6 East Esplanade, St Albans. Phone: 9364 3838
The body has long been accustomed to the fact small-size pho is perfectly suited to my time in life.
The mind still has problems.
Thus it is that I gaze greedily at the medium and large bowls that whiz by, contrasting them with contemplation of what seems like a paltry serve in front of me.
The mind, of course, is playing tricks.
My lunch – a small serve of beef and chicken combo – is plenty big enough and plenty good, especially once loaded with bean sprouts and greenery.
The broth, clean and fresh, is of the mild, restrained variety, being neither overtly beefy nor heavily influenced by seasoning such a star anise.
The beef is very good, and that the chicken has some of the cool, chewy and gristly bits – instead of mere sliced breast meat – is fine and dandy by me.
Pho Ngon is a brand new old-school pho joint in St Albans, the existence of which we have been alerted to by CTS visitor Josephine.
The furnishings in black-stained timber, the menus on the wall – all is as you’d expect.
Pho prices are $7, $8 and $9.
But while pho, spring rolls and vermicelli dominate the menu, Pho Ngon boasts enough extra rice and noodle dishes – beyond the predictable – to offer more variety than might otherwise be expected.
Bennie, just for instance, couldn’t be happier with his dry egg noodles with crispy chicken (mi ga chien don kho, $8.50).
An unexpected plus here is the use of flat egg noodles, which give his meal the appearance and feel of a rustic pasta dish from another part of the world entirely. The noodles are awash with a sweetish, garlicky sauce and embedded with crunchy shallots, bean shoots, onion and cashews.
The serve of chicken is largish for this kind of dish and appears to be good and tender, coming away from the bone easily.
The soup-on-the-side Bennie leaves enjoyably until last. He tells me it’s not salty, not sweet, just OK.
Also a bonus are the outgoing cheerful of the staff – completely accepting of and unthreatened by photograph-taking, God bless ‘em – and the 10 per cent “grand opening discount” we receive.
We almost have them fooled that I am merely Bennie’s older brother.
We find out, too, that the only we’re going to get our hands on one of the fluorescent orange polo shirts bearing the Pho Ngon logo worn by the staff is by working there.
A quick post-lunch stroll up one side of Alfrieda St reveals that the place previous known to us as Just Good Food has had a name change.