Pho. Pronounced 'fur' [fəː˧˩˧] (does my title make sense now?) is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth and rice noodles, usually served with beef or chicken. While others debate about the best Laksa or the best Ramen, Pho fans like myself are always on the hunt for the best Pho joint in Sydney. The contentious topic of the best pho in Sydney is widely debated upon but today, rather than jumping on the bandwagon and pledging my allegiance to one single restaurant, I will list my top 5 trusted restaurants where there is guaranteed no disappointment. Why only go with one when you can choose from five? Note – the following restaurants are not 'ranked' in order of preference.
Big names aside, I have always found this small Vietnamese restaurant in Crows Nest to be a very charming spot. It does not have the hurried atmosphere notoriously common amongst most Asian restaurants, but rather, is a nicely decorated establishment where you can have a laid back and relaxed conversation with your friends over a warm, delicious bowl of Pho.
In terms of the Pho itself, the broth is not as thick as what you may find in other restaurants. Nevertheless, as testified by my Vietnamese friend, this Pho is very authentic and the light flavour allows you to drink the whole bowl of soup without feeling guilty of the high salt content that usually accompanies thick broths.
Image from the I Love Pho restaurant website
2. La Mint – Darlinghurst 62-64 Riley St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Tucked away in the heart of Darlinghurst, this French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant is one of my favourite places in Sydney. I had the chance to meet the owner, Leanne, who has shared with me her personal story on escaping the war in Vietnam and meeting George (now her husband and Chef of La Mint) in Paris, before moving to Australia for a new life. Prior to starting La Mint, the couple owned a Vietnamese restaurant at George Street and has been preparing Pho for years. She also described to me the paramount importance of the broth in a bowl of Pho and how their broth is prepared by boiling and simmering beef and a special combination of spices for hours in a metal pot the size of a small room, with no MSG or other nastiness ever allowed to be added to the mix. (Great for me with an inconvenient MSG allergy!)
Only recently, the couple decided to bring the Pho to La Mint, only with a twist. Pho-pot is the modern twist to the well-loved Pho dish and is an amalgamation of the traditional Pho and East Asian style variety of stew, the "Hot-pot". Using the same authentic beef broth, pho-pot is served in a pot atop a small flame with the meat placed on the side. We then have the experience to cook the beef and other ingredients in the mouthwatering soup.
This experience is great as it ensures the beef or the noodles are not overcooked (as it sometimes happens when left in the soup for too long) and allows us to taste the different layers of the broth as it goes through different stages – pure, rich beef broth before additional ingredients are added, and the magic after fusing with the additional ingredients. La Mint is just a 10 minute walk from Sydney CBD and makes a great lunchtime option.
This trusted Pho shop I refer to is located outside Westfield Parramatta. I have been going to Pho Pasteur since high school and would occasionally make the trip back just for the Pho. I feel it is the special mix of herbs and secret spices forming the thick soup that brings me back each time. There is also no lack of other Vietnamese dishes for those who want to try something different.
Pho Pasteur could also be found near Haymarket where you could enjoy Pho amongst the chatter by other pho loving office workers and tourists.
Pho An is so famous it is almost inappropriate to leave it off the list. If you are after nothing but a no frills bowl of pho served with efficiency, this is the place for you. Busy all times of the year, you are seated into long desks where you order your Pho and it is served in less than five minutes. This is the place where you are allowed to not make forced small talk with others, or worry about being judged by others on what you are wearing, and can just focus on the generous serving of delicious Pho.
The one drawback of Pho An is that there is no English translation on the menu. Pho Tai (beef noodle soup) and Pho dac biet (special / combination beef noodle soup) is your safe bet before you are brave enough to randomly pick a number off the menu on the wall. So pho so good!
Generous serving of Pho with complimentary tea - always very sastisfying
5. Song Nhi Vietnamese Restaurant – St Leonards 56-62 Chandos St, St Leonards NSW 2065
Yes, I may be biased towards lower North Shore because it is close to where I live and work, but hey – everyone knows the 'classics' near Cabramatta, Bankstown and Homebush so this may be an opportunity to bring out the lesser known but still great ones!
Song Nhi is a three minute walk away from St Leonards station and is usually filled with business men / women from nearby grabbing some comfort food and morale booster before returning to work. The atmosphere is casual but nice, great for a quick meal without the pressure of being rushed out. What I love about Song Nhi is that in addition to the great broth, its side dishes such as chilly chicken wings and assorted Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter rolls are also great accompanies to the Pho. With the price being very reasonable (even more so than the well known rush in, rush out joints), this is one of my favourite go to places for Pho without making the effort to travel far.
Whether you are a Pho fan or new to Pho - hope this article has given you some places to think about! So where is your favourite Pho place? Or are you like me and have a couple of favourite spots? Please do share as I continue my mission to taste-test the best Pho in Sydney.
recently found a very nice pho place at randwick called "vcuisine" - it has unbelievably high ratings on urbanspoon but i was feeling adventurous one day so i tried it. 3 more visits later (and ordering the same pho) it's STILL my favourite place to go. the broth is light, but on the more herb-ly and spice-y (not the hot chili type of spice) side. the best thing about it is i would never get thirsty from drinking the whole bowl of soup! unlike pho an who leaves me very thirsty for the next couple hours. the beef is always fresh and i highly recommend this! it definitely deserves more credit for this little gem in the south-eastern suburbs of sydney!!
Pho Tau Bay in Cabramatta. First pho place opened in Sydney. Secret recipe is closely guarded. Hands down best in Sydney. Rich and fragrant, just like in Saigon. Fresh ingredients. Hoards of viet people is a sign of their success. Otherwise PHD in Marrickville and Bo 7 Mon in Haymarket. I'm a first generation Vietnamese. Check me out on instagram @tastychopsticks or via tastychopsticks.tumblr.com