Annam Re-opens with Jerry Mai's Exciting New Menu
Fancy one of Australia's best chefs cooking for you as if you were at her home for a dinner party? This is the concept behind the exciting new menu as Annam re-launches, with food that bring authentic flavours but also crosses borders and breaks barriers. Heralded for her fine dining take on Vietnamese cooking, Jerry Mai has cut back on formality and is running with her passion to cook a playful menu that combines Australian and Vietnamese flavours (and at times American), in capturing the imagination as well as the palate. Translated simply, you will have a good time at Annam and a fun playful delicious dining experience.
Enter a new and exciting Annam with Jerry Mai inviting you to her "dinner party".
Early on in this article I need to share the joy of the Cape Grim Beef Rib Souva with spring onion pancake, garlic yoghurt and chilli leek. High quality delicious produce, and a masterstroke by Jerry Mai to use spring onion pancake for a souva style dish. A showstopper dish.
Class with an elongated bar.
We were invited to a media lunch to experience the new menu and service offering. With some changes to the restaurant itself, including a Bruce Lee mural in all it's glory and colourful umbrellas on the roof, it was great to be back in an exciting Melbourne dining destination with a top chef, excellent service and awesome dining companions.
Over the closure period, Jerry Mai has been thinking hard about the type of food she loves to eat and has overhauled Annam’s menu to reflect this. The result is a menu that combines Vietnamese flavours and traditional influences alongside modern inspirations. You could say its Jerry’s take on Vietnamese-Australian cuisine.
As Jerry explained the nuances of the menu to us, you could see the passion dial rising - this is where she wants to be in her cooking. No airs and graces but playful if not cheeky dining; approachable and eminently delicious. For me it's the whole experience; you are captivated by the restaurant itself (love the new mural), the cooking and ideas of Jerry Mai, an inspirational chef, the engaging service and overall "package". This is how Melbourne dining should be; unpretentious and a highly rewarding.
On the new menu, you will find unexpected gems such as banh mi cheeseburger sliders sitting alongside Cape Grim beef rib souva with spring onion pancake wraps. Crowd favourites like the sticky pork hock with tamarind caramel and waffle coatedfried ice cream with salted caramel remain as do their celebrated oxtail dumplings (now in pot sticker form).
Jerry adds to the fun and joyous dining with an American Burger Banh Mi Slider. Playful and it works in combining Vietnamese and American tastes.
“We already know the influence of French, Cambodian and Thai flavours on Vietnam, now I’m bringing American flavours into the mix to create what I’m calling Vietnamese Australian – its Asian food crossed with the food of multicultural Melbourne”, Jerry says. “When I started at school in Queensland I had rice paper rolls in my lunchbox. I swapped these with the other kids for salami rolls and honey sandwiches. This multicultural Australia even found its way home, with my folks making spaghetti bolognaise and lamb on the spit for my brothers and I.”
Grilled half shell scallops with spring onion, fried shallots and peanuts. A zesty small dish that gets you going.
“Modern, multicultural Australia has influenced what’s on my plate and on the plates of my family, and that’s the way we now love to eat. Now, this is what I’m bringing to your table at Annam.”
Cambodian style stuffed chicken wing with lemongrass, turmeric, peanuts and sweet chilli sauce.
It's like Jerry Mai has discovered a new "premission" (not that she needs any) and a blank canvas to express herself in ways that are even more true to herself, rather than placating the formalities and expectations of fine dining. Unfettered and unleashed and we love it.
Grilled calamari salad with dill, chilli, pineapple, lemongrass, cucumber and ginger flower dressing. Once again the Vietnamese flavours elevated this dish.
The updated merge of cultures is also reflected in changes to the dining room. Jerry’s love of Asian popular culture adorns the walls, with colourful artwork depicting characters from Monkey Magic, Astro Boy and Street Fighter joining the mural of Bruce Lee and a soundtrack of KPOP and top 40 bangers.
My favourite dish of the day. Just grab a spring onion pancake and add the Cape Grim beef rib and other elements for a souva you won't forget. Clever and plain delicious.
“I’m all about nostalgia right now and am loving sharing the pop culture of my youth with my son. He’s mad about Astro Boy so I thought I’d include some of the things Harry loves in the restaurant as well”.
Love a rendang curry? Beef rendang curry with toasted coconut and potato. Served with Banh Mi garlic bread was a masterstroke, as well as Grilled corn, lap cheong and toasted shrimp.
The corn in itself was a great dish.
Another star attraction is the Port Phillip Bay Whole Flounder with dill burnt butter, peanuts, bun noodles, and Vietnamese salad plate. And with shaved truffle on this occasion. Jerry removed the bones herself from the fish. She even gave us a tip to never turn the fish over. (See I was listening). All the while our dishes were washed down with Tomfoolery Shiraz from the Barossa (ok so I did try the white but I'm a Shiraz tragic).
Nothing like a quality fish cooked whole, and this Whole Flounder hit the high notes. Adding to the experience it was a case of grabbing a lettuce cup and filling it with the soft sweet fish and adding other elements including the sauce. Refreshing, zesty and again clever use of Vietnamese flavours. (Thanks Jerry for removing the bones).
Waffle coated fried ice cream was one of the best fried ice cream dishes I have eaten.
Kudos to Jerry Mai for an inspired re-launch. “The Vietnamese-Australian food at Annam shows some of my favourite flavours and it’s a great time to represent my heritage and memories in this way.” Highly recommended.
Annam is open from Weds – Sat, 5pm – 10pm
Lunch service open shortly.