Bo Lan Bot Muoi Ot, $14
If this Bo Lan Bot Muoi Ot or flour coated beef with salt and chilli is indicative of the calibre of dishes we can now expect, I am a post-reno convert. Oh my God - I seriously daydreamed about this dish for the next few days! Very tender beef pieces, fried in a light, almost eggy batter and tossed quickly with vegetables in a simple mix of salt, black pepper and chilli. It doesn't sound like much but the ingredients were quality and the execution perfect. With steamed rice and a sprinkle of fish sauce - unreal!!
Fried rice with salted fish, $11
I love this home-style dish - white rice tossed with chicken, egg and just a touch of dried, salted fish, crumbled or chopped into tiny pieces, giving it a fantastic aroma and unparalleled umami flavour. You will also see vermicelli versions around town and they are also fantastic.
Bo kho, $9
This is a favourite of Kenny's and George's - a rich beef casserole or soup. Phu Vinh's version was made with beef ribs and big wheels of carrot, the beef shredding effortlessly from the bones. I am pretty new to this soupy style of bo kho, my main experience being with the other thicker, perhaps more French-influenced syle (as made by Billy's dad as well as Tan Truc Giang). This was much more like a soup and I think would have been better with rice noodles rather than our choice of bread roll. Still, the broth was very rich, complex yet genuine with hints of tomato and cinnamon. It came with a small dish of delicious chilli salt for dipping the beef.
Banh canh tom thit, $9
My new noodle obsession and hangover cure-all. Banh canh, literally 'soup noodle' are very thick, chewy noodles very similar to Japanese udon. Here they were in Phu Vinh's classic stock, garnished with sweet lettuce, garlic chives, spring onion and coriander. The toppings were superb, really fresh - juicy pork mince, tender pork neck, a delicate butterflied prawn and a very fresh boiled quail's egg. Liver may or may not feature depending on who is in the kitchen. The broth is rich and quite punchy - I really do heart Phu Vinh's soup. Carlin, I did ask them if they had pho as per your tip but they said they did not :(
Bun nem nuong, $9
Did Phu Vinh do bun (rice vermicelli) salads before? Anyway, this was really very good. Nem nuong are grilled minced pork patties or kebabs. I have had both the coarsely minced pork style of these and the more processed, spongier style and both are great. This was the springy, very finely minced style, scented with lemongrass and lots of lovely grilled meaty flavour. The bun noodles were perfect with super fresh bean sprouts and other vegies. It was very simple and quite delicious. Phu Vinh do love sweet chilli and this did come with some drizzled on top as well as a bowl of the classic seasoned fish sauce dressing. Just dig your chopsticks in, mix it all up and dig in.
There are still so many goodies to explore at Phu Vinh. The best thing is, many of the big-menu restaurants have great dry stir-fried or BBQ dishes but unremarkable soups. Because Phu Vinh was a soup and noodle place first, they have those basics down and can only get better. Good on them for the gorgeous new reno and I hope it helps them attract some more of the evening crowd. Reader Melissa sums it up perfectly: No tissue box on the table but the pho and spring rolls were just as good as before. Hooray.
93 Hopkins Street, Footscray (map)
Phone: 9689 8719
Hours: 7 days from 9 am
Level entry - bit squashy inside