Not So Fishy Business
Claim to fame: Modern Australian meets modern Vietnamese on a hip footing
Reason to go: Lightness of touch, elegance of gesture
To look out for: Sensational Southeast Asian seafood
The lime leaf in the lemon soda is a dead giveaway: Anchovy is by no means your regular Vietnamese restaurant, even though it’s located in Richmond, a hub of Vietnamese dining not simply for Melbourne, but for the entire southern hemisphere, the more densely packed of its high streets crammed with pho shops, noodle bars and grocery stores doing a cracking trade in sugarcane, condensed milk and duck eggs.
Way before the refreshments, Anchovy tips its hand. There’s the name, for one thing. And the fact that the walls aren’t plastered with specials. Instead it’s a minimal sort of space, decorated sparely with dangling filament bulbs and striking flower arrangements.
Co-owner and chef Thi Le, who has worked with such local luminaries as Andrew McConnell and Christine Manfield, doesn’t say the food is Vietnamese exactly. The official billing is “Modern Asian. Modern Australian. A little bit in between.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s a cuisine marked by a feeling of lightness and freshness achieved with no loss of flavor or impact.
Le’s signature Vietnamese blood pudding, eaten wrapped in a leaf of cosberg lettuce, with Vietnamese mint, rice-paddy herb and pickled-ginger dressing is a mere two bites, it’s nonetheless a rousing chorus of acid, crunch, creaminess, spice and brilliance.
She calls on Kachin tradition for the salsa that brightens lamb tartare, renders pork rinds elegant with a dusting of bay-leaf salt, and spices the briny wallop of Pacific oysters with Kampot pepper. Something richer? Lather roasted Moreton Bay bug with fish-sauce butter and watch the sweet crustacean sing. A one-bite wonder? Try the whipped salted mackerel, dolloped on a sweet-potato cracker with a sliver of cucumber.
Want to see the evolution of savvy contemporary Southeast Asian cooking? Anchovy is where it’s at.