Opening a little over two weeks ago, Misschu brings the Queen of rice-paper rolls herself to Exhibition Street, giving Melbourne a chance to make up its own mind about the popular Vietnamese tuckshop.
It’s a triumphant return for Nahji Chu, the woman behind the name, who was born in Laos (of Vietnamese parents), but called Melbourne home before heading north.
“I’m a Melbourne girl,” she says when asked about the Misschu expansion. “I opened in Sydney first because I know Melbourne is a tough place to crack and I also really wanted to make a clean break from my network in Melbourne and make it on my own,” she says, referring to the string of Chu-related family businesses that include Via Volaire cafe in Fitzroy and Tien Dat in Box Hill.
Make it on her own she has, with the booming tuckshop being one of only five restaurants invited to open in the new Opera Kitchen (at the Opera House) in December 2010. But will the Sydney success catch on in Melbourne?
“It’s an institution in Sydney,” says Chu with huge energy, “and we hope that it will become an institution here too.”
The Melbourne space is a little more streamlined than the weathered Sydney original, with candy-stripe awnings lining the kitchen view, minimalist blond wood seating and cool green tiles making room for a huge visa-stamped mural. But the focus is on the compact rice-paper roll, dumpling and vermicelli salad menu – a clear reflection of the Sydney tuckshop flavours, despite an issue with green mango supply.
It’s early days, with Chu moving her energetic presence between Sydney and Melbourne, but there’s a sense of excitement surrounding the pocket-sized eatery. It could be the fun of box-ticking tuckshop order forms, but we think it’s got more to do with testing out how well that self-proclaimed ‘queen of rice-paper rolls’ title fits.
Shop 2/297 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
(03) 9077 1097