Pho Chu The | Melbourne’s Best Pho

I’m treading deadly waters here. I’m not Vietnamese, and I don’t live in the West, so I can’t say my exposure to Vietnamese food is in any way robust. Best pho I’ve had? Still An Restaurant (link) in Bankstown. Pho Tau Bay may change that once I deign to visit it, but for now, An has the crown.

Enter the challenger from Melbourne – Pho Chu The, self-proclaimed “best pho” in Melbourne. A bold claim, but one that isn’t just empty words from the source – many in Melbourne apparently do consider it to be Melbourne’s best. With that kind of pedigree, how could we resist the temptation to compare one of Sydney’s greats to Melbourne’s greatest?

Read on, pho the full scoop. And yes, I promise that’s the last time I make a pho-based pun in this post. Shake it out of the system, shake it out.

Date Last Visited: 7/7/13
Address: 270 Victoria St Richmond, VIC 3121
Recommended Dish(es): pho sure

Pho Chu The has three stores, but the flagship (both in terms of establishment date and quality) happens to be located in the suburb of Richmond.

Similar to Sydney’s West, Richmond is not situated within Melbourne’s CBD. Unlike Sydney’s West, Richmond is only 4km away – so you could feasibly walk it. Thus great pho is never too far away for Melbournites, while Sydneysiders have to trek a fair bit more.

Pho Chu The

Like any good pho restaurant, waiting is a part of the experience

That said, when you do get there (we did so by one of Melbourne’s awesome trams), you’ll notice the vibe changes completely. How much? Almost completely – you feel like you’ve stepped out from Melbourne’s hipster alleys to downtown Cabramatta. The demographics have changed, the local businesses have turned oh so very Asian, and the vibe is complete with old Asian ladies selling their home-cooked/grown goods on the streets.

Such change.

It’s a good sign though if the Sydney experience is anything to go by – the cuisine is likely to be at its most authentic here, which is a big bonus. What else is a part of the experience? Oh, of course, the queue.

Pho Chu The

It doesn’t seat many

Once our wait was up (about 15min), we were promptly seated. The restaurant is unlike An in that the former seats few while the latter seats many. I’d say Pho Chu The seats about as many as Pho Tau Bay (based on my observations of the latter from the outside). Waiting will be commonplace, I imagine.

Pho Chu The egg soda

Soda water with beaten egg (soda sua hot ga) ($?)

Vietnamese egg soda! This was my first time hearing about this drink. I was only a little apprehensive, since I’ve known generally about drinks that involve raw eggs. I didn’t get a glass for myself, but a sip of it yielded a creamy texture with a very sugary and slightly eggy aftertaste. It’s quite good, but I probably won’t be drinking this very frequently.

Pho Chu The

Bo Kho noodle soup ($?)

You’d think pho would make its showing by now, but one of our friends on the trip ordered bo kho noodle soup instead. Bo kho is a spicy Vietnamese beef stew. While it ain’t pho, it’s still very, very delicious. The idea for Pho Chu The to serve it with a banh mi is great as the baguette can soak up all the deliciousness of the stock.

Pho Chu The

SPICAYYYYY (not really)

It’s not as spicy as it looks, rather taking on that colour from paprika and red chilli powder. It’s not really hot per se, but you can easily season that to taste.

Pho Chu The

The beef is the highlight

The next best part after the stew is the beef – it’s so tender, and the flavours of the stew have infused right into the meat. I could eat a mountain of the meat all by itself.

Let’s get to the meat of the matter.

Pho Chu The Pho with beef balls

Pho with beef balls & sliced beef ($8/$9/$10 – s/m/l + $1 for balls)

Here we go. Pho comes with many toppings to choose from and three sizes as well. Notably, the pho is much, much cheapert han An Restaurant’s, coming in at a maximum of $10 for the large option. And when I say large, it truly is. In retrospect, I should have gone medium.

Toppings come in at slightly extra, but overall it’s an absolute bargain. Melbourne’s food prices are consistently cheaper than Sydney’s and Pho Chu The upholds that.

