Sense of humour is a very subjective thing. Some people like intellectual jokes, some people like low brow toilet humour…and some people, like Mama’s Buoi, are like me:
I love a good pun.
With two restaurants located in Surry Hills and Crows Nest, Mama’s Buoi is serving up classic Vietnamese family favourites, with the owner’s mother providing inspiration and recipes. The menu isn’t the shortest, but gives you ample options if you, like me, have a bit of the ol’ food ADD.
Small share plates
Chicken ribs, $10
Seasoned with 5 spice and a chilli lime glaze
Banh Cuon, $13
Rice noodle stuffed with pork, mushroom and fried shallots
Mama’s Boy’s Buoi
Crispy soft shell crab, served on a papaya and pomelo salad (House special, seasonal), $20
Morning glory with garlic and chilli, $16
Stew of beef spare ribs, $16
Banana and sago in a warm coconut cream, $9
I think that I can confidently say that everything that I ordered that afternoon, I’d order again in a heartbeat.
Some things were more memorable than others: the Mama’s Boy Buoi (the pun is strong with this one) was a refreshing papaya and pomelo salad, accented with crispy soft shell crab. If you’re more familiar with the Thai Som Dtum, this would the a milder, sweeter, fresher Vietnamese counterpart. Very moreish, and very summery.
The Chicken Ribs and Banh Cuon are also excellent light options. Chicken ribs are like the new wings to me – crispy little morsels that you eat off teeny bones with your hands are glazed with a sweet and spicy glaze that will have you licking your fingers at the end. Here, they aren’t quite as good as the amazing ones I had at Thai Culinary in Melbourne, but they’re pretty darned close.
The Banh Cuon is Vietnamese version of my childhood favourite rice noodle rolls – filled with pork and mushroom and dressed in a sweet tangy nuoc Cham dressing, these bring a certain lightness to what could be an otherwise stodgy comfort food.
If you prefer your veggies cooked, try the Rau Muong. Morning glory leaves are wilted, much like spinach, and stir fried with a chilli paste. Homely, and a perfect accompaniment to rice. And authentic, too. I distinctly remember similar dishes to this growing up in the region, just with various different greens, like sweet potato leaves and water spinach. A very scrumptious way to get your 5-a-day. ?
The Bo Kho is a rich stew of tender beef ribs that, while comforting and delicious, doesn’t hit as many high notes as the lighter options on the menu, probably because of the warm weather. Perhaps I’ll revisit this in winter, but until then, I’m sticking to the fresher dishes.
On the sweet side, the Che Chuoi also toes the line between being heavy and stodgy, and being incredibly comforting. It was sweet, thick, creamy, and rich with stewed bananas. Eats like an angel, weighs like a bag of coins in your stomach.
You have been warned.
I’m not sure I can comment much about the service because we were invited guests, but from what I could observe from the other tables, they were incredibly accommodating and knowledgeable: having first hand experience with all the dishes on the menu.
Definitely a team that I would trust to ask, “what would you recommend?”
Value for money:
This restaurant definitely falls into ‘Asian Restaurant pricing’ for me, where the menu is meant to be enjoyed in groups. If you went by yourself, you’d probably be looking at about $30 a visit, assuming that you order a meat, a veg and rice to create a balanced meal. Sure, you’d have some leftover to take home, but it’s still a commitment that you’d have to make.
But, if you were to, say, share that with just one other person, the commitment drops to just $15 a visit. The spend per head drops significantly with a larger group, and of course, value for money goes up.
Need more convincing to go in a group? Then you get to try a little bit of everything across the board!
That’s always a winner ?
I don’t know about the one in Surry Hills, but the Crows Nest restaurant has a really nice, relaxed vibe, with plenty of covered outdoor seating for you to enjoy the long summer days. The tables and chairs are organically – but artfully! – worn, adding to the homely feeling, without losing the professional edge.
I especially like how this carries on to the decoration of the menu – old family photos accent a few pages, like a mother showing off her brag book to a few guests. Coupled with the occasional pun, and classily plated food, Mama’s Buoi certainly has a deliberate vibe that they’re aiming for, and I really like the level of commitment!
Points for sticking to the schtick. ??
If you were looking for something nice to have in a group in Crows Nest, then Mama’s Buoi is for you. I’m not sure that I would necessarily make a dedicated trip there for just myself, but with the variety and relaxed environment, it’s a great group option, especially since the value for money goes up the more people you dine with.
Just make sure that you get people who also love sharing food. No Joey Tribbianis allowed! ?