252 Victoria Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9043 7458
Disclaimer: Marty and Libby dined as guests of Super Bowl Pho and Bun Bo Hue.
I don’t follow American football, not even when the Super Bowl is on. However, if the States’ equivalent of our Grand Final involved massive bowls of phở rather than helmets and shoulder pads, I think I’d be more likely to tune in.
A much more palatable option (for me anyway) is a Vietnamese restaurant of the same name, famous for its, well, super bowl-sized phở that’s big enough to feed four people. I’m a sucker for creative restaurant names so when Rachana, the manager of Super Bowl invited me to sample Super Bowl’s menu, I eagerly said yes with as much enthusiasm as a teenage boy who just witnessed Nipplegate.
Super Bowl is owned by the Hoang family who made their mark in Seattle and were keen to do the same in Melbourne. The restaurant itself is situated on the arse end of the extremely competitive Victoria Street so the owners had their work cut out for them when it came to attracting patrons. Thankfully, a witty name and flashy furnishings such as chandeliers and a wheelchair ramp have done wonders to set it apart from the dime-a-dozen utilitarian phở restaurants on the same street.
Super Bowl’s menu is also another point of differentiation. It’s short and simple, unlike those 100-item menus you see at other Vietnamese restaurants that have the tendency to confuse. You then have the classics such as sliced beef phở and broken rice sitting alongside more unusual dishes such as phở with fried chicken Maryland. While the latter is not something I’d order myself, it’s apparently a popular dish with the, dare I say it, gweilo contingent. Eh, whatever works.
While Marty happily tucked into his three colour drink ($3.50), which he thought was ‘good because it tastes organic,’ we eagerly awaited our starter dish, the Hanoi-style spring rolls. I don’t see these deep-fried rice paper rolls a lot in Melbourne, though apparently they’re more common in Vietnam. Either way, I was glad to see another place that did them in Melbourne.
These beauties were filled with a tasty pork, prawn and vegetable filling. We wrapped them neatly in lettuce leaf, vermicelli and herb envelopes, before dunking them in a very decent nước chấm (Vietnamese dipping sauce). What a great way to start what eventuated into a massive feast.
Although Super Bowl’s speciality is the bún bò Huế (lemongrass and chilli beef noodle soup), phở seems to be more popular among the patrons. Both options can be enjoyed for as little as $8 for a small bowl or $17 for a super bowl-sized ($17). We weren’t game enough to try the super-bowl sized, well, bowl so we settled on two little bowls.
Our phở was topped with tendon and a generous heap of sliced beef that was beautifully rare and tender. I couldn’t fault the broth, which was hearty and flavoursome, though I wouldn’t say that it was the best in Melbourne (Pho Chu The in Footscray FTW).
The BBH was a lot better. Dong Ba has been my favourite BBH restaurant for quite some time, but I can easily say that Super Bowl’s BBH gives Dong Ba a run for its money. The singsong-y broth boasted a perfect balance of spicy, sweet and sour with an effortless sprinkling of umami, thanks to the beef and pork bones that were used in its production.
I was a bit surprised to see rare slices of beef floating on top of the broth, though. In the past, I have seen rare beef in phở, but never in BBH. Not that I minded though.
I was most impressed, however, by the homemade pork loaf balls that bobbled in the broth. They were essentially Super Bowl’s spin on the sliced pork loaf that you often see in BBHs and but because they were cuter in ball form and because meatballs are OMG SO COOL RIGHT NOW, I decided that I like the balls better than the slices.
Marty is currently going through a phase of making bun cha, a chargrilled marinated pork and meatballs served with vermicelli that originated from his family’s hometown, Hanoi. You don’t often see bún chả on the menu at Vietnamese restaurants in Australia so you can imagine how delighted he was when he saw it on the menu at Super Bowl.
Eating bún chả is a bit of a ritual. You shovel some vermicelli and pork your bowl before adding some lettuce and herbs. The final step is to then douse the whole thing with a slightly watered down nước chấm. Now Marty, being a purist Hanoian, tells me that this dish is traditionally made with pork belly. Thus, when Rachana told us that they use pork leg and meatballs in their version, I had to doubt its authenticity. Nevertheless, I thought it was delicious – even if the pork was swimming unflatteringly in oil. That said, I can’t wait to try Marty’s version when I see him next.
Rachana told us that there was a rice dish coming up but we declined it because we were happily full. We were pretty happy with what we consumed anyway so eating another dish would hardly change our mind about Super Bowl.
So what did we think? We thought our lunch was great. Authentic? Not quite. Delicious? Hell yeah. We both loved the unusual touches that were prevalent in some of the dishes (pork meatballs in the BBH, for example) and the friendly service. We also appreciated that Rachana took time out of the kitchen several times during our meal to chat to us – she is truly one of the nicest and most honest restaurant managers I’ve ever met.
Super Bowl is a great place to take your friends who want a quick intro to Vietnamese food as it offers a bit of everything in a clean and modern environment. And while I am more likely to recommend Chu The for good phở, I’d happily tell people to come here for all their BBH and Hanoi spring roll needs.
Question: do you think you can finish off a super bowl-sized serving of phở or BBH?