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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😀
- 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