In addition to Sydney’s already extensive breakfast-food repertoire, you can now get maple-soaked bacon waffles, Vietnamese chargrilled chicken burgers, grilled watermelon, noodle soups and bo kho. They’re all dishes on the menu at White Taro, the latest cafe to open with influences from South East Asia.
It’s the first venture by a hospitality veteran, Chantel Pham (Last at Deus Ex and Labancz) and her sister, Maria van Husen. “I’ve been around. I mainly cooked Western food since the early ‘90s,” says Pham, who’s background is German and Vietnamese. “I have the best of both worlds. Why don’t I just add some twist to it?”
Alongside coffee from Pablo and Rusty’s and a solid menu of omelettes, crepes and jaffles, there are sprinkles of innovation inspired by Pham’s Vietnamese roots. Where you’d usually find baked eggs there’s a converted bo kho, a savoury Vietnamese stew with pulled beef, chickpeas and eggs. The burger, black bunned and generously stuffed, contains a juicy stack of green mango, papaya and chargrilled chicken that is sticky from a long marination.
Of all the Viet-inspired dishes it’s the deconstructed banh mi that Pham likes most. “You know Vietnamese pork rolls? People just use processed pork and put everything in,” she says. “My vision is to eat a banh mi like a cheese board. You take a bit here a bit here and just enjoy it. If you eat it like a roll it’s boring.” The intricate spread, with hand-churned cumquat butter, kimchi pickled cucumber, pate and slow-roasted pork belly takes the chef almost a week to prepare.
An ex-artist and a perfectionist, Pham meticulously arranges and dresses all her dishes with edible flowers, toasted grains or Vietnamese herbs.
Tasting freedom for the first time, Pham is visibly excited to explore her craft to its edge. In the future she plans to open White Taro at night with experimental Vietnamese fusion. Her eyes sparkle when she tells us that it will be a little fine dining. “Something like Heston. That's what I'm thinking, I want to take it to the next level.”
67 Albion Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9211 0108
Tue to Sun 7am–4pm