106 Lygon St
Carlton VIC 3053
+61 3 9654 9653
I’m five weeks into a new masters course … and I’m loving it. I’m only doing one subject this semester and I only have to attend an evening class once a week. My campus is only a mere 10 minute tram ride from work, which makes it a breeze to get to. And it feels so damn good not having to read boring 100-page cases. Another good thing about going to this uni (and not the one I went to up until late last year) is that it’s surrounded by a handful of cheapie cafés and Lygon Street is only a stone’s throw away. I’m not usually one to rave about Lygon Street ‘Italian food’ but when you’ve been studying at a university in Clayton for so long, a campus that’s in the middle of nowhere, Lygon Street is a godsend.
Amongst the dime-a-dozen Anglo-Italian cafés and restaurants, gelati stores and Thai restaurants, there is Saigon Phố, probably the only Vietnamese restaurant on the strip. One might initially think that Lygon Street is a strange place to set up a Vietnamese restaurant but I think it makes sense: most people love phố, phố is cheap and uni students love cheap food. I, for one, am normally extremely hungry after my evening class and instead of waiting 45 minutes to reach home before I could eat dinner, I’d prefer to have a quick meal nearby before heading home. As such, cheap and quick options such as phố are ideal.
The restaurant is a simple, no-fuss eatery as are most Vietnamese restaurants. However, little touches such as a chandelier and timber floors make the restaurant stand out from other Vietnamese restaurants in Melbourne. It was a warm evening when I rocked up so I was grateful when a waitress immediately passed some ice-cold water to me as I studied the menu. Although phố is obviously the restaurant’s specialty, other Vietnamese favourites such as Bún bò Huế make the list.
I started off with a serving of prawn spring rolls (six for $7). Although I would have preferred to see little chunks of prawn meat (as opposed to the prawn being minced beyond recognition), I thought the filling tasted great. There was a decent amount of vermicelli in the mix, too. And the best thing? They weren’t too oily.
I enjoyed a small bowl of beef and brisket phố ($8.50). Although the broth did not taste as sharp as I would have liked, it was still tasty in that flat but mellow kind of way. Yeah, okay, so it was not completely free from MSG but it was still great. There was a generous amount of rice noodles, beef and brisket given the size of the bowl so I was happy. The bowl might have been smaller than what other Vietnamese restaurants would consider ‘small’ but it still managed to fill me up (then again, I DID manage to demolish six spring rolls…). It was definitely not the best phố I’ve ever had but by no means, the worse. And hey, keep in mind that this is Lygon Street. I’ll definitely keep coming back for as long as I’m still a student (which at the rate I’m going would probably mean forever, hah).