Pho – Vietnamese Eating


Some evening last week my boyfriend picked me up from work and we decided to head out for dinner. We initially planned on going to new Turkish restaurant Efes on commercial road but traffic on the way from Oxford Circus was really bad and hunger sent us into panic mode.

I suggested Giant Robot (which has been on my list for a while) in Clerkenwell but couldn’t remember exactly how far along the road it was. We decided to park up and continue on foot but as we did we noticed Pho – a Vietnamese restaurant – right where we’d parked. Panic mode was peaking and after a quick forced decision we decided to go for it.

Neither of us having had Vietnamese before, that we could remember, we thought we may as well branch out from our usual and see if we could discover something new. I’d also walked past a Pho in Soho (they have 9 restaurants in total – the Clerkenwell one being the original!) and it didn’t come across as a classic chain (even though it sort of is getting there…) so I figured it must be good if there was more than one venue.

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We took a table in the back and it was cute and casual. I particularly liked the neon signage on the walls. In fact I was pretty interested in everything, particularly all the sauces on our table, smelling and tasting them all…

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The place was fairly busy and filled more throughout our dinner. They must be doing something right. Having never really had Vietnamese before we did struggle a bit with the menu – we just weren’t sure what we’d like? And obviously didn’t understand what most of it was including Pho itself.

We ended up ordering some Nem Nuong to start – which were grilled pork and lemon grass meatballs. The came with a delicious little dip but I found them to be a little fatty as they were essentially fried in some sort of batter (I think). I enjoyed them but was glad we’d shared, I think a whole portion would have been too much.

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I was happy about being able to use chopsticks though – even more so when my boyfriend scoffed at the idea I’d be capable. I sure showed him!

For mains I took the ‘when in Rome’ approach and ordered Pho Noddle Soup with chicken. Pho (pronounced Fuh) is the National dish of Vietnam and is a bowl of rice noodle soup served with fresh herbs. It comes with added bean sprouts, herbs and garnishings on the side which (after having looked at their website) I now realise you’re meant to add into your Pho to create an exciting and delicious dish all of your own, to your own taste. I unfortunately didn’t know this when my dish arrived. I chucked all my bean sprouts in and a few of the other herby bits, squeezed a little lime on it and then just dived into eating.

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I wasn’t overly impressed. The noddles were nice and the brothy soup was hot plus there was a lot of it so it did quell my hunger but I found it a bit tasteless and well, boring. Boring is apparently the opposite of what this dish is meant to be. I guess I could have just used some help with how to spice and season mine up. The waitress did ask us if we’d been before and if we needed help but we didn’t really explore that option and is possibly why we ended up with a lacklustre dinner.

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My boyfriend had bun noodles – more specifically Bun Cha Gio Ga (chicken bun noodles) and…

“every bowl contains soft room temperature vermicelli rice noodles, an abundance of fresh herbs, crunchy carrot and mooli pickle and crisp lettuce and a hot topping of your choice stir fried in lemongrass and a little chilli. The dish is garnished with roasted peanuts and fried shallots and we also throw in a veggie spring roll.”

However it was a massive miss for my boyfriend and he barely started it, let alone finished it. I tried it (naturally) and it was tastier than mine with lots of texture but still I wasn’t wowed. I don’t know, maybe we don’t just get Vietnamese food? Or maybe this was the wrong Vietnamese restaurant for us? Still doesn’t my guy look happy in this pic…

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We left a little disheartened but at least I was full. My boyfriend had to have a second dinner when we got in. Disappointing I know. I really wanted to love it and discover something new and something different. I’d love to try it again as I think there must be a few dishes that will float my boat so if anyone’s got any recommendations…send them my way!

http://www.phocafe.co.uk/

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