Café Vietnamese

Coffee & Crackles – Smithfield NSW Restaurant Review

Our first attempt at brunch at Coffee & Crackles was thwarted when we arrived at 1:30PM on a weekday and were told that they weren’t serving food at that time. It was during a period of transition, the cafe having recently undergone a rebranding and merger with its co-located night-time eatery and bar Saigon Hustle.

The café part of the joint venture clearly lost the aesthetic fight int he merger, with only the small shopfront lit in natural light, the rest of the restaurant coated in dark paint, neon lights and scrolling projections.

This pricing of this crackling pork banh mi ($13) had me a bit conflicted when I ordered it. On one hand, while I believe that our migrant communities deserve to be compensated for the work that they do and the food that they serve and that it’s a double standard to pay $30 for a plate of pasta or $20 for three ravioli and only want to pay $3.50 for a banh mi, $13 is still a bit much compared to what I’m used to. That’s not to say that, taken outside of the context of what we generally pay for banh mi in Sydney that it wasn’t worth it. This banh mi was certainly high quality. The bread was warm and freshly toasted. It was crusty in a way that was tasty and crunchy, and yet somehow didn’t cut the inside of the mouth – honestly one of the best rolls I’ve had. The five spice pork filling was plentiful, as were the pickled daikon radish and carrots, making each bite both a meaty and a fresh delight. The generous serving of pate and Vietnamese mayonnaise imparted a good sense of umami and creaminess throughout the roll, with no corner spared. The pork crackling was separate from the pork meat, and distributed unevenly between the two pre-cut halves of the sandwich as the crackling was on the exterior surface and the sandwich was sliced diagonally. The crackling did impart an unnecessary saltiness to the bites where it made a showing, and perhaps less salt could have been used in its preparation. The chips, which were a surprise addition to the meal, I could’ve done without to save a couple of dollars. They were actually quite good – freshly fried and of potato in nature – but honestly if I wanted more food I’d just order a second banh mi, which I feel are a higher plane of enjoyment over regular fries.

The Bo Ne Sizzling Beef ($23) was also quite good. It featured a small MB2 wagyu steak, some kind of sausage or processed meat, liver pate, sauteed onions and a sunny side up egg served on a sizzling hot plate, with a separate plate of toasted oiled bread, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. I’m far from an expert on bo ne, with my only previous experience to this point being the bo ne at Diem Hen in Canley Vale. Given that I don’t have much of a standard to judge against, I can only describe to you this dish in absolute terms.

The steak was cooked medium rare, tender and juicy, though the first bites were better than the last bites as it continued to cook a little on the hot plate as we ate. The live pate was some of the best I’ve had, and my partner especially enjoyed it caramelised on the hot plate. The egg was cooked to a degree of sunny side up perfection that I’ve never achieved, which is kind of crazy to me since presumably they just got the plate up to temp, took it off the heat and cracked it on. I don’t know exactly what the sausage like substance on the right side of the plate was – it was similar to siu cheong that you might get at a Cantonese BBQ shop – but it was quite nice with a bit of sweetness. The onion in this dish was in one corner rather than throughout the entire dish like at Diem Hen, which I preferred as it meant I could be the one deciding which mouthfuls I wanted onioned or unonioned. The bread was again freshly toasted and just great, excellent to pair with some pate or tasty sausage.

All in all I enjoyed my visit to Coffee & Crackles, even if certain items on their previous menu, for example their bo kho tacos, were no longer available after the merger. Saigon Hustle looks to have a pretty interesting Vietnamese fusion menu for dinner though, so I’d like to come back at night some time in the future.

Coffee & Crackles
678A The Horsley Dr, Smithfield NSW 2164
0423 460 054

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