Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pho Ta

So my friend M has a hot date coming up.  We were discussing what he should do.  Not a movie, I said - the most overrated first date, having to sit in the dark for two hours wondering if you're sitting weird or crunching your popcorn too loud, and god forbid a sex scene comes on.  How about a restaurant, we mused?  Avoid anything with spinach, we decided, and avoid pho.  That "I have a squid hanging out of my mouth" dangling noodle look is so not attractive, and the "bite off and let splash back into bowl" even less so.

So pho eating is for relationships that are like stretched-out old trackies - life partners and besties.  Thinking about it, I tend to eat at pho places on my lonesome.  In truth, I'll eat anywhere alone, but pho is the place I feel least like I'm on a clapped-out old nag, riding into Loserville, population me.  If eating yum cha by yourself is the dining equivalent of having your fly undone in front of a packed lecture theatre, pho is like a safe zone for solitary diners.  No one would ever think you're odd for eating beef soup alone, and you don't need to subject anyone else to dangling noodle squid mouth.

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Pho Ta have fairly recently opened in the lower part of Nicholson Street.  They have the classic menu on the wall thing going on, but the kitchen is totally open.  There you can see the bubbling pots of stock and all the fixings, ready to come to life as generous bowls of soup.

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The couple who run Pho Ta are gregarious and just gorgeous.  I got an impromptu Vietnamese lesson and a plastic bag to hold all my Savers finds (I was too cheap to buy their reusable bag, so was rocking the "have run away from home with only my best clothes and mismatched Tupperware" look).  Everyone who came in for a bowl of soup seemed to know them, and there were quite a few (and, may I say, that every one of them on their lonesome).

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Wow, such rich broth.  I prefer mine a little lighter and more aromatic-y in flavour, but it was very good nonetheless.  What struck me was the quality of the beef - extremely tasty and tender.  The noodles were fresh and perfectly al dente.  Big points for lime, not lemon.

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Pho Ta do Vietnamese coffee and have an espresso machine too.  So bring your first date for a coffee.  Or put it this way - if you go the pho and despite the soup splatters and perilously dangling noodles, you still think your date's cute - then you know it's love at first sight!

Pho Ta
131 Nicholson Street, Footscray
Hours:  TBA


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A little community announcement for you.  There's a huge undercurrent of permaculture and green things going on in the western suburbs - regular "Fermentation Fridays", vegie swaps, food co-ops, permablitzes and more.  I'm working on a post about it, but if you're interested in plugging in, check out the fundraiser for our local CSA (community-supported agriculture), 40k Farm in Melton.  I get my eggs through them and they have redefined how I think an egg tastes.


17 comments:

  1. Tables for one? They rock! Should be a whole sub-category, I reckon! Pho, good. Sushi train, too. But I'm like you - nothing will stop me, except maybe yum cha. But some places are better than others ...

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    1. Yes, sushi train! Good call! Maybe they should make a yum cha train, and then I might dare eat yum cha solo.

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    2. James In FootscrayMay 26, 2012 at 7:37 AM

      If you eat by yourself, what is an acceptable amount to drink? Is ordering (or BYO-ing) a bottle a bit tragic?!

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    3. Hmm, I think a whole bottle is a bit creepy raincoat-wearing solo diner, ha ha! At one restaurant I worked at, a lady would come in by herself on the same day every week. She had one of those swing-top bottles you can buy at the $2 shop, a half litre one, and would decant a bit of wine into that at home then bring it in. Would probably be best to choose places that do a per head corkage rather than a per bottle.

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  2. I'm always on the lookout for good pho, must try this one! I also love excellent eggs, so much check out the 40km farm too! Thanks.

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  3. Movies are so pointless for first dates! Being unable to talk and get to know the other person. :) hope M's date goes well. :)

    But yes, I agree pho is good for solitary dinner. I've done that many times after work in Footscray. Might even pop in there tonight!

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    1. Yes, aren't they?! Hope you had (are?) having a nice dinner! I'm making Japanese pancakes!

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  4. Do you think the broth contains MSG?

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    1. Yes Asavva I'm pretty sure it does. As far as I can taste, there's nowhere in Footscray that doesn't use it. I heard that the old Pho Phi Truong in Sunshine don't use MSG, but they are now Nhi Huong 2 Sisters so you would have to double check. Quang Vinh in St Albans - a fave place of mine - have a line on the bottom of their menu saying "Please tell us if you want to avoid MSG". It might not help with the pho broth (as it's been made before time of course) but with other dishes, it might be useful.

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    2. On the MSG question, there was a great article in The Age Melbourne Magazine on Friday all about pho in Melbourne - they had a breakdown of each shop and whether they use MSG or not (both of those profiled in Footscray, Hung Vuong and Hien Vuong Pasteur, did).

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  5. Great review Lauren!…..I enjoy Pho'ing solo too!…..I love how in the last pic the owners have used the same pictures from a famous T-Shirt sold in Vietnam like this:

    http://tofuphotography.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/ipho.html

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    1. Wow, there you go! There was a Vietnamese restaurant in Swanston Street that was using the "Delicious Vietnam" icon of the blogging "event" I participated in a while ago. I can't spot it now so they might have changed it.

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  6. James In FootscrayMay 25, 2012 at 7:04 AM

    "I'm on a clapped-out old nag, riding into Loserville, population me" - haha that's hilarious!

    Can we find out how M's date went?

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    1. He says, "It wasn't a date, I was just going to ask her out". I said, "That is what a date is!" They haven't gone out yet, but I'll let you know how it goes - with his reluctant permission, of course!

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  7. Ohhh I'd like to try this place out!! The thick, rich, robust soup is interesting I'd love to taste that to see which I'd prefer. And it's great that they use such high quality beef! Might come here for lunch tmr!! I'm catching up with friends and I'd much rather have a bowl of Pho than brunch in this cold weather =O

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