least twenty times and have only made my way through half of that wall of sweets.

Where
91 Wigram St, Harris Park

When
Open 7 days, 10am-10pm

How much
A little more expensive then an Indian kebab

We review a bunch of gross craft beers

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Did anyone else spend a majority of 2014 on their knees, holding their fists in the air and cursing craft beer as loudly as possible? The shit is everywhere, the wet dream of thousands of beardos who made it their mission to make the most refreshing and easy to drink beverage in the world as unrefreshing and hard to drink as possible.

Apparently people love it, there’s about five craft beer events happening in Sydney every hour and your local pub now exclusively has beers named after random words like ‘Rusty Hop Barnacle Moose’ on tap.

About six months ago I was sent a six pack of various beers that people who are into steampunk would enjoy by a company called Hops & Craft, who run a subscription service that sends you six random craft beers every few months. The six pack sat on my desk, gathering dust until late last week, when I decided to put together a crack panel of beer drinkers (aka everyone working at Two Thousand / Golden Age Cinema who could knock off at 4pm) to review five of these nutty beers.

The panel consisted of:

Name: Hahna
Do you like craft beer? Normally no. But when I’m drunk I’ll drink anything.

Name: Willem
Do you like craft beer? Is Resch’s craft beer?

Name: Jessa
Do you like craft beer? Yes.

Name: Claire
Do you like craft beer? NO! I will usually avoid drinking it, I like embarrassingly simple beers like VB and Superdry -the latter because it has no preservatives and I’m a sensitive soul who is a bit allergic to preservatives. Not as allergic as I am to whimsy and fedoras though – both of which I associate with craft beer.

Name: Levins
Do you like craft beer? No. The hundreds of un-replied email invites to craft beer events in my inbox can testify.

The five beers to be tasted were:

Dos Blockos Pale Lager
Hopfen Fahrt IPA
3 Ravens Black Stout
Chai Fighter
Zeven Lemon Strawberry Blonde

We took a seat, reached for the bottle opener and started drinking.

BEER #1: Dos Blockos Pale Lager
What the label says: “A leafy flora with a candy shop aroma, sweet to the nostrils. The simple and refreshing taste sits on a low carbonation rounded by a hoppy bite after sipping.”

Claire: Has a distinct old pineapple juice aroma but a surprisingly light finish, this might be okay?
Jessa: I like! Goes down easy. 4 stars.
Levins: Not bad, pretty drinkable. It smelt like it was gonna be a piece of shit, but I reckon this is gonna be the best of the lot. This is the only lager of the bunch too, it’s rare for craft brewers to make lager – it may be easier to drink than an ale but it’s much harder to make.
Hahna: Attracts fruit flies. I see why they like it.
Willem: Not nearly as offensive as the label’s spiel. I would consider drinking this again, assuming it was free.

BEER #2: Hopfen Fahrt IPA
What the label says: This German IPA has come out bursting with fresh stone fruit, mandarin and grassy aromas. The flavour is choc full of spicy resinous hops, and is rounded out by a solid whack of bitterness.

Jessa: Smells musty. Tastes a bit like wet cardboard. 1 star.
Willem: A joke name that isn’t funny. Pungent, yeasty and too viscous for any self respecting beer. The joke is on us for having to drink it.
Levins: This is the worst. Tastes like someone spilt a coffee into a beer and decided “fuck it”. This will be tough to beat as the least drinkable.
Claire: Oh god, smells like blue cheese with quince paste (posh), looks like a cloudy UTI riddled urine sample and has a similar mouthfeel JKZ! Heaps fizzy. Good for standing around in cargo pants while laughing at the word ‘fahrt’.
Hahna: I can’t finish it because everyone’s comments are making me laugh or dry-heave the mouthful back into the cup.

BEER #3: 3 Ravens Black Stout
What the label says: A bold yet hospitable beer, with roasted and chocolate malts to call you in from the cold, sweet Munich and caramel malts to warm you and oatmeal to wrap you in silky comfort.

Willem: The espresso martini of the craft beer world. I can see the boys hitting this after a big night on the Cosmo’s at the annual craft beer disco.
Hahna: Reminds me of a cold cacao drink gone a bit funky in the sun then re-chilled. I prefer my chocolate in a solid form.
Claire: A thousand pardons m’lady, but this tastes like someone added a liberal spoonful of MILO to a beer. One time my dad put ice cubes in a milky MILO and my sister and I cried, similar effect.
Jessa: Chocolatey aroma and taste, so I’m a fan. Couldn’t sit on this all night though, one is enough. Easy drinking for a stout beer. 4 stars.
Levins: Smells like chocolate, tastes like cold coffee that someone put through a sodastream three days ago. Weirdly refreshing I guess? What’s with the coffee/beer combos though? Are craft beer fans too lazy to drink two separate beverages?

