Anchovy restaurant's banh mi spin-off Ca Com opens in Richmond

Egg banh mi is part of the permanent menu at Ca Com, the new sandwich bar from the Anchovy team.
Egg banh mi is part of the permanent menu at Ca Com, the new sandwich bar from the Anchovy team. Photo: Simon Schluter

Richmond fine-diner Anchovy's much-anticipated banh mi shop, Ca Com, is now a permanent attraction on Bridge Road. Chef-owner Thi Le and partner Jia-Yen Lee fired up the newly installed hearth this week, after more than a year of running a pop-up sandwich stall during Melbourne's lockdowns.

"We were barbecuing protein on a hibachi on the window ledge," says Lee of their first pop-up in 2020. "The smoke destroyed the dining room but it got a bit of a vibe happening on the street. Other traders started moving their wares to the front of their shops and so it created a bit of a community."

The sandwiches became a lockdown hit, but the pair intended to wind up the operation after Christmas. But with every shutdown this year, they brought it back and quietly took the lease on the massage parlour next door to their restaurant in late February.

The Laotian sausage, turmeric chicken and egg-filled banh mi rolls are no longer a blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair. Those three sandwiches join roasted pumpkin Manchurian, a riff on the Indian-Chinese dish of the same name, and a regularly rotating smallgoods item. You might find LP's Quality Meats mortadella one week, or house-made terrine or pastrami from Warialda Belted Galloways, christened the "banh stra-mi".

"It's been a great way for us to use cuts of whole animals that we would not otherwise be able to use as part of our set menu, and has also served as a way to introduce flavours of Anchovy to guests," says Lee.

Crusty rolls from nearby Phuoc Thanh bakery are lightly grilled for extra smokiness, then slathered with a red curry paste, rather than the usual pâté.

Ca Com, named for the Vietnamese word for anchovy, will also offer noodle bowls as a gluten-free option, but that part of the menu is still a work in progress.

After slowly demolishing and refurbishing the space themselves, Lee describes the venue as feeling like someone's home kitchen, "except this person has a gigantic hearth in their kitchen". The team believe the hearth brings the flavours one step closer to what you'd find on the street in Vietnam.

About 18 seats will be added when dine-in resumes and a liquor licence is in the works. Filter coffee, both Vietnamese-style and pourover, is also on the way.

Open daily during lockdown, 11am-2pm or sold out.

336 Bridge Road, Richmond