Pho the love of Vietnamese rice noodle soup, we've slurped down bowl after bowl all over town. Here are some of the top spots to find Melbourne's best pho!
I LOVE PHO 264 (Richmond)
Pho newbies, start here. The clue is in the title; everyone here loves pho and by the time you leave, you will, too. Chicken, beef, ox tail and vegetarian versions are available; all are served fresh, fast and hot, just as they should be, with super slippery rice noodles in a star-anise-driven broth. The first few mouthfuls are pure comfort, as the cure-all broth leaves you feeling all's right with the world, and then the fun begins – tweaking the pho to your liking with fresh Vietnamese mint, bean shoots and lemon, chilli and fish sauce.
Can't get to Richmond? Never fear – I Love Pho Express has just opened in the shiny new Emporium Melbourne shopping centre!
PHO HUNG (Springvale)
In a suburb saturated with Vietnamese joints, how do you tell which one dishes up one of Melbourne's best pho? It's simple: look inside. Are there loads of empty tables? Then go elsewhere. Go to Pho Hung, where the coveted tables are full of folks relishing the good stuff. This is a no-frills establishment, so don't expect great service or even a paper menu – there's a wall-mounted lightbox listing varieties of pho in Vietnamese, and that's about it.
But you can expect an authentic beef or chicken pho (or giblet and tendon-packed pho, if that's your thing). Thin slices of rare beef turn slowly from pink to brown in the glistening, gelatinous broth; the rice noodles absorb the broth's intensely rich flavour, becoming even tastier as you slurp your way to the bottom of the bowl. Are you hungry yet? We pho-king are.
PHO HUNG VUONG SAIGON (Footscray)
Overheard in a restaurant queue: "What is it with Melburnians queuing for food? There are thousands of places to eat – why queue when you can go elsewhere?" If you feel the same way, you've never been to Pho Hung Vuong Saigon. Maybe that's because you couldn't be bothered queuing. To which we say: go. Join the line. It'll be a short wait, partly because the staff are hyper-efficient and partly because hoovering down a bowl of the amazing pho fills diners with such good vibes that they're happy to clear out fast so those in the queue can also partake.
Yeah, OK, it all sounds a bit cult-like, but once you've tried the fragrant, deeply flavoured broth and the buttery, melt-in-the-mouth beef, you'll see what we mean. What's that? "Let's queue up pho more"? We're right behind you.
HANOI HANNAH (Prahran)
Is Hanoi Hannah a loud, funky cocktail bar, or a brilliant restaurant dishing up good times and hawker-style Vietnamese food? It's both, so if you need a pre-pho cocktail (who doesn't?!), Hannah's your girl. The innovative drinks list might include such quirky ingredients as aloe vera juice, but the popular beef pho toes a more traditional line; it's loaded with thinly sliced meat and slippery noodles in a slowly simmered broth. Poached chicken and mushroom versions are also available; the tender chicken pho is one of the best on this side of town. Hannah is usually outrageously busy, so you'll probably have to wait to get in, but it's worth it pho sure.
YONG GREEN FOOD (Fitzroy)
Glutards rejoice – Yong Green Food, the award-winning health-food restaurant that's winning the hearts of vegos and carnivores alike, makes the best gluten-free pho in Melbourne. Woohoo! Actually, it's vegan and gluten-free, but that doesn't mean it's flavour-free too. Quite the opposite – the vegie broth is as complex as its meaty counterparts and the soy beef will have you swearing it's the real thing.
Not a fan of mock meat? Opt for the tofu version instead. Either way, you'll receive a healthy, nutritious meal that's as good for the planet as it is for your conscience.
PHO BO GA MEKONG VIETNAM (Melbourne CBD)
Just as its namesake river divides land in southeast Asia, so Mekong on Swanston Street divides soup lovers when it comes to naming Melbourne's best pho. In one corner are the "It's oily and full of MSG" team, and in the other are the "Sure but the grilled chicken pho is genius" challengers. You can guess which side we're on – and if you can't, get thee to Mekong and order said grilled chicken pho.
The meat's smokiness permeates the stock, making it a cut above stock-standard. The umami-factor is high (even if umami is just a fancy way of saying MSG – who cares, it tastes good) and there's cheap 333 – Vietnamese beer – to wash it all down. Strip lighting, utilitarian furniture and abrupt service merely make the place feel more authentic. It ain't first-date material but it's a Swanston Street stalwart for a reason. Fight your way in and slurp away.
Tell us Urban Listers…where do you think dishes up some of Melbourne's best pho? Let us know in the comments below.
Image Credit: Chia Chong (Salted & Styled)