Alex 'N' Rolls
Alex ‘N’ Rolls serves incredibly meaty banh mi. It’s layered with hunks of pork belly that are sticky and bronzed from being braised for four hours in a slightly sweet Chinese-style soy-based sauce. It’s dense, warm and comes with the knowledge that you won’t need to eat again for hours.
And that’s exactly how Phu Cuong Nguyen and Minh Anh Ho want it. The duo met more than 10 years ago at an Australian grape farm where they were working as pickers. Ho had plans to open her own restaurant in Sydney (she’d come to Australia from Vietnam to study hospitality) but needed experience. The two spent the next decade working in banh mi shops across the city, before opening Alex ‘N’ Rolls in 2019.
Their banh mi begins like others: with pate, mayo, lettuce, pickled carrot, radish, cucumber, onion and coriander. But that’s where the comparisons stop. Rather than the usual luncheon meats (which almost all banh mi shops purchase from big Vietnamese suppliers), Alex ‘N’ Rolls prepares all its meat in-house each morning at 3am.
As well as the pork belly, there’s bronzed, juicy roast pork and barbeque chicken that gets shredded into hunks. It’s all kept in a hot station, so each banh mi sold is packed with hot meat. A Vietnamese baker supplies bread rolls that are doughy, dense and have a medium crunch.
Many of Alex ‘N’ Rolls’s Vietnamese customers liken the experience to Bánh Mì Phượng, a wildly popular banh mi shop in Hội An, Vietnam – one that Anthony Bourdain described as the best on planet Earth.