When Thao and Vien Nguyen took over Can Tho Kitchen from Thao’s mother in 2014, they transformed the Runaway Bay restaurant into a colourful eatery and bar. Its walls told the story of a family’s migration from Vietnam to Australia.
Five years of success further on, the couple have opened a second, far more intimate venue on Commerce Drive, Robina.
Eddy + Wolff (named after the Canberra streets where they lived in postcode #2615) picks up the story from when Thao and Vien first met, continued in a more modern genre, the walls lit with a neon sign: #我喜欢喝啤酒 I love drinking beer, in Chinese. Menus are illustrated with cartoons and Asian language characters, setting the scene for their #yêu love story (in Vietnamese).
The space, formerly a laundromat, is used to the max, with most dining on high chairs hugging the outside of a broken U-shaped bar, all attention focussed on the open kitchen snuggled in at the back. Racks overhead double as storage, and a mirrored ceiling gives us a bird’s eye view of the action. Clever!
In all, the cosy 22-seat venue tucked away from traffic is far more suitable to tell their love story.
“We want to take you way back to where we came from, a time we are most reminiscent of. Yes, we were born in Vietnam but when we are asked the question, ‘Where do you guys come from?’ we say, ‘Canberra!’”
Using their travels through Asia as inspiration, in Eddy + Wolff, Thao and Vien bring us a Pan-Asian food excursion with their own twist.
Travelling opened their eyes to the cuisines of the world in 2014, research for Can Tho leading them on a journey through Asian restaurants in the backstreets of Melbourne and then to Asia itself, bringing back the flavours of Korea, Laos, China, Japan and, of course, their birth land of Vietnam.
It’s those influences we see in Eddy + Wolff, their take of these flavours presented to the Gold Coast in a very chic modern bar setting.
Perched a little uncomfortably on high chairs around the bar, we peruse the menu.
Even at first glance, the possibilities are so enticing that decision-making is difficult …until we spy The Lucky Eight set menu ($40 for lunch and $45 for dinner), two dishes of your choosing from each section of the menu: BBQ, Snacks, A bit bigger and Side dishes.
So we make our choices:
Beef tare, and Pork collar;
Vietnamese-style jumbo chargrilled oysters with scallion oil and crushed roasted peanuts; Scallop and lychee ceviche with nuoc cham dressing;
Crying tiger beef with pickled onion and toasted rice, and Sizzling XO squid, with steamed rice and seaweed cucumber salad as sides.
A very eclectic drinks list includes a couple of Canberra’s wines, Asian beer, several Asian-influenced cocktails and fine spirits to complement the food menu, beer being the chosen refreshment to accompany such food along with lychee cider, a rarity but a good pairing with the food!
We finish our meals satisfied but longing for a little more boldness of flavour and the element of surprise. We’d love to see Eddy + Wolff push into new frontiers, taking us out of familiar territory and the safety of dishes so easily enjoyed.
We’ll be back for the Baby Pho with a side of charred bone marrow, Chargrilled king prawns in burnt butter and shrimp paste, Isaan tofu salad with kaffir lime and sweet and sour caramel, and Crunchy eggplant with sweet chilli dark soy glaze.
This is well-priced food to savour and enjoy.
12/217-219 Ron Penhaligon Way, Robina Ph: 0481 838 433
Open: Dinner Wed – Sat 5.30pm – 10pm; Lunch Thurs – Sun 12 noon – 2pm