Zero hospitality experience.
Three insanely successful venues.
The secret recipe? A dash of family competition, passion for good food, and a whole lot of heart.
Meet Viet and Michael. Food runs in their family. An architect and a self-taught chef with no professional training, the boys behind Banoi are the third-generation of a Vietnamese-Australian family that lives and breathes good food. Viet Nguyen– the creative mind responsible for designing the playful venue fit outs– explains, their family has a very open-minded approach towards food, from a young age we were exposed to a very competitive and strong attitude towards cooking. Rather than cooking and eating the same traditional dishes time and time again, their parents, uncles, and aunties were always looking for new ways to invent old recipes; family events became exhibitions of traditional recipes with a twist.
The culinary and creative inspiration for Banoi is the late-matriarch of their family, Grandma Bon Thi Nguyen, who ran one of the first Vietnamese shops in the Little Saigon Market in Footscray back in the late 80s. Their Grandmothers passing saw the re-gathering of many family members whichreignited the old habit of collaborating and competing to produce delicious dishes based on recipes passed down from their grandmother. Having recently been bitten by the hospitality bug after launching NSHRY in Albert Park, Viet and Michael were inspired to open a high-quality Vietnamese restaurant in their grandmothers memory.
The result is Banoi, which translates to grandma in Vietnamese. If you look closely, youll notice the subtle theme of the grandmother-grandchild relationship in every element. The decor of the venue is youthful– with elements of old and new highlighting its multi-generational history. Aged recycled timber is arranged in a jigsaw-like pattern while stools are reminiscent of primary school art class. On the walls, traditional art calligraphy is placed over urban style backdrops and colorful paintings of a grandma pig and her piglets create a playful and warm atmosphere.
While Viet curated the fit out, Michael championed business in the kitchen. His approach was simple: serve the same food his family made at home, a cuisine that can only be described as traditionally Vietnamese, yet authentically Melbourne. Although there are a ton of Vietnamese options in Melbourne, Banoi serves food that cant be found anywhere else. The Cau Lau Noodles, for example, are based on a dish that can only be found in the tiny Vietnamese village of Hoi An. In the village, only one family knows the secret recipe of water and ash required to make the thick buckwheat noodles. For that reason, the dish cant be replicated exactly but Banoi makes a version with udon-like noodles, sliced sticky soy-glazed pork loin, prawns, Vietnamese croutons, grilled green chilli, fresh Asian greens, bean sprouts, and a garlic soy lime dressing. The result is as delicious as it is beautiful.
Another feature favorite at Banoi is the Beef Pho. Theres definitely no shortage of pho in Melbourne but again Banoi breaks the mold by serving home-style pho rather than shop-style. The difference is a positive surprise to most customers; the heavy beef aromatics and smoky, rich flavor create such a comforting and delicious noodle soup, youll be reminded of the comfort food your grandmother used to make.
If you think this crew is slowing down for a moment, youd be dead wrong. The expansion and experimentation continues with some exciting new prospects for 2017. Theyve just recently opened a food truck called Mr. Chow. Along with their massive catering business, Viet says the food trucks have been very popular so far and a perfect breeding ground for new ideas. Theyve been changing the menu up every week and playing quite a bit with fusing South American sauces and spices into their Asian cuisine. The duo also hope to launch some express stores and open a central city location next year.
CBD: 530 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000 |(03) 9642 7398
Docklands: 807 Bourke St, Docklands VIC 3008 | (03) 8080 9699