There are lots of low-key Vietnamese restaurants that look pretty similar – leafy-green branding (either that or red and black), plastic seats and delicious, traditional food. It’s immediately obvious when a new restaurant arrives that subverts that type – Miss Chu, Red Lantern on Riley, Ms. G’s all had a big impact when they opened. Số9 is the next one to join the wave, creating some of the most intricate and fresh traditional Vietnamese food in Sydney in a beautifully designed space.
“We wanted to do traditional street food but in a contemporary setting that no one expected,” says Số9’s co-owner, Kim Tran, whose joined in the venture by her sister Ngan Tran and their husbands, Tony Vo and Billy Ha.
The design, by Melbourne’s Brandworks and Tran, who was once a fashion designer, uses the restaurant’s peculiar U shape to form three stations representing each of the restaurant’s specialties. On the street side, Số9 opens up as a Vietnamese tuckshop, doing takeaway rice paper rolls, salads and crunchy bánh mìs thick with mayo, pate, homemade pickles and all the best pork products. Just on the inside there’s a snacking bar attached that overlooks half of Số9’s open kitchen.
The other half of the kitchen, just as candidly visible, faces the restaurant’s middle section. It’s dedicated to noodle soups. This section has a long table and a series of booths. Tran says it was designed to be reminiscent of Vietnamese street stalls. Look out for the bun suong, a popular Vietnamese noodle soup with shrimp sausages and sliced pork that’s strangely rare in Sydney’s despite the strong Vietnamese restaurant scene.
The final wing, the banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake) station, houses the restaurant’s bar. It has open wooden booths and a long bench looking out onto a water-colour-painted wall done by Melbourne artist Beth-Emily Gregory. It’ looks distinctly luxurious, like something out of a casually opulent beachside hotel.
Ngan and Ha have looked after the menu. Particularly impressive are the crisp, wafer-thin banh xeo. Tran says to get the right texture they ordered specially made pans from Vietnam. The textural banh beo also stands out; a beautifully arranged dish of steamed rice cakes topped with pork crackling, ground mung bean and dried shrimp.
For now Số9 is concentrating on banh mi, noodle soups, pancakes, salads and rolls, but in the near future they’re planning to expand the dinner menu with some rice-based dishes. Expect to see Cơm tấm or broken rice with grilled pork and crispy skin chicken.
Shop 1, CASBA, 18 Dank Street, Waterloo
(02) 8542 7137
Tue to Fri 11am–3pm and 5.30–10.30pm
Sat 9.30am–3pm and 5.30pm–10.30pm
Sun 9.30am–3pm and 5.30pm–10pm