Monday, February 21, 2011

The new Phu Vinh

All pics 519
Not long ago Phu Vinh, Footscray's much-loved noodle bar tucked into the side of Footscray market, reopened with a swish new look.  Gone are the faded pictures of Phu Vinh's classics which used to abut the ceiling, and the tables and chairs got a snazzy overhaul.  Most controversially, as well as their old menu of selected classics, the new menu is much bigger with stir-fries and noodle dishes.  The real question on everyone's lips is whether any of Phu Vinh's culinary lustre got buried in the rubble of the reno.

 Phu Vinh 2 001 
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!!

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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.

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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
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.

Phu Vinh ext

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.

Phu Vinh
93 Hopkins Street, Footscray (map)

Phone:  9689 8719
Hours:  7 days from 9 am

Wheelchair Access
Level entry - bit squashy inside


  1. Wow - you ordered good! The bo kho looks like it may be a fresh batch. It's always pretty runny but mostly has a deeper red colouring.

  2. We went down on 2 separate ocassions. And both times, the food was crap. The last time was when the chicken was completely under cooked... I prefer the old phu Vinh..... :(

  3. Worthy of more visits I reckon, have only eaten there once post-reno (with you) but The Bloke and I did get take away from there that was pretty good too.

  4. Ooh the Bo Lan Bot Muoi Ot looks good. I'll keep an eye out for this place next time i visit the area.

  5. No tissues on the table? Oh no! What do i do when i get the pho runny nose?

  6. Hi all and thanks for your comments! Penny, that is so disappointing! Another reader a while ago said the food is better during the day than at night as two different crews on. Did you go in the night perhaps?

    Marine, don't worry, they are generous with the napkins!

  7. I agree with you Penny, I went for my birthday last year and was sooo disapointed. Look I probably ordered the wrong dishes for the restaurant, but i wont be back there in a hurry

  8. Loving the new reno, I mean, it's not the hippest joint but it's clean and has proper napkins, a sign of a thriving Asian business ;)

    I had the Bun nem nuong the other day and it was delicious. The flavours are awesome and it's not a heavy meal. The bo kho looks lovely too, I've never had this dish with anything lother than bread. Might have to give it a go with the noodles one day.

    I also like the little juice bar they have set up in the market. The sugar cane juice is good for a hangover.

  9. I agree - I really like it - the last time we went the lady gave my kids special Vietnamese cakes as we were leaving! They are super sweet.

    I have to try that juice bar! They also own Scarlet Corner cafe in the market.


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