Phở Chu The – Footscray

PHO CHU THE

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A consistent contributor to Hopkins Street

I must have walked past Phở  Chu The a thousand times and never thought to walk in. It’s another rather non-descript phở  joint on Hopkins Street in Footscray sandwiched between other non-descript phở joints located across from the Footscray markets and a short stroll to the train station. This is one that’s yet to be colonised by the phở tourists (in Footscray anyway), and I was glad to tick it off the list even if it’s not a complete winner for beef phở.

The owner started Phở Chu The almost 30 years ago, so it’s certainly got tons of cred and even more heritage which has enabled it to expand into several locations throughout Melbourne.The décor has all the markings of a Footscray Vietnamese restaurant: fish tank, waving lucky cats, ugly tiles and lots of mirrors coupled with expected rushed service.

The menu is comfortably limited as one would expect with a specialist phở  restaurant. Leave the vegos at home since you can choose from chicken or beef with a selection of extras (brisket, tripe, ox tail, beef balls, and a raft of other chicken parts), all available in 3 sizes (small $9, medium $10 and large $11).

I ordered the medium rare beef phở , a personal favorite, and a good benchmark to measure the quality of meat and clarity of the stock. The soup is served with finely sliced rings of fresh Spanish onion, spring onion and coriander on top – the Spanish onion is a favourite simple touch to mix up a classic.

The beef is cut thicker than usual, which poses a bit of a problem as the meat doesn’t cook through while sitting in the hot soup, so it’s quite raw. The first time I experienced this I put it down to a lack of patience on my part, but the second time I realised it was actually that the slices were too thick. While a rare beef phở eater is used to a bit of pink in the meat, this was a step up from ‘mooing’ and even with time it didn’t cook through properly.

The stock on the other hand is excellent, with bonus points for being consistently good each time. It was slightly cloudy and had medium levels of salt and a sort of extra meaty flavor, possibly explained by something else added to the pot.

They had all the usual suspects on the side: hoisin, chilli sauce and oil. In the fresh department, they serve bean shoots, basil, lemon and extra rings of finely sliced Spanish onion, which is a bonus. The freshly cut chilli was in a container as opposed to the side of a plate, which I’m not in favour of as it kills the hotness.

Pho Chu The has the heritage and the backing of the locals but I’m not sure it really stacks up compared to some of the other places. If you are looking for something new try it out, but don’t expect anything particular different.

  1. Stock: 4 – Really great flavour, but might be a bit strong for some people.
  2. Inside: 2 – Nice cuts of meat, but too thick to cook properly gets scored down.
  3. On the side: 3 – Everything was fresh, but pre-cut chilli was a big no-no.
  4.  Extras: 3 – Chopped onion, skinny noodles and decent tea, light on ambiance and I don’t think I’ll be back.

Score: 12/20

92 Hopkins Street, Footscray

03 9687 8265

http://phochuthe.com/

Pho Chu The on Urbanspoon

Phở Ta – Footscray

Pho Ta

I got the heads up about Phở Ta from Consider the Sauce and I was super keen to check it out. Located not on the usual strip, but on Nicholson Street below the mall. There are no other Vietnamese restaurants in the immediate vicinity. This is for people in the know willing the venture out of the way. And the road less trodden is worth a visit.

Phở Ta is a pure soup house – read forgot getting anything vegetarian here. There is traditional phở, drinks (soft drinks, 3 coloured drinks and bean and soy varieties) and that was the entire menu, the venue is small and well lit, but extremely light on ambiance (if you’ll pardon the pun) perhaps that is because it is utilitarian. There are no faux plants, landscape paintings of Vietnam or waving cats, less than 10 tables….it’s pretty small.

I’ve been there twice and each time it’s been pretty much dead, but that is ok because it guarantees a quiet meal away from noisy families and you won’t be waiting for a table.

Three sizes are available Small = $7.50, Medium $8.50 and large 9.50, with multiple variations of Beef with all the usual versions (brisket, beef balls, tendon, tripe).

