Bánh hỏi chả giò seafood spring roll with steamed rice noodle $9.00
How can you not love a dish involving spring rolls? I'm a sucker for bánh hỏi chả giò at Vietnamese restaurants, the perfect excuse to crunch into spring rolls under the guise of eating a salad.
We've stopped in at Pho Pasteur on George Street several times lately, always filled with a gaggle of office workers, uni students, Vietnamese families and curious tourists. The dining room is tightly packed with chairs and tables, but it's a cosy squish, filled with a merry chatter. Down the back is a roomier but more dilapidated section. You'll get a view of the action in the kitchen, but you'll also see the dirty dishes too.
Inside Pho Pasteur
Menus are handed out but the brief list of choices are also printed on the wall. Most dishes are single-serve and not designed for sharing, probably a good thing considering the lack of space on the tables.
Spring rolls with steamed rice vermicelli noodles are a glorious compromise between deep-fried indulgence and the virtue of salad. You can order them in a bowl of vermicelli noodles, but I prefer the hands-on version, wrapping the spring roll in a lettuce leaf with a soft mat of vermicelli noodles and bright leaves of Vietnamese mint and purple shiso. Dip the parcel in a bowl of nước chấm -- a sweet dressing made from fish sauce, lemon juice and sugar -- and savour the crunch of spring roll pastry shards against crisp lettuce and the dribble of sauce down your chin.
As I piled the vermicelli into my lettuce cup, I stopped short when I found a cube of pork. This was why I had tasted such deliciousness, a dice of pork belly deep-fried so the layer of fat was rendered to a crouton-like crunch.
Grilled pork and spring roll with tomato rice $10.00
What we have noticed at Pho Pasteur is the easy accommodation of most requests. Swapping of components can usually be done. The grilled pork and spring roll above was supposed to come to vermicelli, but it was served with tomato rice on request. The only hurdle we have encountered is with vegetarian food, of which there are no options. Miss Veg asked for summer rolls without pork, but was told to 'just take the meat out yourself and eat it'.
Sugar cane prawns with vermicelli $11.00
We've eaten our way through much of the menu. Sugar cane prawns are always a hit, a huddle of sweet soft prawn paste grilled on skewers of sugar cane which you can chew on when you're finished.
Grilled pork with vermicelli $9.00
Grilled pork was a little disappointing, devoid of the usual lemongrass marinade that caramelises to a charcoaled sweetness.
Deep-fried chicken with vermiclli $9.00
I find it hard to go past deep-fried, and the deep-fried chicken delivered - succulent flesh beneath a shattering crackle of skin, and bones you can crunch on with pleasure.
Seafood noodle soup $10.50
If deep-fried isn't your thing (apparently these people do exist), you can slurp down a cavernous bowl of seafood noodles, slippery rice strands huddled in a clear sweet soup and topped with peeled prawns, curls of squid and squeaky sprigs of fresh coriander.
Fresh rice noodles
Phở gà chicken noodle soup $9.00
Phở is always popular, available in the standard beef and chicken variations, with optional upgrades to "special" that generally involve tripe and tendons. Clear stock, silky noodles and a side plate of bean sprouts, fresh lemon and Vietnamese basil, are ideal for when you're feeling under the weather.
But I also find spring rolls and crispy skin chicken put in a spring back in my step too.
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Monday to Sunday 10am-9.30pm
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2/28/2011 03:34:00 a.m.