Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pho Ba Ga Mekong, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

Opinions about Pho Ba Ga Mekong Vietnam seems to be divided--that is it doesn't seem to be quite as popular as it was a year or so ago. But while they don't queue out the door anymore, it's rare to see an empty seat on a stroll past at lunch or dinner time. When I spoke to a Vietnamese born colleague about it he said he'd been there once and would never return, and a lot of comments on the web are pretty negative. So why do some people seem to dislike it so much?

I have a theory about this. While there is no guarantee that it's right, at least it’s a theory. It's also not a completely uninformed one, or at least I like to think so. One of the things which struck me the most was the comparative lack of Asian diners. You'd expect they would be at least fairly well represented in a Pho café, but most of the clientele looked Caucasian. Then when I spoke to my colleague his comments were along the lines of 'non-authentic, flavours all wrong...'.

Pho is not my favourite Asian noodle soup or something I can really comment on from an authenticity perspective, although it's Snooze's favourite lunch. All I can comment on is whether Snooze and I enjoyed our bowls of noodle soup, and on balance we did.

To be honest, though, there were little things that were wrong with my pho (see first pic also). The soup should have been hotter and the broth wasn't as clear as I'd like. The flavour of the soup could have been more delicate, and some more meat would have been good. And the tea in our thermos could definitely have been warmer, particularly as the cafe had only just opened. But there were also things about it I liked, in particular that the beef was properly rare and the beef sausage, which added a definite peppery kick to the dish.

While we both thought it was fine as a bowl of beef noodle soup, the issue seems to be whether it's properly authentic as a bowl of pho. Whether you like it here or not may depend on how important authenticity is to you. I mean, it's fairly tasty and cheap, and I do really like the way the café is set out, with the combination of posters and mirrors over the walls, even if the TV playing what appeared to be Hong Kong cable in the background is incongruous. It's also a fairly good spot for people watching. Service though could definitely do with a bit of work. It's fast and efficient, but it's also impersonal and comes across on the sour side.

A decent option for a quick lunchtime feed, nothing special but perfectly acceptable. Serves are still quite generous, even if not as large as other pho cafes. While I can't say I loved it neither did I hate it, and I'd return if I was after soup and in the area.

Food - 7
Ambience - 7.5
Service - 6
Price - 7

241 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 3288

1 comment:

Bureaucrat said...

it's been quite a few years since i last ate there, but i don't mind the place. it's not the best pho place, but as you say, a good place for a quick and cheap nosh.

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