Melbourne’s Vietnamese dining scene continues to evolve in the hands of Jerry Mai – the chef behind casual street-food spot Pho Nom and the more refined Annam – with the launch of Bia Hoi, a vibrant beer hall in Glen Waverley specialising in Vietnamese barbeque.
In the side streets of Hanoi or Saigon you’ll find little stalls grilling marinated pork or seafood over smoky charcoal, and not far away there’ll almost always be a bia hơi joint serving fresh draught beer from kegs. Locals and travellers alike grab a stool and settle into the communal space for a quick snack or a long (sometimes rowdy) night.
Half of the restaurant is for drinking; there’s an island bar pouring draught from Burnley Brewing, Two Birds and Bia Hoi Lager, which has a light, crisp and clean flavour and is available in a cylindrical three-litre beer “tower” you take to the table and pour yourself. Cocktails include the Fire Fly, a Margarita-like concoction made from chilli-infused tequila, cucumber, lime and salt, and the Uncle, a powerful hit of rum and amaretto with a touch of bitter chocolate. Wine is mostly Australian, with one French and one Spanish rosé, and there’s a short list of sake and soju, the latter available in watermelon, peach or lychee flavours.
Small plates are perfect for snacking. Try the puffed pork crackling with green chilli salt, and the crispy chicken skin with garlic and chilli. JFC, or Jerry Fried Chicken, is fried chicken ribs with your choice of fish-sauce caramel or a fiery chilli sauce. There’s also banh xeo, a turmeric-spiced pancake wrapped around prawns, sliced pork and bean shoots with fresh coriander on the side.
A number of tables are kitted out with a built-in hotplate and overhead exhaust ready for DIY-style Vietnamese barbeque. Meat options include beef rib marinated in yellow bean, chilli paste and garlic; A5-grade Wagyu sirloin; and beef skewers. Mixed lettuce, mint, pickled carrot, rice vermicelli and rice paper come on the side so you can make your own rice paper rolls.