MELBOURNE | Easy Supermarket on Sydney Road is a place that you might walk straight past, thinking that it’s just a small, independent grocery store. And while it is that, there’s also more to it than meets the eye.
Mai and David Nguyen and their two sons took over the space that was home to Omara Supermarket in September 2019. Not ideal timing given the lockdowns that soon followed, but they managed to keep ticking along selling the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean products that were popular amongst customers of Omara, along with an expanded Asian grocery range, and fresh produce.
The space has a small cafe section to the side. Mai used the kitchen to cook meals for the family and staff, and in May this year, the Nguyen’s decided to start selling bánh mì and phở to the public, with some seats next to the kitchen and at the front of the shop.
Things went pretty well, with word of the tasty home style cooking spreading amongst customers and locals. Then the 2021 round of lockdowns hit. The banh mi and pho continued to be available for take away, and word kept spreading. I noticed the sign at the front mentioning that there was a cafe inside the shop a few months back, and finally got around to trying the food on the weekend.
Consider me very impressed. There are a few different banh mi and phở options on the menu, catering to meat eaters and vegans. For phở, Lauren and I went for the phở tái bò viên (beef phở with rare beef, brisket, and beef meatballs). The small size is a generous serve, with lots of noodles and meat, and the usual accompaniments and condiments. The broth is light and fragrant, with a wonderfully silky mouthfeel.
For bánh mì, it was the heo nướng (grilled pork) that satisfied our craving. Light, airy bread with a nice crunchy exterior, generous filings, and bits of crispy pork crackling dotted throughout for salt, textural contrast. Really good bánh mì.
Not that Lauren and I needed anything else to eat, but when Peter, who bounces between running the register and taking orders, told me that Bún bò Huế, one of my favourite Vietnamese soups, was a recent addition to the menu (not yet on the printed menus), I couldn’t say no. A rich, slightly spicy, velvety broth packed full of flavour, with quality meats.
A few other specials, popular with regular customers, have found their way onto the permanent menu too. Chả giò (fried spring rolls), gà nướng (BBQ chicken), mi Xao (stir-fried noodles), and com chien (fried rice). And of course, there’s Vietnamese coffee, along with espresso-based coffees and soft drink.
With all of the events and big restaurant openings that have been happening since we’ve come out of lockdown, it can be easy to forget about the small, can-do family spots like Easy Supermarket. Places like this are such an important part of dining in Melbourne. They’re an insight into family dishes and home style cooking that you can’t fake or replicate. Peter, Mai, and David, thanks for one of the best brunches I’ve had in a while. I’ll definitely be back.
695 Sydney Road
Telephone: (03) 8616 7900
Mon- Thu: 6:30am to 7:30pm
Fri – Sat: 6:00am to 7:30pm
Sun: 7:00am to 7:00pm