February 23, 2014

International Pho: Sydney

Viet Bowl
Sydney, Australia

How cool is it that I found a Vietnamese restaurant within a few hours of being in Sydney? Well, their food scene is pretty diverse, but I did like seeing Viet Bowl so close to our hotel in Darlinghurst. On the down side, pho anywhere in Sydney is $12 AUD, which seems pretty expensive by American standards. However, minimum wage in Sydney is about $20 AUD, so suddenly a $12 lunch doesn't seem so bad, right?

Viet Bowl seems like an up and coming Vietnamese chain restaurant. This is the original location, opened in December 2012, but they've opened another location last year and have food trucks at markets as well. They serve noodle soups, rice, and vermicelli all for about $12 each. They have a few cheaper items like rice paper rolls and meats to snack on, and of course, boast authentic Vietnamese cuisine. They only have three types of pho, though: pho tai (rare steak), pho tai nam (rare steak & brisket), and pho ga (chicken).

The shop is pretty small, with four tables that can accommodate 4 and one that seats 2. It was a nice place to have a quick lunch, but some aspects could use improvement. For example, I don't know who decided that the soup spoons should be of a disposable plastic variety, but they seemed cheap. At least they had real plastic chopsticks? And I had to chuckle at the boxes of tissues on the tables, rather than napkins - just like you'd find in Vietnam!

Though my pho tai was delivered quickly, I can't say it looked very appetizing. First off, the color of the broth was too light for my taste, and the garnishes looked so sparse! Luckily, I was ravenous from some last minute exploring and ate the whole thing pretty quickly. However, I didn't really enjoy it, primarily because I found the broth lacking in flavor. It certainly could have used more depth from meat and spices. It didn't help that I was feeling a little under the weather, which probably made my taste buds a little off. I guess watching fireworks while underdressed for a chilly evening can have adverse effects on a person. Those table tissues actually came in handy.

A lackluster bowl of Pho Tai

The other components of the pho weren't much better. The meat was pretty much cooked through, and it was a little tough, but the amount was very generous. When I was getting close to the end of the bowl, I thought, wow, there's still more meat? So, that's a bonus. Just one, though. The thing I really had a problem with was the noodles. They were of the thicker variety, and instead of delicate pho flavors, the empty taste of rice flour prevailed.

Overall, it was definitely one of the weaker bowls of pho I've had, though it wasn't terrible. I was hungry, after all! I'm sure that there's better pho to be had in Sydney. I actually did pass a few other Vietnamese restaurants while walking around the city - too bad Viet Bowl was the most convenient.

Rating Breakdown

Taste (7/14)
  • Broth flavor- 3/5
  • Noodle & meat quality- 2/5
  • Garnish selection- 0/2
  • Portion size- 2/2
Restaurant (12/16)
  • Service- 3/5
  • Cleanliness- 4/5
  • Atmosphere- 3/4
  • Speed of arrival- 2/2
Total: 19/30

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