PHO CHU THE: 270 Victoria Street, Richmond, Melbourne
The plan was to go to Pho Chu The in Richmond, and see why, when David Chang went there a couple of years ago, he had two bowls of pho on his first visit and three during his second. A few pre-dinner red wines at the Swan Hotel with a group of friends later, and we were rip-roaring to go. After driving up to Victoria Street, Rick went off to get parking and we easily got a table by the door for four. I popped out to get a BYO bottle of white and nearly straight into a scruffy man muttering how he was going to smash in the face of a well dressed family man walking just behind him. A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc secured from an Asian Grocery/Bottle Store, I passed the lunatic on the way back as he strode in front of a group of men, no threats being offered this time.
A waitress begrudgingly came over for our order, telling us twice that the special beef pho contained tripe, beef ball and tendon. Tired of her annoyed and annoying tone, we ordered a variety of spring rolls, to be followed by a mixture of bowls of chicken and regular beef pho. The drinks and conversation then proceeded to flow, as first the crispy rolls and then the bowls of steaming pho arrived and went, my bowl so large you could surely bathe a newborn baby in it. My inhibitions loosened by alcohol, I uncharacteristically dumped heaps of hot sauce and chillies into my bowl, making it hot enough to pre-emptively ward off any hint of a cold induced by the miserable Melbourne weather outside. Booze also makes everyone talk a lot, this in company already loquacious at the best of times. Looking at one’s internet searches on the mobile after a night of drinking always makes interesting reading, a sort of potted history of the previous night’s events, as our conversations swerved from abortion to school shootings to Japan to the Danish film director Susanne Bier, amongst other now forgotten topics.
As for the food, it was awesome. The noodles weren’t too soft or hard, the broth grabbing the attention of my wine-induced wandering mind, with just the right seasoning and flavour. The meat was tender, although at times the pieces were a little thick. Last, but not least, the spring onions, basil, bean sprouts and squeezes of lemon were just right. It was so much better than the pap I’ve tasted up around Fitzroy and Northcote, unsurprising considering this part of Richmond is a little Vietnam, bringing back good memories of my meals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City a year back.
As we got our bill, a little under $15 each, two old male rangas accompanied by a lady friend took a table nearby, she being very young, unlike the night. Although I was bloated from the pho – no second or third servings for me – I had enough room for a detour via the bottle store to get a six-pack of travellers, for the satisfied drive back home.