It’s no secret that some of Perth’s truest Vietnamese eats are found in the bánh mì triangle that connects Girrawheen, Marangaroo and Mirrabooka. The city also has its hot spots of Indochine food activity, in particular, towards the top of William Street and along Brisbane Street in Northbridge. Wembley is the latest – and perhaps most unlikely – member to join this exclusive club, thanks to the opening of Yellow Pancake on Grantham Street.
The name of the two-week-old cafe is a nod to Vietnam’s famous rice flour and turmeric crepe. While the dish is known as bánh xeo in Vietnamese, Hayley Tang grew up calling the dish the “yellow pancake”. Not only has that childhood memory given her a memorable restaurant name, it’s also informed the room’s aesthetic – everything from coffee cups to pot plants is bright, canary yellow.
While Tang greets customers with a welcoming smile in the front of house, her brother Sinh runs the kitchen. When compared to the menus of other Vietnamese establishments, the single A5 carte might seem small, but its hit-rate is high.
There’s a crispness and lightness to the restaurant’s namesake, the bánh xeo. A tangle of pickled carrots adds a welcomed sharpness to the accompanying nuoc mum (Vietnam’s ubiquitous dipping sauce made of fish sauce, chilli and sugar). Packed into golden, dense baguettes, the bánh mì are among the city’s more composed examples of the popular pork roll.
Noodles are another strength. Based on a family recipe, the high-definition bun bo hue is a fine example of central Vietnam’s famous lemongrass noodle soup. The broth in the pho, meanwhile, hums with rich pork and beef notes. All bowls are served with add-it-yourself condiments including fierce red chilli, lemon, bean sprouts, mint and Vietnamese coriander. The more out-there likes of fish mint and laksa leaf are available on request. (Don’t feel bad if you find the taste of these unappealing: I know plenty of Vietnamese eaters that care little for their pungent flavour while their appeal is also lost on me).
Granted, dishes might cost a few bucks more than the version served at your favourite Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall, but a focus on good cooking – the meat is free-range and stocks are cooked low and slow overnight – helps put prices in perspective.
“We’re not fast food,” says Sinh. “We’re cooking with heart and doing everything properly.”
Starting next week, breakfast will also be offered. Expect bánh mì and cakes and pastries supplied by bakers around town.
38A Grantham Street, Wembley
(08) 9387 1702
Tue-Sun 7am-2pm; 5pm-8.30pm