I was craving Vietnamese food yesterday so on the way to East Melbourne library to pick up a bunch of The Sopranos DVDs, Adam and I went to Victoria Street for lunch. With hundreds of Vietnamese joints to choose from, it can be rather difficult to pick one place to set your foot in. Thankfully my Cheap Eats Guide led us to Thanh Phong, located in the bustling middle section of Victoria Street. Thanh Phong is an unassuming restaurant that received two stars out of three in this year’s guide and with a menu consisting of 200 odd items all under $20, it’s no surprise why it’s popular.
Because I am dull and boring, I ordered a bowl of sliced beef pho. As is the case with most Vietnamese restaurants there are 5-10 other variations of beef pho, which you can choose from (beef balls, brisket, tendons etc) but I’m always too scared to order the “special beef” pho because I don’t particularly want to see blood jellies and eyeballs floating on top of my broth. Meanwhile, Adam was a bit more adventurous and ordered the bun bo hue.
While there was nothing wrong with my pho, I failed to see how it managed to make it into Cheap Eats and also get two stars. The food was definitely no better than many other Vietnamese restaurants along Victoria Street that didn’t make the guide. Adam also agreed with me, and said that his bun bo hue was not as fiery as some of the ones he’s had in Footscray and it was also missing his block of pig’s blood jelly (I don’t understand why he loves that stuff but whatever). After having a sip of Adam’s broth, I found that it lacked the usually dominant ingredient of lemon grass too. Not cool.
On the upside, the serving sizes were quite big for the price we paid ($8.50 each). While we both managed to finish 80% of our massive bowls, we did struggle to get out of our chairs. But as is the case with Vietnamese food, it was only a matter of time before we both got hungry again – in Adam’s case, he was munching on a banh mi 15 minutes later. Anyway, the jury’s still out as to whether I’ll make a return visit. While I know that I won’t leave Thanh Phong with my tummy still rumbling, the fact that there are 10 billion other similar joints on the same street makes it more likely for me to see what the others offer.
Having said all that though, it could’ve simply been the case of us ordering the wrong dishes. Heck, I saw half the tables with plates of fried spring rolls which actually looked quite nice (10 pieces for $8-9) so maybe if I crave some spring rolls should I be wandering along Victoria Street, I guess Thanh Phong might be where I’d end up.