It’s a Family Affair at Thy Thy Counter & Canteen – The Next Generation of Richmond’s Beloved Vietnamese Restaurant

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When Trang Le and Van Ho arrived in Melbourne as refugees from the Vietnam War, they started working at the Toyota factory. Le would invite his colleagues over and cook for them. Colleagues loved the food and suggested she open a restaurant, which she did.

In 1980 Le and Ho opened Thy Thy 1, named after their eldest daughter, at 114 Victoria Street, Richmond. Then came Thy Thy 2 at number 116. Then they bought the building on the corner of Victoria and Shelley streets in 1989 and opened Tho Tho, for their son Thomas.

The pair sold the business in 2016 to retire and slow down. They left to travel to Vietnam with Thomas for four years. “They really hated retirement after working for so many years,” said Thuy Lu, her younger sister. Large format. “Mom was looking forward to returning and was inspired by her travels.” They still owned the Tho Tho building and the space was free by chance, so they brought the whole family together at Thy Thy Counter & Canteen, which reopened in late 2021.

Le is in the kitchen with Thy, Lu takes care of the reception and a team of cousins ​​and nephews serve the tables and take care of the bar. When asked what his father’s role is, Lu replies, “He’s the vibe; dad likes to receive, it’s his thing. He loves to walk around and talk to all the guests.

Originally, Le’s cooking centered on southern Vietnamese cuisine, but since his travels in northern Vietnam, some northern dishes are also on the menu, such as bun cha Hanoi (pork dumplings in broth tangy with rice noodles). The started with a very traditional menu but adapted it as Tho Tho regulars came in asking for their favourites.

If you’ve never been there, Lu likes to ask about diners’ preferences, but often suggests family favorites. His favorite dish is bo Wagyu luc lac, a salad of Wagyu beef with grated apples, roasted brown rice and lots of fresh herbs. It’s a little sweet and a little salty – perfect for a sunny day with a glass of wine.

Banh Hoi bo la lot is another favourite, and it involves making a DIY wrap of lettuce leaves, herbs, rice vermicelli cake, and juicy grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf. You dip it in the anchovy and pineapple vinaigrette and enjoy the salty taste of the sauce against the smoked beef and the freshness of the lettuce and herbs. “You have to eat it with your hands,” Lu said. “That’s how we eat it.”

The restaurant will also be offering a $12 special with stir-fry and rice, reminiscent of the old days. “Mom started this a long time ago. The other traders were not happy and told her that she would never make that much money, but she always had a queue for her lunch specials,” says Lu. iced Vietnamese coffee, beer from Southeast Asia or wine from Australia, New Zealand and France.

The new layout is a mix of retro and modern. Rust-colored banquette seats line the far wall flanked by a series of dark stained wooden poles by Melbourne sculptor Bruce Armstrong, who is a friend of the family. The walls and ceiling are painted bright red and blue, and there’s a woven pattern on the tables and menus representing the weaving of two generations. A counter runs the length of the forward window for more casual canteen-style dining, and the center section offers spacious dining and reception space.

While much of the layout from the Tho Tho era has changed, the gleaming white vaulted ceiling above the bar will still remain. “My dad loves it so much and no one is allowed to touch it because he’s afraid they can’t recreate that shine,” Lu says.

The sisters relish the revival of the family restaurant. Growing up in family restaurants and serving on tables from a young age, this latest iteration feels right.

“We all came together to rebuild this,” Lu says. “It’s nice to be with family; it’s fun to all work together.

Your Your Counter & Canteen

60–66 Victoria Street, Richmond

(03) 9421 1331

Hours

Wednesday to Monday 11 a.m. to late

thythy.com.au
@thythy.melbourne

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