Sunday, 9 June 2013

I Love Phở 264

264, Victoria St, Richmond, VIC 3121

I Love Pho 264 on Urbanspoon
http://www.facebook.com/ILovePho264richmond
There is a bit of hype here and the facebook is filled with pictures of young attractive people of various demographics... but is the food good? Firstly, it is usually packed - really packed across both levels and there is a constantly flow of people. The clientale is a mix of demographics and they clearly have broad appeal. How does a restaurant do so well on Phở in a street of Phở restaurants?

The Place
They do pack you in here across two levels. They have put a lot more effort to the ground floor which is nicely decorated and well insulated. The upstairs dining area (pictured right) is like the dining space of someone's apartment with minimal effort in decoration - not very exciting. Sound insulation is not great here and it does get pretty noisy. In the upstairs section, it gets worse when they play their TV and Laptop at the same time.

They do seat you very close to each other like many similar restaurants of its kind. It's not a great place for prams though. Parking is usually a challenge in the area but if you know the back streets, you'll find space, or the Hive a bit further towards the city.

Things to do Nearby: This is on Victoria Street with all its exciting shops and Ikea is about a 5 minute drive away.

The Food
So, I understand why it does well here. One could argue that this is more authentic and less sweet than many of the other places that serve phở in Melbourne. While I won't say it's similar to the ones served in Hanoi which are more herbal, there's a lot of similarity to the Saigon phở. The food is undoubtedly good on four different levels. Firstly, for a place called "I Love Pho" - the phở better be good and it is. The soup is pretty good and tasty, and served at the right temperature and freshness. This is great and only to be expected if they want to do well based just on phở. The idea is, you can add the various condiments to it to your liking as well, which chillies and lemon. It is also not as intense as some other places where the soup might have been boiling a long time with beef bones being added throughout the day.
Steaming hot fresh noodles with tasty clear soup

Secondly, their ingredients are really fresh and this is really good because some places might have good soup but second grade meats. This place uses really great fresh meat.

Thirdly, they have a range of options with their meats - from your basic shredded chicken to beef tripe and everything in between in different combinations. This means that there is something to appeal to everyone's taste. The Special Beef Combination  (pictured right) has a wide range of meats from sliced meat to tendon to brisket to beef balls. For the hardcore fans, this is great.

Fourthly, they also offer a small range of other dishes like the requisite spring rolls, paper rolls and also beef stew. The spring rolls are fresh and tasty as well with a generous serve of lettuce.

The Service
The service here is not bad - better than most places that I have been too (though there was one slightly cranky staff member). The food all comes at about the same time and to be able to do this across both levels is a good thing. In addition, they are also very generous with their condiments and sides. I asked for extra lemon and they brought a whole one sliced up - which is more generous than most places I have been too. Pretty good in my books.

Overall
So, now, there are two places that I would go to for phở in Richmond. I am sure to return again and again as I do like it here and I like the set up though I would prefer to sit downstairs.

Cultural Moment
In a previous entry, I discussed phở briefly - which might be interesting for some of you, so there it is again.
In addition, there is a recognised difference between northern (Hanoian) and southern (Saigon) phở. I could go into it but I think it would be much better to go to those with more authority on this. So, I am going to redirect you to two great sources of information on the differences;

and

These are really interesting reads and if you want to know about the culture of phở. Enjoy!

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