9 Yarra Street
South Yarra VIC 3141
+61 3 9827 0699
Do we really need yet another ‘Asian-inspired’ eatery in Melbourne that charges double for a plate of noodles and is run by a gweilo? In MoPho‘s case, yes, yes, we do! And yep, how awesome is the eatery’s name? Funnily enough, they don’t actually serve pho here.
Making itself at home in secluded Yarra Street, this noodle bar, an offshoot of St Ali’s coffee, has attracted the ire of Asians who bemoan the opening of another less-than-authentic Asian eatery that apparently rips off noodle dishes that are perfected and charged for chilli-soy peanuts in their homelands. In addition, it has attracted praise from loser foodies such as myself who have visited this joint since it opened about a month ago. And yes, I’m Asian.
The menu, adorned with a cute panda cartoon version of tatted and pierced chef Ben Cooper, is fairly simple. One page for soup noodles, one page for wok-fried noodles and one page for warm salad noodles. There’s even a little section dedicated to rice and curries, though the focus is on noodles. At 1:45pm, the place is still bopping with South Yarra suits and it takes a while for me to get a seat but finally, a small round table against the black latticed walls, also containing hollowed storage compartments filled with dried ingredients, becomes available.
The first time I was here, I ordered a wok-fried dish of scallops, crispy bacon, sambal olek, fresh mint and Shanghai noodle ($18.50). On paper, it sounds like a very odd combination. I can understand scallops and noodles, but bacon and noodles?! Nevertheless, the dish worked. Really well. I’m not sure what made all the ingredients gel together as effortlessly as the hair of a Victory supporter and a smear of Schwarzkopf gel – it could have been the spicy sambal oelek that went with BOTH the scallops and the bacon – but whatever, it was a dish that was fantastic. It was full of big and fresh flavours, and despite all the greenage in the photo above there was actually a decent amount of noodles (see below).
While I was eating my noodles, the pasty burly dude sitting on the table next to me had just finished his pad thai. ‘Pffft, who the fck orders pad thai at a place like this?’ I thought to myself but then the guy said that it was the “best pad thai he had ever tasted.” Hmm, well, I love my pad thai like the next Aussie so the next time I was at Mopho, that was what I ordered.
Mopho’s version of the classic pad thai ($18.50) which came with fried tofu cubes, grilled prawns, bean shoots, chilli soy peanuts and all the chives I need in my lifetime. I must say, the dude from last week was right. It was the best pad thai I’ve ever had. Okay, sure they were probably a tad too liberal with the fish sauce, thus making the noodles saltier than your average suburban pad thai but everything else was fantastic. The noodles were perfectly chewy and firm, the prawns were fresh off the boat and so we were the other ingredients. There was a little bit of heat in the dish which made losers such as myself tear up, but thankfully a lime wedge and long, slices of cucumber were provided to keep the waterworks at bay. Was it worth $18.50? Well, you’d normally pay up to $15 for a pad thai in the suburbs – and it’s not always good so I’d say that the extra few dollars made the dish worth it.
Okay, so the prices would put a lot of people (and when I say people, I guess I really mean Asians) off, but the two dishes I ordered were enjoyed immensely. All the ingredients were fresh, the flavours explosive and the servings generous. MoPho wouldn’t be for everyone (like my mother, for example who will lament the fact that ‘gweilos’ are making OUR food and charging double for it) but it sure is for me. My only gripe about it is that due to liquor licensing issues, they are only open for lunch on weekdays so unless you have an RDO or chucked a sickie, I guess you’d have to wait until they get the okay to open for dinners and on weekends.