When I get a cold all I want is Beef Pho. I have happy memories of consuming large amounts of this wonderful Vietnamese soup in Ho Chi Minh City and always use an inflamed throat as reason to indulge.
Our nearest outlet for this is Pho Bien in Paramount Drive. It’s run by Koreans but I reserve judgement. Not coming from Vietnam, doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t cook delicious Vietnamese food.
Or maybe it means they can cook perfectly nice food, but nothing outstanding. While the meal was totally fine, it didn’t blow our socks off and – while I would definitely go back solely for the deep fried spring rolls – I wouldn’t rush back for the other menu items we tried. Although I do have to say the service was lovely, friendly and quick.
The spring rolls ($4.00 for 2) were fantastic – filled with minced pork, carrot, onion and possibly celery, they were beautifully seasoned and wrapped in rice paper before being deep fried. They came with lettuce, pickled daikon and carrot; and wrapping it up with these and dipping it in the Nuoc Cham provided the most wonderful crispy, crunchy, sweet, sour, savoury, fresh and deep fried taste combination ever. Divine.
The Pho, or beef rice noodle soup, ($10.50) was okay and while the stock was clearly hand made with elements of that lovely delicate Vietnamese flavour, it was bit one dimensional and lacked the complexity of a good pho stock. The beef was nice and soft (very finely sliced) and the soup came with rice noodles, bean sprouts, onions and lemon to add texture and flavour but it failed to really engage me. It was great for a winter cold and didn’t taste bad, but it wasn’t amazing and I started to tire of its same sameyness by half way through the bowl.
In an unusual diversion – not something we would usually go for – we ordered sweet and sour prawns ($18). I don’t really know what to say here as the colour of the sauce certainly didn’t look like anything that occurs naturally, such was its bright orange hue. The battered prawns were white, rather than golden (in their defence we were in a rush so they may have pulled them out a tad early?)
With underdone batter and an overly sweet, crazy orange sauce, things weren’t looking good. But the reality is, despite the faults we ate the whole plate – and not under duress either. Obviously there were enough good elements in the dish to drown out the glaring faults, but as I said I wouldn’t go back for it.
With no other real Vietnamess options out west, I would say Pho Bien is a good option for snacks (deep fried and fresh spring rolls, fried chicken wings, crispy prawns etc) but I would head towards Parkside, Try it Out, or Saigonz if you had the option.