There haven’t been very many Vietnamese restaurants on our King St journey, the last was probably Pho 236, so we have been quietly looking forward to this one. It is also a bit of a celebratory dinner with the Melb. branch of the family visiting, a couple of imminent birthdays, and the Stropolina about to make her annual winter-avoiding hemisphere hop. We are starting early because the 2.5 year old is in desperate need of an early night after she spent the whole previous day and night play-bonding with the cuzzy-bros.
Pho 88 is a small place, so our table for six creates a bit of a squeezy disruption, especially as one of our party seems to have left her inside voice in Melbourne. However, she is quickly connected to a coconut via a bendy straw and all is peaceful as the rest of us give some serious thought to the food offerings.
Pho. There are quite a few of those on offer as you would expect, and there are also other Vietnamese dishes, some familiar, others new to me at least. There is also a section called ‘Infusion’ which features Ribs and other non-traditional culinary excursions. The menu includes glossy pictures of some of the dishes as well as hand written last minute additions. There was a fair bit of discussion about the share-ability of pho and whether we should just let one or two people do the ordering, so everyone else can carry on talking. Everyone thought this was a fine idea, disagreeing only on who should be burdened with responsibility for the food choices and ultimate happiness of everyone else. I realised that the obvious thing for me to do was to start ordering whatever took my fancy. This blatantly rogue act immediately compelled the sheilas in my life to correct my wrong-headed and inappropriate choices. Problem solved.
While food negotiations were ongoing, drinks were sought. The young waitresses, of whom there were quite a few, seemed to be a bit new to the game, and lacked any pro-active tendencies. One mistook the famous 333 Vietnamese beer for 666, the infamous devil’s brew, and another decided that six water glasses weren’t quite enough for six people, and started moving them out of the way so she could fit a new batch of water glasses on the table. Until we told her to stop.
Luckily when it came time to order, the senior staff member showed the others how this waiting-at-table gig should be done, giving very good advice on food choices and quantities. For entrees we had coconut prawns, spring rolls, fresh spring rolls, salt and pepper squids. These were all good but the prawns were a standout – fat, juicy prawns coated with shredded coconut and deep-fried till golden. Yum. The mains were pho with roast chicken, bun (pronounced with the U-sound from pull, I discovered – and chosen because I am a sucker for a funny sounding name), Hainan chicken, fried rice and DIY spring rolls with spicy beef. The food came quickly and table real estate immediately went up in value as space was required for all the pho garnishes and the DIY roll ingredients. Heater determined that the pho broth was excellent, but not as good as Melbourne. Fair enough, I wouldn’t expect any less from a Mexican. My bun turned out to be a kind of salad with vermicelli noodles, and was very good, particularly once I was shown how to dress and season it. The Hainan chicken and the beef DIY rolls were good too, but the fried rice was a standout. It was the most generous fried rice dish I can remember, full of enormous fat prawns and lots of freshly cooked vegetables.
Dessert was a no-brainer. Immediately above our table was a hand written notice imploring us to try their Fried Golden Gaytime special. So we did. It was unusual, but in a really nice way. A stickless Gaytime, wrapped in a kind of filo pastry and sprinkled with shredded coconut, crispy on the outside, and pure Streets on the inside. Weird but wonderful.
If we weren’t busily motoring our way toward St Peters I would definitely be going back to Pho 88. I might even drop in for another Gaytime on the way home from our next questing venue.