When it comes to Vietnamese fare, it seems we’ve all gone a little crazy for Pho. The noodle soup is a crowd pleaser wherever you go, and in Melbourne, it seems the city is drowning in Pho. Mama’s Buoi provides something a little different. Instead of jumping on the pho train, the team behind Roll’d have moved more towards another style of Vietnamese; mama’s home-style cooking.
Tucked away in Postal Lane in Melbourne’s GPO, the quirky space fits right into the city’s trademark lane-way dining scene. From the assorted floral-patterned menus to the neon sign and bright painted wall, Mama’s Buoi is cheerfully cosy. I love the nooks and crannies of the lane-ways and the hole-in-the-wall type places hidden just out of sight, and Mama’s Buoi is no different.
There’s nothing I love more than a punny play on words, and Mama’s Buoi provides just that; more so than I originally thought. Manager Nam Nguyen was kind enough to spend a bit of time taking us through the menu and brief history of the restaurant, and explained that in fact, a ‘Buoi’ is actually a type of grapefruit, perhaps better known as a pomelo.
But enough on puns and pomelos.
To kick off the evening we began with some cocktails, Vietnamese style.
Mama’s Mojito, Pho Cocktail and Miss Saigon
How could I go past the cocktail special recommended to me; a Pho cocktail creation, to indulge the Pho nuts of Melbourne. It sounds odd, and it was; but in a good way. It was unusual but quite refreshing, with a taste similar to chicken pho, according to Nam.
As this was our first Mama’s Buoi experience, we decided to share some entrees and mains to get a good scope of the menu. On Nam’s recommendation, we began with fried chicken ribs seasoned with five spice and a chilli lime glaze. There’s nothing like tasty fried chicken, and these little morsels delivered with a bit of punch to start the evening. Who even knew chicken ribs were large enough to chew on?
We also went for spicy cassava bites served with chilli mayonnaise. Cassava is a root native to South America and makes a common appearance in South Pacific and South East Asian cuisine. Here, it was mashed and then flash fried to create the tasty bite sized pieces with a crispy outside and soft oozing insides.
Another special recommended to us were the duck pancakes ($13). Think pulled duck, fresh cucumber, pineapple and hoisin sauce all wrapped up in a thin pancake envelope.
I would definitely recommend sharing plates to get the full tasting experience. We opted for a hot pot and another meal off the specials board for mains.
The lemongrass chicken is served with Bahn Mi (bread), in a home-style touch. The tasty dish would be a good winter warmer (or just an all year round warmer for that cray cray Melbourne weather, if I’m being honest) and the bread is perfect for soaking up the delicious curry juices.
The main special sounded too tempting to pass up; crispy pork hock with a green mango salad ($23). When the mountain of food made its way over to us, we knew we’d made the right choice. The salad was fresh and juicy, and the pork was fatty and delicious, with crispy crackling pieces adding a bit of crunch.
There is no way you can have a full meal experience without dessert. It’s pretty much guaranteed that if there is something chocolate on the menu, I’ll be having it, so we couldn’t go past the brulee chocolate fudge with mango jelly and fresh berries ($14). It was rich but not overly so, tasting very much like chocolate ganache. Berries are a perfect match to chocolate, helping to break up the richness, however I did find the mango jelly to be an odd sensation.
Banh Ran, or taro doughnuts jumped out at us on the menu. The doughnuts were stuffed with red bean jam and coated in sesame seeds. They were interesting, with a semi-crispy layer of sesame seeds with gooey jammy centres. They weren’t really my cup of tea, but like I said, I’m a chocolate girl so how can anything else compete?
Overall, If I was to describe in one word the food at Mama’s Buoi; it would have to be fresh. Even after our mountains of food, we were full, but not disgustingly so. There is no heaviness of food sitting in your gut, and the zingy flavours are refreshing and satisfying. One of the goals behind Mama’s Buoi, apart from providing home-style food, is to shake people of their pho addictions and open them up to a whole range of other Vietnamese foods.
The Mama’s boys are keeping things old school, honoring Mama’s traditional cooking. The success is apparent, with inter-state expansion.The good news for Sydney-siders is that you don’t have to travel to Melbourne for Mama’s Buoi; there are stores already in Surry Hills and Crows Nest, with a Darlinghurst store soon to be open as well.
And for Melbournians, there is word of a second Melbourne store later in the year in an undisclosed location. They even plan to make moves on Adelaide and Perth, depending on success. Stay tuned!Mama’s Buoi G25 Postal Lane, GPO, Melbourne 3000 Phone: (03) 9671 3426 Website: www.mamasbuoi.com.au
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Mama’s Buoi