In Vietnamese, Sô 9 translates to ‘number nine’. Thought to be a lucky number, nine symbolises eternity and fulfillment. Nine also happens to be the lucky number for Kim and Ngan Tran’s dad and was the perfect name for their restaurant, which would pay homage to their parents’ journey from Vietnam to Australia.
Opening in early 2016, the restaurant is a project from the Tran sisters and their husbands, Thanh Vo and Billy Ha. Kim has a background in the fashion industry and wanted the design to challenge the idea of a stereotypical Vietnamese restaurant. She set out to bring the street-food vibe from traditional Vietnamese markets into a modern environment, while showcasing the theatre of cooking.
To bring this vision to life, Kim enlisted the help of Melbourne design company, BrandWorks, and the result feels like you’ve stepped inside a hip Scandinavian cafe. The converted warehouse is coloured with light pastels and gold trinkets, geometric lines and wooden booths. Everything is Australian designed and represents a fusion between the owners’ Vietnamese roots and their Australian upbringing.
Staying true to their underlying ethos, recipes have been handed down through generations and Head Chef, Hien Pham, modernises these dishes in some way. Hien is well equipped to do so, with more than 20 years’ experience cooking Vietnamese cuisine in various establishments across Sydney.
The hawker-style feel creates an interactive dining experience, allowing you to see and smell the food just like you would at a market. The U-shaped space provides four open-plan stations, each cooking a different speciality: salads and rice paper rolls, banh xeo, noodle soup, and a street-side banh mi window for easy takeaway.
The Salad, Roll & Banh Station offers rice paper rolls with fillings from sugarcane prawns to roast duck, and salads such as the green papaya with dried beef. Traditional bún (vermicelli) salads are topped with a variety of meats including grilled betel leaf beef. The banh xeo is a crispy Vietnamese pancake – made with specially ordered pans from Vietnam – and you can choose between prawn and pork, seafood or classic vegetarian.
The Bun & Pho station serves up everyone’s favourite pho in a range of flavours while the rice menu will make you rethink this simple side, where caramelised pork belly, egg and pickled mustard greens are tossed with steamed rice.
For a delicious lunch on the go, head to the Banh Mi station out front. A crispy baguette is layered with pate, mayo, homemade pickles and your choice of meat.
Quench your thirst with a fruit slushie, crushed with combinations of coconut, lychee, pineapple, guava and lime. Don’t be shy to add a tipple of vodka or white rum if you’re feeling a bit cheeky, or opt for a Vietnamese beer. If you’re in need of a mid-morning pick-me-up, you can’t go past the Vietnamese iced coffee, made with condensed milk for added sweetness.
Traditional Vietnamese fare is combined with impeccable design at Sô 9, bringing together the owners’ heritage and the restaurant’s urban context to create a special dining experience – you will leave feeling very lucky indeed.