Pho Cyclo Café – Seattle

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In contrast to New Saigon, ‘Pho Cyclo’, was very much a Pho destination. Hip, western style, large open space with plenty of kids and a mixed and diverse crowd, ambiance is best described as “courtyard within a café, inside a building on a gentrifying strip” (quite the mouthful).

The menu is based around Pho, but also contains some other rice and noodle dishes. Pho is amusingly categorised between ‘Pho Novice’ and ‘Pho Master’ and the range is significant including vegetarian options. Pho master covers more traditional but less western ingredients e.g. tripe, tendons, fatty flank, while novice is variations of the more ‘comfortable cuts’, brisket, thinly sliced chicken, sausage etc.

On the side was the typical range of sauces; Chilli, Soy, Hoisin and Sambal along with a strange spicy fish sauce which was sweet and red and had plenty of lemongrass in it.

I consider myself a Pho master, but opted for the beef pho with sliced beef and fatty brisket a classic that lends itself to ‘global comparisons’.

The sides where really fresh basil and bean sprouts along with massive Jalapenos, and they were delivered with my Pepsi in a glass along with tea in a metal pot.

The bowl was massive and the meat was plentiful, with spring onion on the topic, rice noodles were thin and almost square. If there is one thing about American restaurants they are generous when it comes to providing quantity, I was please to see this was not at the expense of quality.

The broth was rich and strong in flavour and colour, it’s rare to encounter a such great stock that it doesn’t actually require any additional condiments and sauces to enhance the flavours.

This didn’t unfortunately extend to the vegetarian option, which was fairly weak in flavour but did include mushrooms, oyster mushroom stems, carrot, broccoli and tofu.

Overall an excellent Pho experience, if I was a local I’d be back for sure.

Stock: 5 – Rich stock and no sauces required
Inside: 5 – Generous quantities of meat and decent cut
On the side: 4 – Everything was fresh
Extras: 4 – great space, but poor vegetarian option, good tea
Score: 18/20
Pho Cyclo Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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New Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant 2 – Seattle

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On a recent trip to the USA, we were keen to check out the local phở scene and see what America had to offer, that responsibility fell on the not so little West coast city of Seattle in the state of Washington.

We were really excited to understand both the differences and similarities of USA phở, there are a lot of commonalities that make phở, phở…but it’s the little local differences that make it interesting.

New Saigon was tucked away down a set of stairs in bustling ‘downtown’ (aka ‘the city’), the dining space was large and fairly ambient occupied by a ton of Seakhawks fans (NFL) as it was game day with Kenny G playing softly in the background.

The menu had a lot of traditional Vietnamese dishes on offer including ample vegetarian options. The list of phở was fairly standard, however the meat was cooked to taste e.g. rare, medium and well done which was a bit interesting.

I opted for the old favourite of beef brisket and my partner tried the vegetarian, service was fairly unmemorable but efficient and the food came quickly.

When it comes to side sauces there is not alot of difference from Australia: Chilli sauce, Soy and fish sauce are available, but Hoisin isn’t on offer.

The sides were fresh and plentiful; Basil and sprouts with lime, it also came with jalapeño peppers, which was a bit of fun, but were extremely weak (pre-cut too early).

So how was the phở?

A little boring really, the stock was light in colour and flavour, and there may have had some chicken in it. The flavour was weak and didn’t feel like it had been cooked the fairly common 12hours plus.

The meat was plentiful and appropriately cooked, rice noodles were small and thin and a bit mushy. Overall the dish was bland and boring, sauces and condiments were mandatory to give it some excitement.

By contrast the vegetarian phở was pretty interesting, containing: Tofu, Carrots , Bok Choy, Mushrooms, Broccoli and sliced onion. It succeeded where many (dare I say most) vegetarian phở fail, it had flavour, it didn’t really require condiments.

Overall disappointing, but try the vegetarian.

1. Stock: 2 – Weak and flavourless, condiments required
2. Inside: 4 – meet cooked to order, and comes in amble quantities
3. On the side: 3 – Everything was fresh, Jalapeno’s were fun but weak
4. Extras: 3 – Some ambiance, plenty of vegetarian options, tea was ok
Score: 12/20

New Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant II Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Phở Victoria – North Melbourne

A quality phở oasis

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Phở Victoria has established a unique proximity, located half-way between Footscray and Victoria St Richmond (two of the Vietnamese food havens of Melbourne) in what can otherwise be described as a ‘phở wasteland’.

Attracting a mix of locals, Queen Vic market visitors (100 metres away) and Prudence visitors (a popular bar two doors away) ensures this place is rarely quiet. A complete lack of competition with other Vietnamese restaurants can sometimes lead to reduced quality, but this is not the case for Phở Victoria.

The menu is extensive, with all the usual Vietnamese dishes, however looking around (especially during the day) the crowd is well and truly here for the phở . The offering is variations of beef, but it also says vegetarian stock is available which I’ll be sure to check-out in the future.

Range of sides was standard: chilli oil, chilli sauce, hoisin and soy. Fresh chilli is available on request and is clearly freshly cut (very important).

Ordering the standard brisket and beef balls it arrived promptly with finely chopped spring and purple onions on top.

Great stock, slightly heavier in flavour and very cloudy it didn’t really need much in the way of sauces to enhance it which is testament to the quality, beef slices were of medium thickness, still thin enough to cook properly through In the hot broth and contained some fat.

Noodles were a bit soft, I suspect they might have been added when then the stock was very hot, the upside is the beef balls were properly cooked through and fairly tender (for a processed, out of the packed beef ball).

The produce on the side was pretty fresh, sprouts were good, basil wasn’t bad and there was a surprising inclusion of a slice of orange instead of lemon, which was extremely unusual…but is not actually a bad thing.

Overall Pho Victoria is a surprise hit, standing well on it’s own despite the total lack of competition.

  1. Stock: 4 – complex and strong, no condiments required.
  2. Inside: 3 – meat was fine onion on top keeps it interesting.
  3. On the side: 4 – Everything was fresh, chilli on demand keeps it fresh.
  4. Extras: 4 – Good service, tea is ok, some ambiance and worth a revisit.

Score: 15/20

Pho Victoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Phở Chu The – Footscray

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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/

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