Phuong Thao, 28 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 5686
We first wrote about a restaurant at these premises a long time ago when it was called Just Good Food.
Since then it’s also been branded as Quang Thao but now has settled on Phuong Thao.
I have no idea if there has been or is any continuity between back then and now in terms of management, staff, cooks and so on.
Though the giant roast-meat ovens out back are still very much evidence.
I like the fact that it’s roomy and not as packed as a handful of the other Alfrieda Street hot-spots.
I like, too, that every time I’ve arrived at the place there has been a reassuring number of locals and regulars who obviously know what they’re about when it comes to their tucker.
I like it that for third lunch in a many weeks I am greeted similarly.
Yes, I have grown to like this joint.
(It was here, too, by the way, that I sourced the chicken feet that made Bennie’s thankfully short-lived stay in Sunshine Hospital just that little bit more tasty …)
You can order pho at Phuong Thao, but why would you when there is so much other fun stuff to ponder?
There’s Chinese roast meats, of course, but the heart of what’s available appears to be Vietnamese.
They have four-person banquets that go from $107 way up to $357 for the bells-and-whistles lobster version.
On a more prosaic level there’s soft shell crab with salted egg yolk (cua lot rang hot vit muoi, $18.50), coleslaws that are surely mammoth serves given they cost $25 a pop, rare cooked beef with lemon (bo tai chanh, $25), fish in clay pot with caramel (ca kho to, no price lised with the photo on the wall) and goat casserole (lau de, $35 and $55).
For my first couple of visits I have the same fine dish – hu tieu nam vang or rice noodle in Cambodian style (top photo, $10).
It’s a super soup blast.
In addition to the rudimentary green onions and coriander, there’s quite a lot julienned celery for extra and delightful crunch.
The prawns have good, strong and fresh flavour and the slices of pork are grand, though I could live without the gooey-centred small eggs.
The broth is hot and fine, and has floating in it minced pork and – the bowl’s primary flavour factor – granulated garlic.
For today’s lunch I go more basic and familiar with tomato rice with marinated diced beef ($10).
As I have found elsewhere with this dish, looks can be deceiving – what appears to be a smallish serve is more than adequate. Something about cocooning the main players in a lettuce-leaf cup, I reckon.
The beef chunks are a little larger than is usual, beautifully tender and nicely crusty on the outside.
The rice seems more like just plain fried rice with negligible tomato factor and is a little on the dry side.