BEER #4: Chai Fighter
What the label says: The Chai Fighter is infused with Masala Chai tea sourced from the Berry Tea Shop.

Jessa: Eww. Smells gross. Tastes worse. An insult to Star Wars. 0 stars.
Hahna: Tastes like LIES! I can’t taste the chai! THEY LIE! LIARS!
Levins: Smells like the last thing I want to put in my mouth. Banana peels. These people have clearly never tasted chai before, but even if this tasted like chai it would still be fucked. This is the new worst.
Claire: Very sour on the nose, smells very specifically like raw chicken breast marinating in soy and garlic. It tastes like you have eaten the aforementioned earlier in the day and then burped. The aftertaste lingers and no amount of palate cleansing can erase the feeling that you maybe contracted salmonella from eating raw chicken.
Willem: If this were low carb it would be the official beer of the Bondi Yoga festival. Uniquely unpleasant, it doesn’t deserve to be labelled beer, it also doesn’t deserve to be brewed and bottled.
Bonus review by Kate: Like licking the inside of a Glebe Markets stall-holder’s bum bag. That hadn’t been opened since 2005.

BEER #5: Zeven Lemon Strawberry Blonde
What the label says: Having mastered the perfect balance between beer and cider, Zeven Lemon indeed combines the best of both worlds, adding natural strawberry juice to its brewed malted barley and wheat beer for a refreshing, delicious taste.

Willem: By the time I drink this I’m cursing the craft beer world. What is wrong with these people? It’s like they exist in an isolated, insular community with no interaction with the outside world to expose them to the idea that drinking beer can be a pleasant experience. Upsetting.
Levins: Not really beer, not really good. You can’t even taste the ‘real’ strawberries, if anyone was as stupid to want that in a beer they could just shove a strawberry in the neck and hopefully choke on it.
Hahna: Looks like cheap pink passion pop, tastes worse. Hurts my teeth (weird).
Claire: Burnt raisin toast. A beer perfect for those who prefer their Strawberry Cruiser’s ‘toasted’.
Jessa: It’s like if beer and a diet Vodka Cruiser got mixed together at somebody’s sweet 16th party. Not great. 1 star.

The review was over. We made our way back to our desks as the rest of the office scowled at us for loudly yelling “GROSS!” for a solid half hour. The upside of this experiment: nobody died! Plus, the Dos Blockos was pretty good! Maybe if more small breweries made lagers instead of thick, hoppy ales, the view of craft beer being largely un-drinkable would change?

One out of five ain’t bad right? If you’re a craft beer fan (or even a brewer!), don’t get upset, get in touch! Email us with some recommendations so we can do this again sometime with way less bitchy insults.

DISCLAIMER: Ten minutes after our tasting, Hahna broke out in hives. Please drink craft beer responsibly, if at all.

Where

Most of these beers are available when you sign up for Hops & Craft

REVIEW: Pho An, Bankstown

It’s all in the broth. It doesn’t matter how good the meat is, how well cooked the noodles are or how fresh the holy basil is, if the broth isn’t mind blowing, you’re dealing with a crap bowl of pho. A clear onion soup with some leaves in it.

The meat at Pho An in Bankstown is incredible. Thin, raw and abundant, it’s just one of the supporting actors in a bowl of pho tai. The star of the show is the broth, a rich, hearty and slightly sweet stock that will effectively ruin every other bowl of pho you eat in Sydney.

I love Bankstown and how many great dining options there are. My problem is that as soon as I get there, all I want to do is go to Pho An and smash bowl of pho so large it leaves me crippled and unable to eat for the next week.

I know that it’s not actually called Pho An, but I refuse to call it An Restaurant. It doesn’t feel like a restaurant inside – it feels more like a pub! Noisy, communal, cheap, but no beer. Instead we drink broth. Others have called this the McDonalds of pho joints, which works too – the pho comes out damn fast. You order a bowl and before you can think “oh shit did I accidentally order the one with tripe in it?”, it’s on your table, steaming hot and tripe free. You can order a bowl with tripe in it, or eight other variations including an array of chicken options, but in my fifty visits I’ve only ever had the pho tai. Those variations could well be life changing but my stomach refuses to ever let me find out.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do in this life is share that bowl of pho in the picture up top with someone else. We were in Bankstown for the day and I actually wanted to eat at a few places that weren’t Pho An. You’ll read what they were over the next few weeks, but you won’t pay close attention. You’ll be thinking about pho.

