Urban Bowl’s chef Che Tam Nguyen has a guilty secret: he loves watching fast-food reviews on YouTube. It’s no wonder, then, that his first bricks-and-mortar cafe leverages the quick-sticks model of American fast food culture.
Nguyen, who started up the burger truck Butty’s, now marries convenience food with Vietnamese-inspired flavours. Hefty banh mi baguettes are packed and rolled at lightening speed; crunchy herb chicken and cabbage salads are plastic wrapped for those on the go; and rice-noodle soup is poured steaming into take away cups. That said, you can still grab the paper and eat in.It’s perfect for the CBD locale, where suits rush in, scoff down and rush out.
The fillings aren’t 100 per cent traditional. There’s grilled beef brisket, prepared over 48 hours before it’s sprinkled on pho. There’s pork braised in coconut juice then shoved between bread. Nguyen even does a slow-cooked 62-degree egg for breakfast.
It’s what you’d expect from a guy who’s traditionally trained and has twice competed in the Culinary Olympics. But he hasn’t forgotten his roots – he was inspired to cook while working as a dishy in a Singaporean restaurant – and his prices are nothing less than inclusive.