9 Leeds Street
Footscray VIC 3011
+61 3 9687 2680
Those of you who stalk pay attention to my blog will know that I’m in long distance relationship with a former Melburnian-turned-Queenslander, Marty, and that he visits Melbourne every now and then to see his misses. Oh, who am I kidding? We all know that he’s just here for kebabs, quality Vietnamese food and bratwurst rolls at the market! *sob* It goes without saying that with Marty, every pilgrimage to Melbourne requires a trip to Footscray, usually on a Saturday morning or afternoon. Whether it’d be for bun bo hue at Dong Ba, or kebabs at Footscray Best or pho at Chu The (in conjunction with a canolo from T. Cavallaro & Sons), this trip is usually the foodie highlight for Marty.
With a hankering for a steaming, soothing bowl of pho to nurse our Sean-and-Kate-engagement-party-induced fuzzy heads from the night before, we were originally going to go to Chu Te. But I, being the all adventurous food-blogger that I was, decided that we were going to try something different and so I suggested finding another Vietnamese restaurant. This suggestion was met with much sooking and resistance from the boyfriend who wanted nothing but a decently reliable meal from a Chu The, an old favourite that he knew and trusted. After much convincing, however, I managed to twist his arm (literally) and before we knew it, we were walking up the almost deserted end of Leeds Street where Pho Tam was situated.
We chose a seat against the wall and as we looked at the menus, I ignored Marty’s threats of, “If this place sucks, I’m going to be sooky for the rest of the day.” He attempted to order a bowl of pho in his native Vietnamese, only to be met with confusion from the waitress so much so that he ended up having to order it in English. Given that he doesn’t normally have issues with ordering in Vietnamese, we simply assumed that the waitress wasn’t Vietnamese and shrugged it off.
Look how massive Marty’s pho tai gan ($9) is! A bowl as big as Marty’s ego arrived, full of sliced beef, tendon and chewy rice noodles in all their awesome slipperiness. A mouthful of the stuff was enough to soften Marty as he grudgingly admitted that his pho tasted “pretty good.” I took a few spoonfuls myself and also liked it, but said that the broth was sweeter than what I’m normally used to before Marty pointed out that this was the result of him putting a bit of hoisin sauce into the broth. Ah, that cheeky boy.
There was a bit of a mixed up with my order. Instead of receiving the hu tieu (seafood rice noodle soup) that I had ordered (in English, while pointing to the corresponding item on the menu), I received a bun bo cha gio (rice Vermicelli salad with beef and spring rolls). While the dish certainly looked tempting enough to crab for myself, that was not what I wanted so I politely told the waitress so. She immediately went to the kitchen to find out what was happening with my order – but not before giving me a bit of attitude. Bitch, please, I wasn’t in the wrong so just suck it up, princess! In the mean time, I sipped my young coconut juice which was refreshingly delicious (though they were kinda stint with the coconut meat, effkers).
While I waited for my noodle soup, I kept stealing some of Marty’s pho. I liked that the pho was full of flavour and depth, which was achieved without the liberal use of MSG. It’s not as robust as Chu Te’s pho, but it was still delicious nevertheless and probably slightly better value for money given how generous the servings were.
Finally, my hu tieu (seafood rice noodle soup, $10) arrived. Dubbed the ‘South Vietnamese version of pho,’ the pork bone-flavoured soup was a lot milder yet sweeter than that of a traditional beef pho. That’s not to say that it was less tasty, though. My soup came with a medley of prawns, fish fillets, squid pieces, fish and prawn slices, celery, broccoli and the icing on the cake, a shrimp cracker. This is was a dish I used to order all the time at Tien Dat in Springvale before the quality of the dish went to shite, but I’m glad to have found another place to have Vietnamese seafood rice noodle soup should cravings attack.
For some odd reason, our prawn rice paper rolls ($8) arrived late. Great, just when we were just about done with our noodle soups. Not to worry, we thought, as we sunk our teeth into the fresh rice paper rolls that firmly held together cooked prawns, vermicelli and herbs. Dipped in hoisin sauce, they would have made a great starter – had they actually arrived before our mains but oh well. I wouldn’t say that they were the best-tasting rice paper rolls but they were far from the worst. Fresh, yes. Tasty, yes. Just lacked a bit of something.
When I arrived at the counter to pay, there was a bit of confusion as to what we had ordered. I think they tried to charge me for the bun bo cha gio that I never ordered and there was also a mix-up with the can of Red Bull that Marty ordered. The lady at the counter only got more confused as I tried to explain things to her and it didn’t help that her English was limited. In the end, she called up the waitress who took care of our table and after conversing to each other in Vietnamese, things were resolved. This exchange also proved that the waitress was, in fact, Vietnamese so why she failed to understand Marty when he tried to order his pho will always remain a mystery, heh.
So yes, we very much enjoyed our meal at Pho Tam and it’s definitely worth the extra few minutes of walking time from Footscray station. Sure, the service is a bit fuzzy and yeah, there are equally decent quality Vietnamese restaurants on Hopkins Street but I’m glad that I ignored Marty’s whinging by coming here for lunch. I now have another Footscray restaurant that I can add to my ‘recommend’ list.