If you’ve ever bitten into a crispy chicken banh mi from Pho Nom, you’ll know Jerry Mai is a flat-out, Benedict Cumberbatch-level genius (she can do things with Sriracha mayo you never thought possible).
But her latest venture is something a little different on the Melbourne restaurant scene: high-end Vietnamese. That means no banh mi, no pho and no bun cha (the horror!) We’ve been waiting for months, and it’s finally here. Welcome to freakin’ Annam.
You’ll find Annam tucked under the Secret Kitchen building on Little Bourke St, just down from the Shark Fin Inn. The décor says restaurant, not noodle bar, but there’s still the playful colour-pop branding we’ve come to love at Pho Nom. Red plastic chopsticks on the tables, polished concrete on the floors, matt black chairs and mod-timber detailing, a canopy of Edison bulbs overhead—it’s a slick, contemporary space. Forget the white table cloths.
Start with a cocktail, designed by Mai’s business partner, Rani Doyle (the loveable legend from The National Hotel). Maybe a Passion Maker: Makers Mark, Amaro Montenegro, lemon, passionfruit, Martell Vsop and a swig of apple juice. Or the Annam Iced Coffee (our personal fav): a creamy mix of Wyborowa vodka, viet coffee, chocolate bitters and coconut condensed milk. Absolutely nuts.
The menu picks up flavours from Vietnam’s checkered culinary history. Delicate pork & prawn siu mai from China. An insane spices Wagyu tartare, served with roasted marrow and Chinese doughnuts. Little sprinkles of Laos, Cambodia, even Japan. If you try one thing, make it the Hot Pot Glass Noodles: a steaming bowl of jelly-soft noodles, topped with Asian celery and King Prawns the size of your fist. It’s like eating a big, warm hug.
Oh, and save room for dessert—there's a waffle-coated fried ice-cream on there, drizzled in salted caramel, that will change your perspective on life. Best thing we've eaten all year.
It’s early days, but Annam set to take its place alongside other CBD greats like Chin Chin, Supernormal and Izakaya Den. With Jerry the Banh Mi Queen at the helm, anything’s possible.
Pro tip: keep an eye out for Annam's new Office Rice lunch sessions. You can get a rotating rice bowl special for just $18.
Image credit: Griffin Simm