Miss Van’s started in 2015, inside a shipping container, where founder Andrew Duong served Vietnamese takeaway inspired by meals from his childhood. It’s come a long way since, and is now in a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Canberra’s city centre. While it still has the staple banh mi on the lunch menu, its food and personality have evolved to make Miss Van’s a higher-end, modern Vietnamese restaurant that takes inspiration from around Southeast Asia.
The menu lends itself to sharing. Favourites include house-made Lao sausage, served with pungent jaew bong chilli sauce on charred cabbage; barbeque cabbage skewers with Vietnamese sate sauce; and cauliflower and coconut curry. The dessert is a spin on Vietnamese iced coffee, with Vietnamese coffee ganache, house-made condensed-milk ice-cream, puffed wild rice and toasted rice powder.
The drinks list holds its own too, with a blend of traditional European and Australian drops, plus a selection of natural wines. Cocktails are seasonal with a no-waste approach. The team ferment end-of-season peaches and fennel fronds to make syrups that form the base of a cocktail or non-alcoholic soda.
It’s hard to ignore the influence of Duong’s family in this restaurant, which is named after his mum, Van. The coasters feature playful illustrations of his nan, Muoi, cheekily posing with his pugs. Meanwhile, the Maggi seasoning that goes into the umami butter is a nod to Duong’s sister, who he says would eat only Maggi-seasoned bread and butter for much of her childhood.
The fit-out has a French-Vietnamese flavour, from the blond timber windows and banquet seating to the patterned gates on the bar, reminiscent of the streets of Vietnam.
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