It seems a rather incongruous idea that you might find some of Canberra's best Vietnamese food in the back of Braddon's Waves Car Wash.
But that could well be the case with the opening of BanMe.
The little restaurant is a venture between Tommy Nguyen and Kathy Phan. Nguyen's been in the food industry for more than 15 years, working for such names as Luke Mangan and Peter Gilmore, as well as Pialligo Estate locally, but when he met Kathy almost three years ago, he not only fell in love with her, but also with her talents in the kitchen.
"I love food and I've worked in the industry for quite a while but when I met Kathy and tasted her fabulous food and authentic Vietnamese flavours, I knew she was the one.
"The first dish of hers I tasted was a slow-cooked fish, in a sweet and sour soup."
He was hooked.
Phan cooking is well known in Canberra's Vietnamese community. She's catered for functions and parties and BanMe has been flat out since it opened a few weeks ago.
Nguyen was born and raised in Ban Me town in the highlands of Vietnam, where three generations of his family have been cooks.
A lot of the dishes at BanMe have their origins in their family recipes. Phan gives credit to an aunt for her cooking skills. Nguyen's mother Thi Thuy Hang has come over to help in BanMe. His brothers are also in the kitchen.
There's nothing fancy about BanMe. There's a screen on the wall to tell you if your car is ready, you enter via a long corridor with views of the rotating brushes in the car wash.
But if you're after authentic flavours then it's well worth checking out. There are some signature dishes including a breakfast dish called Banme chao, with fried eggs, bacon, soft pork meatballs and housemade chicken liver pate.
The same pate is used in the banh mi rolls. With super soft Saigon rolls from the Vietnamese bakery in Wanniassa, filled with pickles, coriander and your choice of protein, from a marinated pork that falls apart in your mouth, to tender chicken and a tofu option.
The bun cha is also worth ordering, served with noodles and vegetables and pork meatballs that are so tender and full of flavour.
There's also a range of traditional drinks, from ice teas, to Vietnamese iced coffees, you'll be transported to distant lands.
Phan says she couldn't find a good Vietnamese restaurant when she came to Canberra, and that made her cook more. She admits she's very busy, working on recipes, working in the restaurant, as well as running one of Canberra's best regarded nail salons, Tip Toe in Dickson.
Early reviews have called the food nostalgic and comforting, and for Nguyen and Phan, that's what it's all about. They just want to share the flavours of their homeland.
When the car wash closes, they pull some low tables they brought back from Vietnam out into the space, people gather and chat and eat food that's been cooked from the heart.
Put all your preconceived ideas aside and head to BanMe. Book your car in for a wash if you have to, but the food is worth it all on its own.
We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.