Winter is the perfect time for soup. Whether it be chicken and vegetables, maybe tomato or pumpkin or something slightly more exotic like the rich spicy flavours of a laksa, the noodley goodness of a ramen or as the case was for me on a recent Wednesday evening a Vietnamese pho.
Phở is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice-noodles, a few herbs, and meat.
My friend, Miss P, and I catch up every few weeks and it appears that Northbridge has become our chosen destination. Fairly central and options a plenty. Our last catch up had been at Guzman y Gomez, but it was as we left there that we decided that we’d give the relatively new 24 hour pho place, U&I Café a go. Miss P had been previously and gave it positive reviews, so I was keen to head along and give it a try.
The first thing that struck me on arrival was the sheer size of the place. U&I is situated where Vultures once was and it is a massive restaurant. They have a large outdoor eating area ,before you head inside and there are two indoor dining areas. Fairly simple décor but everything is neat and tidy.
We started perusing the menu. Miss P had plans to head to a 6.30pm Body Combat (which is why we decided to meet up for an early bird dinner at 5.00pm) so decided to go with a dry style noodle dish and ordered the Hu Tieu Xao Do Bien, with the soup on the side.
I was keen to keep things soupy and with the guidance of Miss P (who happens to be Vietnamese – very helpful when ordering Vietnamese food) decided to go with the Pho Tai Bo Vien ($12.00) – Rice noodle beef soup, medium rare beef, beef meatballs garnish with coriander and onion. I haven’t had pho on too many occasions and the last time I had it I just had it with the beef strips, but the addition of beef meatballs didn’t seem too crazy so I thought it would be fun to give it a go. I also ordered a Chanh Muoi/Salted Lemon Juice with Ice ($5.00). Miss P seemed slightly surprised at my selection and did mention that it was an acquired taste, but hey got to give something different a go every now and then.
My drink arrived first and after a vigorous stirring to combine the lemony drink with the ice I eagerly look my first sip. Yes, it was an acquired taste and as much as I try to enjoy it as I sipped some more, it was not my cup of tea. Couldn’t really get on board with the slightly sweet, slightly sour and very salty taste. I gave it a whirl though and now I know.
Soon enough our food appeared and I was given a large bowl of soup, along with an accompanying plate of pho essentials. It smelled very fragrant and I enjoyed my first spoonful of the broth. Plenty of flavor.
I then went to work with topping up my bowl with all the sides – some of the basil, a generous handful of the bean sprouts, a cautious few slices of red chilli and a squeeze of lemon. I probably would have preferred lime, but the zest of any citrus was a welcome addition. And given my new found appreciation for coriander I had hoped for a few more sprigs than those already in the bowl, but that’s ok.
I turned my attention to the meatballs. Given theie size I was grateful that they had been pre-cut into manageable pieces. I took my first bite and unfortunately I had snagged a piece with a bit of gristle. It can be quite off-putting biting into something fatty like this so I’ll admit that I only ate another one or two pieces of meatball and decided to stick with the strips of beef which was were wonderfully thin and melted in your mouth after bathing in the pho.
So I worked to put a respectable dent into my bowl, slurping up noodles and bean sprouts but it was like it was just never ending and when I finally admitted defeat I didn’t really look like I had eaten that much, but I know I had!
I had enjoyed my meal, but I’ll admit that I had hoped that I would love it slightly more. Suspect it was the run in with the meatball early on that had slightly jaded my experience.
But hey there is always next time and I know where to head at 3am if I have a hankering for some pho 🙂