Mission #4: Pho24
An unexpected invite came for this great event at Pho24 last week. Coincidentally I had walked past this place many a time but never thought much of it.
With the sunlight cascading in, the lanterns, bamboo hats and high ceiling made a spectacular sight, as well as this cute little cart at the entrance.
Pictured above are our lovely PR agency hosts from Two Birds Talking who helped to organise the event. Meanwhile when I saw the area below, I remembered that I had come across Pho24 on Instagram and been fascinated by the ability to cut your own herbs!
After some chit chat, meeting Libby from Two Birds Talking, Andrew, one of the names behind the store, and Curious Charlie from the T by Luxbite launch, I had the pleasure of meeting @ieatmelbourne, tying in with this month’s mission of meeting other bloggers.
It was a surreal experience for me because he came across saying, “Mon’s Adventures?!” and then I realised we follow each other on Instagram and both write for Livlicious. He proceeded to tell me about how he loves reading my blog. It was very sweet and I was excited to finally meet this popular Instagrammer in person!
Once again it was great to hear about another foodie’s approach to this popular Melbourne food scene. For Rob, @ieatmelbourne, he enjoys focusing on his Instagram account rather than blogging, sharing everything from his takeaway pizza to his new hip spots.
As we settled in, our meal was introduced by Craig, another one of the owners, and it was interesting hearing about the background of this store. Pho24 already has successful chains in Asia including Vietnam and the Philippines, with this being the first store in Australia. They did not introduce their store as an authentic Vietnamese store but as a franchise that imposes various Western influences on this popular cuisine.
We were treated to a series of entrees first, including this octopus salad, which was to be eaten similarly to a san choy bow. It was a general consensus around the table that it had a nice, light dose of chilli as opposed to some restaurants, which cut back on it completely,
The banh mi was delicious, but as expected (and indicated) not authentic. However, that is not what Pho24 is trying to be, so with that in mind, it tasted delicious but different. The pate seemed to jump out with flavour but had something different that both I and my surrounding diners couldn’t quite put our finger on.
At this point I began getting to know those sitting around me and was delighted to meet @jessicaspixx, as we had previously exchanged Instagram comments in regards to my posts on St Kilda eats. I had to break the news to her that I was changing jobs to work in the city so would have to say goodbye to that!
Next up was another dish that blurred lines but in a good way – the menu labelled it as a slow cooked pulled pork steamed bun, but rather than a closed bun it was a bun slice with pork. It’s hard to see but the dark sauce that the pork was accompanied by provided enough of a sweet and interesting taste, to ensure that another entree impressed.
Meanwhile I can’t say the prawn spring rolls were were anything special, not bad but average, as I am still adamant nothing will beat my mother’s spring rolls.
To add to my new friends, I enjoyed sitting across from Sheena and her partner Thomas of chasingaplate.com, where Sheena writes and Thomas takes up photo-snapping duties. We shared stories about travels and where to eat, with Thomas highly recommending Il Melograno in Northcote. I always need more places to discover in the northern suburbs so I have noted this down!
Finally the time came to order our pho, with the aim to produce pho in less than a minute. Craig and Andrew emphasised that they had managed to cut this down to under 45 seconds.
You simply order at the counter with a tray and as you slide along, the staff make your pho, and as you reach the end your pho should be ready. We had a behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen later and observed several aspects to this including the pho broth being ready to pour out almost like a beer tap from the machine below (with Andrew and I pictured).
As well as that they weigh the amount of noodles for each bowl to ensure the serving is always consistent. I know some would observe the amount as small, especially in my large serving of beef scotch fillet pho above.
It was definitely not the best pho I have ever had, but trying to put aside my experience of authentic pho, and thinking about how the broth is created with French and Chinese influences, I think the flavour is done well. The lack of noodles also doesn’t phase me – ultimately for people in Vietnam, pho is ALL about the broth. Often I can’t finish it in Springvale because there are just too many noodles.
Speaking of broth, above we were able to see both the beef and chicken broths which they brew daily over 8-10 hours. We loved the idea of the open kitchen and visibility for the customers in contrast to your typical, take-away Asian restaurants, which like to keep it hidden.
We were so full by this point we didn’t even realise there was still dessert to come in the form of taro pudding. I don’t usually like taro but enjoyed this dessert, perhaps for the more glutinous parts of the dish.
Overall, I am impressed by the honesty and openness of this night, the genuine and friendly nature of the people I met (bloggers, agency reps, store owners) and the interesting concept of Pho24.
The entrees were great, the banh mi had its own distinct flavour and I understand their concept now that is has been communicated more clearly. I may come back for the above reasons but for pho, my personal preference will always be authentic Vietnamese pho in the suburbs – I just can’t help it!
Mon’s Adventures was invited as a guest of Two Birds Talking and Pho24.