Despite being a part owner of 20 Vietnamese restaurants, Tin Ly couldn’t get his favourite dish anywhere but home. “Caramelised pork belly hot-pot,” he explains. “I’ve never come across a restaurant where you can buy that dish, but it is my absolute favourite.”
So, together with his partners from Roll’d – Ray Esquieres, Bao and Angela Hoang – and fourth partner and General Manager Quintin Mansell, Ly is welcoming people to Mama’s Buoi, their take on home-cooked Vietnamese cuisine. “It’s not your typical pho noodle soups and broken rice,” he says. “We’ve gone for things that you can’t readily go out and buy in your local restaurant. You’ll really only find them in your Vietnamese mate’s home.”
Opening on Postal Lane behind H&M in Melbourne’s GPO, this first entry in a new restaurant chain is studiously casual. Chipped paint, festoon lights and mismatched school chairs make for a comfortable take on someone’s courtyard. Ly explains the fit-out was put together by his cousin, Angela Hoang, with designer Matt John.
While the familiar bùn salads and gòi cuón rice paper rolls are on offer, fusion-food is recommended: fried chicken with fish sauce and ginger; Wagyu sirloin with green papaya; and taro doughnuts. Along with a range of Vietnamese, Thai, Laotian and local beers, there’s a dedicated cocktail menu.
While Roll’d has exploded nationally, Ly reckons the Mama’s Buoi roll-out will be a little more reserved. A Surry Hills store is opening in Sydney in a matter of weeks, followed by Crows Nest. “We don’t want to tarnish the name by having it everywhere around town,” he says. “We’re thinking probably 10 nationally, then stop there. We wouldn’t want to have more than one CBD Mama’s Buoi.”
Postal Lane (near corner of Little Bourke and Elizabeth Streets), Melbourne
(03) 9671 3426