The story behind Thy Thy Counter & Canteen, the latest era for a Victoria Street dining dynasty

Thy Thy Counter & Canteen has just opened on the old Tho Tho site from the same family that established the restaurant ...
Thy Thy Counter & Canteen has just opened on the old Tho Tho site from the same family that established the restaurant in 1989.  Photo: Pete Dillon

Beloved Vietnamese restaurants Thy Thy 1, Thy Thy 2 and Tho Tho are part of a 40-year dining legacy on Richmond's Victoria Street, a remarkable run that many thought was over in 2016 when Tho Tho was sold by the family who established it in 1989.

But last week, Thy Thy Counter & Canteen opened on the old Tho Tho site, with several generations of the family coming together for the next chapter. The project started last year and opened just before lockdown five last July forced the doors to remain closed until October.

The new restaurant, staffed by several generations and branches of the family, is bright and colourful courtesy of Swear Words and Zwei Design, featuring counter seating along one window plus bar seating and tables, so everyone from solo diners to big families feel welcome.

The new restaurant features counter seating for solo diners in line with the canteen vibe referred to in the name.
The new restaurant features counter seating for solo diners in line with the canteen vibe referred to in the name. Photo: Pete Dillon

Manager Thuy Lu says that retro-style acrylic tabletops featuring a red and blue woven design reflect the family coming together to make something new.

Thy Thy was first opened by Lu's parents, Trang Le and Van Ho, in 1980 and was followed by Thy Thy 2, both named after Lu's sister. The next restaurant, Tho Tho, was named for her brother Thomas.

That makes Lu the only sibling who hasn't had a restaurant named for her. But she likes to remain anonymous, she says. "And I'm the middle child," she adds jokingly.

Bun cha Hanoi is one of the northern Vietnamese specialties that have been added to the menu that also features old ...
Bun cha Hanoi is one of the northern Vietnamese specialties that have been added to the menu that also features old favourites from Tho Tho and Thy Thy. Photo: Pete Dillon

To match its fresh new look, Thy Thy's menu balances crowd-pleasing favourites from the previous restaurants, such as lemon chicken, with new dishes focused on regional specialties, particularly from northern Vietnam. Parents Le and Ho spent four years travelling Vietnam with their son Thomas before returning to Melbourne in 2020.

While the family hails from Ho Chi Minh City in the south, Le, head chef at Thy Thy, has happily expanded her repertoire for the new venue.

"There are some Tho Tho favourites we've been asked by regulars to add on but we're also trying to introduce new and different dishes to the community," says Lu, who is working front-of-house with her father and nephew.

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Less familiar dishes might include Hanoi-style bun cha (not to be confused with the more common bun, a rice vermicelli salad) or perhaps crab tapioca noodles. There's also the spicy noodle soup bun bo Hue and another called bun mam, a southern Vietnamese dish characterised by its robust broth made of fermented fish.

"We're aiming to bring Vietnam to Aussies and give the Vietnamese a taste of home," says Lu.

At lunch, Tho Tho's popular special of rice with your choice of stir-fry is back. A mix of Vietnamese, Australian and south-east Asian beers, iced coffee and wines from Australia and New Zealand are on offer, too.

Tabletops with a woven design are a reference to the many parts of the family coming together for this project.
Tabletops with a woven design are a reference to the many parts of the family coming together for this project. Photo: Pete Dillon

Regulars are already streaming back in, with some making the trip from as far as Bendigo and Warrnambool for their favourite dishes.

Open Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-9pm

60-66 Victoria Street, Richmond, (03) 9421 1331, thythy.com.au