At Firebird, go past the 110-odd seats and across the dark-herringbone-tiled floor, peer into the kitchen at the back of the room. Take one look at the woodfired oven – which is lit early in the morning and gains heat throughout the day – and you’ll see what this eatery is all about: smoke, flames and Vietnamese-style fare.
In contrast to the roaring flames of the kitchen, the dining room is dim, with projections on the walls and sparse lighting that reflects off the colourful textured glass and mosaic tiles. Design firm Ewert Leaf turned this former two-level furniture warehouse into a single-storey, high-ceilinged space room full of sunburnt orange, moss-green and chartreuse tones.
On the menu small plates include black-pepper crab tostadas; chargrilled hot-and-sour ox-tongue skewers; Scotch quail-eggs with salted-duck-egg relish; smashed eggplant with a creamy, smoky curry sauce; and barbeque corn with spring-onion oil.
A play on the French duck à l’orange is slow-roasted over the grill and flavoured with Vietnamese five-spice. And there’s a fired-up baby bird that evokes the eatery’s name: charcoal chicken with burnt-chilli fish sauce and a grilled half-lime to squeeze. To finish, get the zesty lemongrass-citrus tart, which is topped with burnt orange slices.
The fiery theme carries through to the bar. The team’s take on the classic Paloma involves grapefruit that’s been roasted until its flesh is charred, and a mix of tequila and mezcal. The Highball is a burnt-plum-and-galangal shrub topped off with gin and soda, and other cocktails use charred pineapple and flamed orange.
Firebird is from The Commune Group, which owns and operates three other Viet-diners, all named Hanoi Hannah (in Windsor, Elsternwick and Richmond), as well as Japanese-leaning diner Tokyo Tina and Mediterranean wine bar Neptune.