There are lots of low-key Vietnamese restaurants that look pretty similar – leafy-green branding (either that, or red and black) and plastic seats. SO9 isn’t one of them.
Owners Kim Tran, sister Ngan Tran and their husbands, Tony Vo and Billy Ha, wanted to do stand out by serving traditional street food in contemporary surrounds. Tran, a former fashion designer, worked with Melbourne’s BrandWorks to use the restaurant’s peculiar U-shape to form three stations. Each one represents each of the restaurant’s specialties.
On the street side, SO9 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 SO9’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. Look out for the bun suong, a popular Vietnamese noodle soup with shrimp sausages and sliced pork that’s strangely rare in Sydney.
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’s luxurious, like something out of a casually opulent beachside hotel.
There’s a basic list of beer and wine available throughout the restaurant.