I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about
Published May 20th 2017
'Pha'-bulous Modern Spin on Vietnamese Cuisine
When an area is known as a mecca for dining out and foodies are spoilt for choice, how do you know if a new restaurant is catching on? I always think a good test is to visit on a weeknight and see if the establishment is buzzing when most of its competitors are far from capacity.
Open since January, in the heart of the Darling Street's dining precinct, Balmain's Phamous Kitchen is busy, even on quiet nights and it's enticing locals with exciting new flavours.
Phamous Kitchen leads the diverse international foodie scene in Darling Street, Balmain
Chef Thanh (Thomas) Pham and his wife Kate, have hit on something very special with Phamous Kitchen. Its food genre is 'contemporary Asian' but on delving a little deeper with the friendly hosts, they describe their cuisine as Vietnamese with South-East Asian influences (Thai and Malaysian), fused with the best of modern Western flavours. Quite unexpected and quite a combination. The all-original recipes on the menu at Phamous are phantastic, phabulous and phanomenal!
Favourites from the flavoursome 'Small Bites' menu - Hanoi Rolls and Jade Rolls
I love Asian food but Vietnamese is a favourite for me. I savour its freshness and crisp flavours. I must admit though, that I have fairly set expectations of what dishes will be served, and an image of 'hasty tasty' cafes serving up cheap and cheerful favourites. Like most Asian cuisines, however, what we become used to in Australia is only a version of the original recipes; antipodean adaptations of what we would find on the table if we visited the nation in question. With his new Vietnamese restaurant (and take-away) venture, Thanh Pham takes only the most authentic of ingredients, flavours and cooking styles from Vietnam, bearing in mind the differences between the China-influenced food of the North and the Thai and Cambodian fusion food of the South.
Phamous Kitchen's friendly and knowledgeable team - Kate, Lewis and Daniel
So, if you are expecting what we know as Vietnamese rice paper rolls, you might be surprised and pleasantly delighted to discover a range of 'Small Bites' entrees that are unrecognisable from what you are used to. Using true Vietnamese rice paper, specially flown in from a 'secret' supplier. The Hanoi and Jade Rolls are two of Thanh's best creations, with flavour to the max in the rolls, and the accompanying dipping sauces.
And going back to that whole 'hasty tasty' vibe that is often associated with traditional Asian cafes, Phamous is a cut above, providing a sophisticated dining experience, replete with full licensing, including an excellent range of boutique wines from Fesq & Company . Just ask Kate and her professional team, for their recommendations on the best wine to suit Chef Thanh's latest fusion creation. For main course, we sampled what is sure to become Phamous' 'signature' sharing dish – the Pork Crispy Pancake, teamed with Five Bells' Pinot Noir. A perfect match for what is a very unusual mix of ingredients, that work far better as a fusion combination than you can ever imagine. With this dish, Thanh has created a flavour explosion blend of sweet and sour, with such key ingredients as pulled pork, goats cheese, sauerkraut and coconut.
Guilt-free, fresh and light, Mango Oasis is a perfect dessert to share with your date
And at this point, I should probably let you in on the real secret of Phamous' success. A considerable amount of the menu has options for gluten free, dairy free and vegan. I even revelled in a guilt-free, sans sugar, gluten and dairy sharing dessert (Mango Oasis), courtesy of Phamous' dedicated sweets chef. With such a proliferation of health and dietary requirements amongst an increasingly sophisticated dining audience, it's the restaurants that cater widely, yet maintain a brilliant mix of flavours, that will attract the most diverse and loyal of crowds. Phamous Kitchen proves this in spades.