I had the rare beef and brisket which is always a good indicator of quality of the cuts of meat because you can really see what you’re eating.

The beef was thinly sliced as it needs to be for a rare beef Pho to enable it to cook in front of you in the hot broth.

I really liked the addition of very finely chopped onion, coriander, basil and spring onion on top of the soup, it mixes up the well-worn classic a bit and gets bonus points for being a little different

I’ve actually visited here twice and found the stock to be quite different on both occasions, the first being transparent and light on the salt with a weaker flavor and the second packing a bit more of a punch.

The sides were all of the usual: chilli oil, Hoisin sauce, and the bean sprouts, lime and chilli was nice and fresh. The noodles were a fraction thinner than usual which doesn’t really change the eating experience that much.

If you’re looking to step away from the ever popular Hopkins st, than make sure you check it out.

Stock: 3 – I liked the transparency, but a little light on flavour, big difference in flavour the two times.

Inside: 4 – Thinly cut meat with no fat

On the side: 4 – chilli is fresh with bite, crunchy sprouts, fresh herbs and lime.

Extras: 2 – Noodles were fine, the tea was decent

13/20

Address:

131 Nicholson Street Footscray, VIC

03 9041 2607

Pho Ta on Urbanspoon

Hung Vuong Saigon – Footscray

Voung Hung

The benchmark for west-side phở, but not for vegetarians

The big daddy of the Footscray phở scene, Hung Vuong Saigon has been a key player on Hopkins Street for forever and a day. With 20+ tables, it is like a loud bustling food hall, packed with families, couples and friendly for the single reveller. It’s light on ambiance, but the food delivers and you’re not here for a first date, right.

Service is a well-(chilli)oiled machine, not particularly friendly, but easily forgiven for being so highly efficient. The food will be on the table before you have time to ponder: hoisin or no hoisin?

There is more on the menu than just phở, but why would you bother? You’re here for one reason only – great tasting phở – and so is the horde of Vietnamese and others. If the adage ‘go where the locals go’ holds any truth, this is the place to be. If you manage to get a table. Luckily the wait is never too long.

Phở comes in 3 sizes (small $8.50, medium $9.50, large $11) and with some variety, but the hero is the beef. All the classical variants: brisket, tendon, sausage and tripe for the more adventurous. Leave the vegetarians at home, these guys specialise in the authentic stuff, you won’t find a vegetarian option in sight.

You can tell they have been making this favourite staple in big steaming batches for a long, long time. The stock is perfectly balanced with uncompromising clarity. The flavour is strong, yet not overpowering, enhancing the overall experience without dominating it. I usually order the beef brisket. The finely-sliced brisket is added at the very last moment, so that it cooks as the hot soup is poured over it. Whilst the thicker-cut beef – with a little fat still left on – is added earlier allowing it to cook for longer. The fat may not be too healthy, but it adds to the flavour.

Noodles are the standard flat rice variety and you have to get in quick or they are prone to getting soggy. The bowl comes with little else beyond the beef and the noodles making personalisation a central task and there is plenty of ingredients to do so. Perfectly fresh greens are served on the side: cut chilli, Vietnamese mint, basil and bean sprouts.

Sauces are all the usual suspects’ including chilli sauce and chillies in oil, vinegar and hoisin. In addition to the usual sides, Hung Vuong also offers pickled sliced onion, which adds a tang and is well worth a try.

Hung Vuong doesn’t break from tradition or offer anything too unique, but what it does do, it does well. In many ways, this is the benchmark for west-side phở. Highly recommend.

  1. Stock: 5 – the stock is the benchmark for what all stocks should be compared against, it doesn’t do anything different, but it does it really well.
  2. Inside: 4 – good tasting meat, but the cut could be a little better.
  3. On the side: 4 – chilli is fresh with bite, crunchy sprouts and fresh herbs.
  4.  Extras: 4 – good noodles, an extra point for the pickled onions as something different, the tea is decent and I’ll be back (again and again).

Score: 17/20

Address: 128 Hopkins St Footscray VIC 3011
(03) 9689 6002

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon on Urbanspoon