Vietnamese cuisine is one of my favourites for a number of reasons: it's tasty, simple, each dish is packed with colour, texture and flavour, the use of fresh herbs lifts the meal, you can use your hands to eat, and the soups are slurp-icious.
Aside from the merits of the food itself, it's also very easy to find a casual Vietnamese eatery serving yummy food - and cheap. One such establishment is Pho Pasteur in Haymarket, an unpretentious, no-fuss eatery where the best thing is the food.
Pho Pasteur is a very popular Vietnamese eatery, always bustling and full of hungry diners. The tables are tightly packed together, with just enough room for the staff to move around. There is a little more room at the back towards the kitchen, but I have to admit that area is a bit more dingy and I would rather be out the front with the crowds.
While, like most Asian cuisines, Vietnamese food is typically prepared for sharing, the dishes at Pho Pasteur are adapted for single-serves. This suits the fast-paced nature of the restaurant, being more appropriate for a quick meal.
On this particular visit, we chose to share a plate of Seafood Spring Rolls to start. This is one of my favourite entrees as it allows me to get hands-on with my food. The best way to enjoy these spring rolls is to use your hands to wrap the spring roll with some mint in iceberg lettuce, and then dip it in Vietnamese dipping sauce (a salty fish sauce based dip). It's an absolute pleasure to bite into this fresh and crispy delight.
For mains, we each opted for a bowl of noodles - a traditional Beef Pho, and a Pho with Crispy Fried Chicken.
The Beef Pho was exactly as it should be - a tasty broth, soft but chewy rice noodles, tender beef, freshened with bean sprouts and Vietnamese basil, lifted with some lemon yest and seasoned with a dash of hoisin sauce. The Crispy Fried Chicken was succulent and juicy, while the skin was delightfully crispy. We were both very satisfied with our meals.
When ordering a noodle soup, you have a choice of a large or small bowl (only one dollar extra for the large bowl). Honestly, I would say a small bowl is more than enough to satisfy any hunger - but if you're after something cavernous, go large.
While there are plenty of good restaurants to choose from in the Haymarket and Chinatown area, it's worth venturing beyond the main eatery streets to Pho Pasteur to indulge in a no-fuss traditional Vietnamese meal.
have regularly eaten at Pasteur in the CBD for over 20 years - still good - they did seem to change the pho stock some years back to not quite so good, but still OK
some locals don't recommend it as they say the kitchen is not so clean, but I still enjoy a visit every now and then - my usual is the grilled pork vermicelli
take a tourist there and watch them be impressed at the plate of fresh basil or whatever they give you to tear onto your bowl of pho, etc.
I know the spring rolls are tempting, but together with a main course will probably have you waddling out bulging - I always skip them, visitors always order them - then have trouble finishing their main course ...
another suggestion - in winter try to avoid the front table just inside the door opening - if it stays open it may be because the big kitchen extractor fan sucks the air in and you could be sitting in a cold breeze - not a place to be in winter !
George St I went to used to be The best pho - but I think since handed on to the younger generation who have other interests, the quality has gone down - probably reducing some good ingredients to cut costs hoping to 'make more profit' - the basic mistake where if you kill what made it good, all those customers will stop coming and then you've killed your business !
Nowadays when I walk past the neighbouring pho place seems to be more popular and full at lunch times