Pho Chu The

Deliciously chewy noodles. Sublime.

So, how does Melbourne’s best pho compare?

The beauty of Pho Chu The’s pho is the broth – it’s quite possibly the best broth I’ve had. This is what really sells it. It’s probably a bit saltier than some palates would be used to, but for me it was the perfect level of salinity and umami. A hearty beefy flavour also comes out of the broth, which is fabulous.

Pho Chu The

The broth…oh god the broth

As for the noodles, they’re great – I can’t say whether they’re better or worse than others I’ve tried, but they hold their own.

Pho Chu The

The bean sprouts, oh the bean sprouts…ok not really 😛

What’s really generous of the restaurant is that they really load the bowl up with protein – there’s a lot of beef (balls and pieces) and you won’t feel that the bowl’s lacking in that department. I am very impressed.

Pho Chu The

Pho man got your back

If this is Melbourne’s best, then Melbournites needn’t be jelly of Sydney’s pho. Pho Chu The’s got you covered. For those of you living in Sydney and intend to visit Melbourne, crown this one. It’s worth the trip. Besides, you can cool off with something like Dessert Story afterwards 😉

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀

Awesome:

  • Top-class pho that stands with Sydney’s best
  • Melbourne prices oh yes

Not so Awesome:

  • The wait
  • Not so conveniently located for CBD lurkers

8.5/10 Caesars

Pho Chu The on Urbanspoon

12 comments on “Pho Chu The | Melbourne’s Best Pho”

  1. asianfoodninja Reply

    SHEN! Been to Pho tau bay yet? !!! We need to lock in a DATE when you come to my turf! Im heading MELB in JUNE and need to KNOW your take on MY FAV *PHO ANN* Yes extra ‘N’ in Cabramatta and PHO tau bay!

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Indeed I have, three times! Tis a solid feed yo, though I have yet to visit Pho Ann. I’ve heard great things about that place – will definitely have to give it a go! While you’re in Melb you gotta try out Pho Chu The!

  2. Chris @ MAB vs Food Reply

    I went to Pho Chu The too when I was down in Melbourne last and it was great (there’s a veg option too btw hehe). I agree the large is friggin massive and there was no way I could have finished. Could easily serve two.

  3. ChopinandMysaucepan Reply

    Dear Michael,

    I totally concur that An Restaurant in Sydney serves the best pho and wonder why some people bag it like crazy. Pho is subjective and even if it’s not “the best”, I think it’s right up there with the best. Personally, I don’t eat pho anywhere else except at An’s though I have never tried Pho Tau Bay. Then again, I am a believer that when something is that good, any better is quite marginal and not worth the effort pursuing.

    It makes a big difference to me when the fresh shallots and onions are finely sliced and just by looking at this version, it’s not going to top An’s version in my opinion. I was looking for your opinion as to whether it’s better but I think diplomacy got the better of you. Come on, spit it out, I think Melbournites can take it!

    Everytime, I visit Richmond, I can’t go past the roast duck which I reckon is the best in Australia.

    http://chopinandmysaucepan.com/pacific-seafood-bbq-house-richmond

    And if you like Bo Kho, no restaurant can match Hoang Gia in Flemo in my opinion.

    http://chopinandmysaucepan.com/top-5-cheap-eats-in-flemington-sydney-2

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Chopin,

      As you noted, preferences in food is one of the most contestable due to its extreme subjectivity. You could conceivably have two pho places, one which 9999 people favourite, and the other 10999 people call their best. Sure, the latter may be objectively “the best” as the most people favour it, but it in no way denigrates the former. An is definitely one of, if not the best pho I’ve had. Some people always like to go against the grain however, or truly believe another place is better.

      Let everyone have and eat their cake, I suppose?

      Oh and if you were wondering, if I had to have one more bowl of pho in my life, it would be the one from An – hope that answered it clearly 😉
      Sydney’s West is still nigh unbeatable when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. I don’t even feel like I’m in Sydney when I’m in Cabra/Bankstown.

      I will definitely take your recommendations into account next time I trek up there!

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