Hem means laneway in Vietnamese; and the motif is employed here to make a positive out of a narrow, corridor-like space on Glebe Point Road.
Hem Nine Nine represents a logical next-step for mother and son duo, Xiao Linh Meng and Peter Wu, who have been operating the Mama Linh’s food trucks.
With crispy chicken banh mi popular on the street, I thought the Hum Gua Bao ($7/each) here would be a safe bet. Sadly the slightly sticky, steamed mantou buns stuffed with crisp skinned chicken, pickled cucumber and baby radish, were largely flavourless, but they did function as fast stomach insulation with my hand wrapped around a beer.
Stone & Wood Green Coast Lager ($8.50) and Dad & Dave’s Pale Ale ($8.50) are the standouts on the short (but impressively crafty) list, edging out a pedestrian selection of wines (and no BYO).
There’s more flavour to be found in the Tiger Prawn, Pork Belly and Green Mango Salad ($16), though it tumbled awkwardly off the platter each time we tried to serve it.
Bo Luc Lac ($13/4) - presented here as beef skewers with onions and capsicum - lacked the expected balance of salty, sweet, sour and umami that can make this dish a thing of beauty.
A traditional Caramelised Pork Belly ($16) was tarted up with a runny six-minute egg, working best against Vegetarian Fried Rice ($12).
The real attraction here is Mama’s 18-hour pho master stock, presented in the Hem Special Pho ($17).
It’s a visually pleasing bowl of rice noodles, layered with a generous amount of thin, rare, 9+ marble score wagyu beef slices, and an oven-roasted marrow bone. You’re meant to scoop the marrow out into the soup, making the already beautiful broth richer and creamier, with the torched bone adding an intriguing note of char.
As an Inner West resident, I was hoping Hem Nine Nine might make my Vietnamese craving not mean schlepping over to Marrickville, but the wider menu didn’t match my Bau Truong's benchmark. The pho, however, is a another story…
Hem Nine Nine
99 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
Ph: (02) 9571 8887