Finishing work at 6pm is not so great, especially if you start at 7am. You're tired from long hours, you'll hit traffic on the way home and you've got no energy to cook. The upside is that you have an excuse to eat out. That was our excuse anyway and what better way to warm our bellies than a big bowl of hot pho. So we made our way to Pho Hoang Gia on Wickham Street in the Valley.
Pho is a popular Vietnamese dish with broth, rice noodles and meat. There are two types of pho: chicken and beef, and they usually come with a plate of bean sprouts, chillies, herbs and a wedge of lime. This is great because people have different preferences of how hot, herby, limey or sprouty they like their pho so you can put as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. I usually just add everything in and occasionally ask for more chillies. Herbs are usually mint or basil and sometimes you will get lemon instead of lime. There are also several varieties of pho depending on the restaurant you go to.
We walked in to Pho Hoang Gia and were seated right away by the friendly waiter. Menus and water came soon after and we began to study the menu in depth. They've got quite an extensive menu with various pho choices, rice paper wraps, rice dishes, hot pots, seafood dishes, etc., which made ordering quite difficult. Finally we decided with raw beef pho and grilled pork rice paper wraps. Their pho came in two different sizes: medium and large and for just $11, my husband decided to go with the large.
Grilled pork rice paper wraps
Our meals came quickly and we were surprised with the size of their pho. I think my whole face could've fit into the bowl. We dug in quickly and it was delicious, though the broth was a bit on the salty side which made my husband extremely thirsty afterwards. Also, the disadvantage of having such a big bowl of pho was that the broth had turned cold by the time we got to the bottom of the bowl. If there was a way to keep it nice and warm (I don't know how) then it would be perfect.
My plate of rice paper wrap ingredients came and it was full to the brim. There were all sorts of vegetables, noodles and grilled pork. Straightaway, I started the making of my very own rice paper rolls: dipped a rice paper in hot water; placed a piece of lettuce on the rice paper followed by noodles, pork, cucumber, carrot and mint; rolled it up and put it in my mouth. Having all those ingredients together in my mouth was a wonderful explosion of fresh flavour. There wasn't a lot of pork, but I managed to make about 5 or 6 rolls and I was more than satisfied. What's more, DIY rice paper wraps forced me to eat slowly (something I'd always had trouble with when I had a plate of yummy food).
Overall our experience at Pho Hoan Gia was very good. Staff was attentive, restaurant was clean, and most importantly, food was scrumptious. For under $25, we definitely got our money's worth. A downside to this restaurant was that it was really echoey. We were sitting next to a group of four and had trouble hearing each other at times. Nevertheless, it did not spoil our lovely impromptu date.