I Love Pho 264June 13, 2014
Though I’ve eaten pho before and really enjoy it, I don’t eat it very often, largely because I don’t eat out along Victoria Street much. Recently though, Mr N and I have embarked on a quest to find great, cheap places for dinner that are both filling and (reasonably) healthy. Having done a pretty good tour of the best dumpling, pizza and ramen joints around town (like I said… healthy), we were invariably led to Victoria Street for some Vietnamese.
There are so many options for pho on Victoria Street and everyone seems to have their hard-fought-for favourite: when I told a number of friends about our dinner here, some said “Ooh yes, that’s the best”, others expressed dismay that we hadn’t gone to another one two doors down, or closer to Hoddle, or to one in Footscray. Bah humbug, I say! We’ll eat at them all!
Our first pho tasting was at I Love Pho 264, where the street number is conveniently part of the restaurant name. Like most restaurants along Victoria, it’s a simple, casual place with a mix of young couples, groups of friends and the occasional family. The menu is written on a board near the entrance so if you end up waiting for a table, you can decide what you want.
We arrived quite late, after 8:30pm, and though the place was bustling we managed to get a table without any waiting time. Starving, we began with a quickly-delivered plate of spring rolls, served with lettuce and tangy nuoc cham sauce.
We both really enjoyed these: fat, flavourful and full of proper bits of pork, I particularly enjoyed the crunch of the fresh lettuce, and that lively nuoc cham. Sensational.
Sticking to the classics, we both ordered the Pho with sliced beef. Though we’d ordered the small size, they arrived in these stonking great big bowls, full to the brim and chock-full of noodles and beef. I can’t imagine what a medium or, god forbid, large size would look like, so be confident you’re getting great value for money.
You also get a plate of fresh bean sprouts, lemon, and thai basil to add to your soup, in addition to an array of sauces and chilli pastes. I think it’s important, though, to begin by enjoying your soup sauce-free to appreciate the broth.
Though I’m by no means an expert in pho, this was pretty great in my opinion. The noodles were bouncy and plentiful, and the beef arrived, blushing pink, before cooking tenderly in the hot broth. The broth itself, well, that’s the real star of the bowl! A clear, light but intensely flavoured beef stock with ginger, star anise and onion. I thought it had a really lovely clean flavour and wasn’t over-salted.
And now, I give you ‘Pho Eating’, a play in four pictures, starring yours truly!
Mm-mmm! If these photos haven’t got you hunkering for a big warm bowl of beef soup and noodles, I’m not doing this right. The food is cheap, quick to arrive and warms both your stomach and your soul. On a cold winter’s night, there’s little else I’d enjoy more.
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