Pho Nom’s Jerry Mai is set to launch her newest venture, Annam Restaurant and Bar, in Melbourne on 2 October. While the new venue will continue to draw on Mai’s Vietnamese roots, the offering will differ from the chef’s current restaurants, offering a broader menu and distinct vibe.
The venue is a culmination of Mai’s cultural and professional background. The menu features flavours inspired by Vietnam’s culinary landscape, including the influence of neighbouring Cambodian and Thai cuisines.
Dishes will include tuna tataki with cumquat nuoc nam and crispy onion; whole grilled Hiramasa Kingfish with rice paper, herb plate and pickled lemongrass nuoc nam; braised goat Somm La curry with pea eggplant, green papaya and roasted rice; and Bo Kho spiced beef ribs with mustard leaf. Charcoal cooking is a central focus of the menu with the charcoal being created in-house in the onsite oven from red gum and fruit trees; allowing the kitchen complete control over flavour. A decadent dessert menu, featuring salted caramel fried ice-cream, is also on the cards.
Co-owner Rani Doyle is behind the drinks offering and has spent the last six months working closely with the kitchen team to develop a drinks list that works seamlessly with the food. Gewürztraminers, pinot gris, gruner veltliners and local rieslings will offset bold spicy and salty flavours, while textural chardonnays, juicy Beaujolais and savoury pinot noirs will stand up well to smoky dishes from the chargrill. A rotating selection of natural wines will be available, as will cocktails that pair South East Asian flavours and ingredients with premium spirits — think Four Pillars gin with nashi, Thai basil and finger lime.
The 100-seat space has been designed by architect Emlyn Olaver with a variety of seating options including large communal tables, intimate banquets and bar stools surrounded by rustic exposed walls that are decked out in a curated collection of reclaimed materials and neon signs. All of Annam’s branding is by local design agency Nourish, including Vietnamese vintage-inspired coasters.
For owners Mai and Doyle, Annam reflects the communal nature of dining in Vietnamese culture.