Pho Chu The (Richmond)

Update: The business has moved a few doors down since Sept 2011. It is now named:
264 Victoria St
03 9427 7749
Phở Chú Thể remains at 270 Victoria St, but is no longer run by the same people, so I’m not sure whether the ph is good there.

Phở Chú Thể
270 Victoria St
Richmond, VIC 3121

I have eaten here about three to four times. Personally, I’m not a fan of phở. When I have a one dish Vietnamese meal, I prefer bún thịt nướng (dry rice vermicelli with grilled pork). Absolutely scrumptious. Vietnamese food feels so healthy. It’s light and full of fresh vegetables and herbs and delicious grilled meats. Very salad-like and great for summer. My friends and I entered this joint on a warm and wet Saturday for lunch after visiting the Slow Food Convent in Abbotsford. We got quite heavily rained on before arrival, so the phở got us paradoxically wetter from sweating!

The food-blogosphere seems to think Phở Chú Thể serves pretty damn good phở.  On that recommendation, I took my folks here last year and they quite enjoyed their meal. Dad is a purist and insists that lime should be used instead of lemon. And this was about the only phở joint that uses lime. Phở Chú Thể specialises in phở only, with nothing much else on the menu. The venue is small and the interior, basic. There is often a longish queue of people during lunch.

I ordered the phở bò đặc biệt (beef noodle soup with the lot, including tripe and tendons). Because I haven’t visited Vietnam, I’m not familiar with how a good phở should taste like. My point of comparison for Phở is Singapore’s Gu-bak Kway Teow (beef soup with flat rice noodles). But they’re actually quite different. Singapore beef noodles usually has a darker, full-bodied broth that’s less sweet than phở’s broth, and there is far less emphasis on herbs and fresh vegetables. I enjoy phở in its own right, appreciating bean sprouts and fresh herbs in a cloyingly sweet noodle soup.

It was a satisfying meal. The place was very muggy from rain and warmth and my glasses fogged up as I ate. It was like eating phở during monsoon season. The soup was served piping hot. It is important that the soup be served as hot as possible because the added fresh herbs and veg will cool it down. The beef ingredients in the soup were perfectly cooked and of very good quality and the herbs were fresh. The coveted jar of chilli oil is also very good here and tastes very nice when added to the soup. You just have to look around which table has it and then sniper it.

Beef tripe.
For food geeks, it’s the omasum. (Cow’s 3rd stomach)

Still, I have a few gripes. I wished the dish came with more varieties of herbs instead of just one. Also, they are using lemons now, dad would disapprove. The soup itself was mostly salty-sweet and not exactly that wholesomely flavourful. We all collectively thought that there was a fair amount MSG in the soup. It left us very thirsty after the meal. Maybe that’s why I prefer bún thịt nướng, I don’t seem to get as thirsty after eating that even though it’s a dry dish.

Having said all that, I still do think this remains one of the better phở places that I’ve eaten at in Melbourne. Does anyone know of comparably good, or better places?

PS: I’m proud that I’ve included the (hopefully) authentic alphabetical squigglies for the Vietnamese words in this post…  :D

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