The young woman who was running Chez Anh all by herself during our recent lunch visit seemed to be right on top of things, cooking and doling out tasty food in a cool, steady rhythm. We certainly had no qualms about the piping hot beef pho or the beefy bánh mì sub at our table.
But when her co-workers arrived with provisions — packages of noodles, chopsticks, paper towels and more — heated but funny banter ensured. “I swear to God, you’re giving me PTSD leaving me alone!” the woman said. When my friend asked if the woman and the other staffer she was squabbling with were sisters, she replied that they weren’t, and glowered intensely.
Chez Anh — a wee, eminently affordable café of fewer than 20 seats, wedged into a former convenience store on Sunnyside Avenue closer to Bronson Avenue than to Bank Street — is, I guess, a bit like that. It’s a slightly disheveled, youthful place that serves up a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere and the occasional sit-com exchange along with a concise listing of distinctive Vietnamese savouries and soups, plus — if they’re available — intriguing house-made desserts.
Who is Anh? That would be Anh Nguyen, a 26-year-old former federal public servant and food lover whose cooking résumé lacks any previous restaurant experience but does include being a Top 50 finalist on the second season of MasterChef Canada a few years ago. He opened his café three months ago, bolstered by a week-long, successful crowd-funding campaign that raised almost $4,000 for renovations.