Last night marked not one, but two significant steps in our journey. For one, we finally made it across Church Street, away from the forgotten end of Victoria Street and into the more widely recognised restaurant district, where the options are not only more concentrated but also of a higher quality. And secondly, the outing signaled our first foray into a Pho shop, a niche restaurant specialising almost exclusively in the Vietnamese staple of rice noodle soups with chicken and/or beef. Admittedly, the three of us are far from strangers to this delightful soup, having even partaken in the self-proclaimed Pholympics some years earlier. This one-off event saw us all go head to head against each other to determine who could survive the most consecutive days of eating at least a bowl of the good stuff. Ultimately the event was called off after about a week, due to the imminent threat of MSG poisoning and significant dehydration, but the fact remains, we are no rookies! However, this was to be our first time enjoying pho with our ‘reviewer hats’ on, so we have slightly revised our scoring system to accommodate for the more limited menu and different dining experience. With all this in mind we entered ‘Pho Chu The’ with a sense of relief, having finally put the obscurity and disappointment of our first few ventures behind us but also with an air of undeniable excitement for all the delicious possibilities that lie ahead.
Within about 45 seconds of sitting down and before Marge could even fill up the tea cups we were asked if we were ready to order. Thanks to the concise menu and the persistent rumbling in our stomachs we were more than happy to oblige. Yask and Dizz settled on medium shredded chickens while Marge opted for the rare beef, as well as urging everyone to get their own serve of prawn spring rolls. Again, we only had to endure a short wait before three steaming bowls were placed before us. Whether it was the cold, the hunger, the previous weeks’ disappointment or a combination of all three, these soups were like liquid gold! The chicken broth was delicate and fragrant, with each mouthful feeling as if it was doing the drinker a world of good. The quality of chicken (often a deterrent from straying away from the more consistent beef) also did not disappoint. Between the two serves only two to three questionable pieces were left alone, an extremely encouraging ratio for any soup! The more hearty and flavoursome beef broth was also a crowd-pleaser with Marge boldly suggesting that this was in fact ‘the best pho broth I’ve ever had’. His only slight concern came with the meat which had clumped together as it cooked in the broth and ensured that he had an ongoing battle between it and his chopsticks throughout the meal. The addition of slightly pickled onions on the side added another element to the meal, with their crunch and bitterness complementing the salty broth. But beware, as Yask discovered, of spilling too much of the vinegar in your soup as it can quickly become overpowering and disturb the harmonious balance of flavours.
The prawn spring rolls, which arrived midway through the meal, were also a success. While some debate took place over their cooking or lack thereof (Yask thought they were perfectly done, while Marge thought they might have benefited with a bit more time in the fryer), everyone was unanimously positive in their opinion of the filling. Firm and juicy while still maintaining the integrity of the subtle prawn flavour. The decision to order our own personal serves was an instant hit and one that might be difficult to move away from as we embark on future meals! We could only hope that Total Recall would be as satisfying as the meal. But as we would soon find out, with movies, like pho you shouldn’t tamper with the classics, because if Marge and Yask recall correctly, that movie totally sucked (Dizz slept for too much of it to make an informed decision). On the plus side though the choc tops were an absolute triumph!
Chicken broth 9/10
Beef broth 9.5/10
Meat quality 7/10
Spring rolls 7.5/10
Total Recall 2.5/5 (I wish I didn’t recall seeing it!)