Friday, January 18, 2013

Song Huong, St Albans by Snooze

Big Fil and I visited St Albans planning to go to the Chinese New Year festival and pick from whatever was on offer for lunch. It was quite a journey: buses between North Melbourne and Albion because of works on the train line and then hanging around on the train for about 20 minutes because of an incident on the track. And when we arrived it turned out the celebrations were the following day. Whoops!

But it wasn't a waste in the slightest and we both enjoyed wandering around. St Albans isn't as vibrant or busy in the same way as Footscray when it comes to shops and crowds. The shops in St Albans seem to be spread out over a larger area, but the locals seem to be similar: older immigrants (like Greeks, Serbians and Italians), Vietnamese and more recently arrived North Africans. What I saw in St Albans, which I haven't yet seen in Footscray, was how much more the migrant groups seem to mix. That was nice.

On to the food. Expecting lots of things to try at the New Year festival we were faced with finding somewhere, unresearched, to eat. Not my favourite to choose somewhere to eat. It's usually less than satisfactory when I do it that way. But our choice seemed to be made up for us when we saw the number of people on the pavement outside Song Huong.

I was a little confused at first. There are two of them side by side, each with a separate kitchen and staff. We chose the one at the rear of the photo. No particular reason.

It wasn't bad inside. The furniture was comfortable but fairly close to each other. And like outside, most of the tables were full. If that many people ate there the food must be good. Right?

Vietnamese food is a particular favourite of mine, but I always pick pho. So much so that when I get a lunch break to myself I head for a local (and not really the best place) in the CBD for a bowl and to read. I was determined to try something new, but so many others were having pho. 

My pho was my favourite rare beef and beef ball.

Big Fil's was the tendon, beef and tripe pho, or all the good bits as he describes it. 

Pho was a good choice. I think the broth is the best I've tried in Melbourne: good colour and flavoursome, and with a generous serve of hand cut meat. The serve was also so large (although referred to as medium) and I struggled to finish it. Nice also was the pho wasn't over filled with noodles and you had to look hard to find the meat.

The pho also came with the freshest bean shoots and herbs I've been served with pho.

No photos but Big Fil and I both went for the durian ice smoothies. What a delight: intense flavour, cold and smooth. Durian isn't for everyone (because of the smell which neither of us find offensive) but Big Fil and I are both fans.

Given how good the food was at Son Huong, I can't consider the day a failure in the slightest and we'll just have to travel out to St Albans again next year for the Chinese New Year celebrations. The number of people inside and outside the restaurant, and the two sister restaurants side by side, point to Song Huong being a local favourite, with pho, and the chilli ban bo, seriously looking like house specialities. (Note to Big Fil: I think another visit is in order for you to try the chilli ban bo.) The service was quick and polite (and offered with a shy smile by our waitress), with tables turned over quickly. Vietnamese TV (girls in gorgeous costume singing and dancing) played quietly on large screens mounted on the wall. One point to note, which Big Fil didn't see, is the restaurant might be tidy enough but the kitchen and behind the scenes areas (like the toilets) were crowded and could do with a spruce up.

Food - 8.5
Ambience - 6.5
Service - 7
Price - 8

71 Alfrieda St
St Albans,VIC 3021
Ph: 03 9356 0567

Song Huong on Urbanspoon

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