For Marten Chu, making fresh and authentic Vietnamese food is second nature. He grew up perfecting traditional dishes at his auntie's Box Hill restaurant, Indochine, and is the brother of Nahji Chu, founder of the popular Misschu chain.
Fumanchu is Chu’s latest venture and is a concept that he believes his neighbourhood, a quiet pocket of Preston that borders Thornbury, has been waiting for. The restaurant is spacious, family-friendly and open from breakfast until dinner. Chu designed much of the interior himself and, being a local, was aware of the need for plenty of floor space to accommodate prams and big communal tables to seat families and birthday dinners.
With Melbourne seeing an influx of Vietnamese-inspired restaurants and cafes of late, the team at Fumanchu were happy to see the surge but concerned that the primary flavours essential to Vietnamese food were at risk of being neglected. "We want to keep it traditional," says Chu. "There is a bit of fusion but not so much where it destroys the integrity of the food."
To stay true to the ingredient base Chu grew up with, classic dishes like pho and vermicelli noodles are topped simply with bean shoots, fresh Asian herbs and nuoc cham to pour over the lemongrass chicken or beef. That said, Fumanchu is not afraid to stray, especially when a confident dish can bring unique flavours and a real experience to the table. As a result, their large breakfasts are textured with quirky ingredients like enoki mushrooms, Japanese tofu, quail eggs and wasabi mayo.
For the moment, the spice and zest of their dishes is soothed with a cup of single-origin Dukes or a semi-sweet Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk. Soon to come are a select handful of Asian beers and classic, clean cocktails with a sprig of the herbs, lemongrass or Thai basil used in the kitchen. Simple jugs and drinks will be a continuation of the flavours that are consistent throughout the menu.
Each component used is aromatic, straight from the market and ready to breathe new life into an otherwise quiet strip – save for neighbours Pearl Oyster – in the inner north. The large indoor space makes Fumanchu a good pick for dining all year round.
2 Gilbert Road, Preston
(03) 9484 8686
Tue to Sun 8am–9.30pm/10pm