3/284 Hampshire Rd, Sunshine. Phone 9311 9532
Pretty much everybody, I would guess, who cavorts in the playground of western suburbs cheap eats has what I think of “single-dish restaurants” filed away in their mental Rolodexes.
Smack in the middle of Footscray’s Viet enclave, is in an eatery that backs on to the Market That Doesn’t Allow Cameras - it does a perfectly fine non-pho lineup of soup noodles and rice dishes. But that’s never why I hit the place. Nope, I go there for just one reason – the Vietnamese stewed beef. It’s a marvel – beef on the bone always meltingly tender, big chunks of carrot, served with egg or rice noodles – or both. Or served, just for a change, with a crusty bread roll. It’s always excellent but always different – depending on how old any particular batch of stew actually is.
There’s other places in the vicinity that do stewed beef, but none with the consistency or tastiness or restrained degree of fattiness.
Across the road is another Viet place that does a large number of dishes, most of them good, many of the damn fine – but there, one or both of us, inevitably end up ordering the tomato fried rice with diced garlic, or one of the variations thereof.
Both those places are waiting in line to be covered in greater depth in considerthesauce.net …
Right now, though, I want to rave about another “single dish restaurant”.
Sunshine’s Pho Hien Saigon is a straight-up uncompromising pho joint.
Its lineup is precisely what you’d expect – spring rolls, rice paper rolls, a handful of rice dishes and pho, pho and more pho.
The only sign of the unorthodox is the regular Sunday special of the stuffed pancake. I’ve had it a few times, but always find that particular dish turns to a handful of mush no matter where I have it.
I’m quite sure I’ve had pho and rice dishes at Pho Hien Saigon, but all that’s little more than a fading memory.
For it’s been years and years since I’ve ordered anything but the vermicelli.
The vemicelli comes in six flavours – grilled pork, grilled chicken, sugar cane prawn, shredded pork, spring rolls and combination, all $9.50, 50 cents more for the prawns.
I always go for the grilled chicken more commonly served with rice.
Atop the big bowl placed on my table is a big white pillow of vermicelli on which sits many strands of sweetly pickled carrot, spring onion, the crunchiest of chopped peanuts and a delicious slab of grilled chicken thigh.
I tip the entire contents of the bowl of accompanying sauce (fish sauce, garlic, sugar, lemon, chilli and more carrot) on to my meal and commence to mix it up. And – lo! – underneath the vermicelli is more delicious crunchiness in the form of lettuce, bean sprouts, mint and other herbs.
Jumbled all together, this is manifestly a triumph – it’s difficult to think of anything that is more tasty, healthy and affordable all at the same time. Aside from pho!
Pho Hien Saigon vermicelli is bigger, brighter, bitier, more colourful and lip-smkackingly fine than I’ve found anywhere else. Even if on the day I visit to take photos the chicken could have done with a minute or two more on the grill in order to acquire more of a charry barbecue flavour.
And I like visiting Viet central in Sunshine. As yet it doesn’t have the same diversity as Footscray, but the grocery shopping is beaut and at Sunshine Plaza there always seems to be underground parking to be had. It’s in the shade and it’s free. Parking – that’s a big plus.