Where
29 Greenfield Pde, Bankstown

When
Mon-Sun, 7am-9pm

How much
$14 a bowl

 

REVIEW: THY Eatery, Bankstown

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

I hate cutlery. Knives and forks especially. A spoon I can live with and chopsticks are cool but nothing beats the high octane thrill of eating an entire meal with your hands. It doesn’t matter how fancy the restaurant is, if they send out any kind of meat on the bone, I’m picking that shit up faster than you can say “worst first date ever”.

There’s a silver bucket of cutlery on every table at Thy Vietnamese Eatery just begging to be ignored. The majority of their menu consists of bite sized Vietnamese specialties, hand picked by the gods of fingerfood. You might put a pair of chopsticks next to your plate so you look sophisticated on Instagram, but that’s all they’re good for.

Banh cuon is Thy’s signature dish. Freshly steamed rice pastry, rolled loosely around minced pork and chopped mushrooms. On the side there’s thick slices of Vietnamese ham, a pale processed meat with a sponginess that goes well with the wet rice pastry, broken into pieces with your hands and stuffed into your mouth after a brief dip into the sauce bowl.

Banh beo aren’t as messy to eat but after the banh cuon most of your arms are already covered in rice noodles and bean sprouts so you yell “fuck it” and try to pick up these cute little rice cakes with your elbows. The banh beo are topped with dried prawns, shallots and fried croutons, eight on your plate beside some more of that pale spongemeat you can use as an edible paddle for your food.

After two plates of ratchet hors-d’oeuvres, the main course is a banh xeo the size of a one year old, a bright yellow pancake, fried until crispy and filled with prawns, pork and bean sprouts. What it lacks in the satisfying crack of the banh xeo served at Que Huong in Cabramatta, Thy makes up for in sheer size. Tear into that metre long pancake (which is unfortunately filled mostly with bean sprouts), wrap it in herbs and lettuce, drown it in fish sauce and spill it all over your face while you flip off the cutlery bucket.

Your hands will stink for a good week after a meal here, but they’ll stink of victory. Victory over knives and forks.

Where
1/324 Chapel Rd South, Bankstown

When
Mon-Thu 9am-7pm, Fri-Sun 9am-9pm

How much
From $11

REVIEW: Que Huong, Cabramatta

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Everyone’s got a dark little secret. Something embarrassing from their past that they’re not quick to admit around new people, out of fear of being mocked. But not all people are afraid of revealing dorky glimpses into their past. Some of us are even comfortable doing it just to begin a restaurant review in an mildly amusing way.

Five years ago I went on a holiday to Vietnam just because of a five minute clip from an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I didn’t even have to see the full episode before I was throwing my money at a Flight Centre clerk. The clip was of Bourdain in Ho Chi Minh City, being taken out to breakfast for a dish I’d never heard of – banh xeo.

It was a big yellow crepe filled with prawns and pork that cracked gloriously when struck with a spoon. Broken into pieces, Bourdain then scooped the crepe bits into lettuce and herbs, dipped it in sauce and shovelled it into his mouth, muttering some classic Bourdain-ism about heroin or something.

Three months and three thousand dollars later I was at that same spot, shovelling crepes and making heroin jokes. It (and the subsequent Vietnamese holiday that followed my crepe breakfast) was worth every penny, but upon returning to Sydney I learnt that I could’ve saved a few grand by going to Cabramatta instead, where Que Huong serves a banh xeo that’s almost as good as Bourdain’s breakfast spot.

Banh xeo pops up on a few Vietnamese restaurant menus around Sydney, and too often it’s a soggy mess. Que Huong keeps things crunchy, even after a prolonged swim in the spicy fish sauce. Make sure you get a plate of banh khot, cute little deep fried cakes with a school prawn sitting proudly on top. Like banh xeo, the cakes are eaten with herbs and lettuce, but their insides are gooey and coconutty!

Pull up a seat out the front of Que Huong and ponder why the inside of the restaurant is filled with Cabra locals eating steak and chips. Then watch the most recent episode of Vietnam’s So You Think You Can Dance as it blares out of the TV at the bootleg DVD store across the road. Then say something profound about heroin.

Where
16/70 John St, Cabramatta

When
Mon-Sat, 11am-8pm

How much
Banh xeo $15
Banh khot $11