Loathed to raise this again, it's horribly cliché but Melbourne's frivolous weather continues to totally baffle me. A mere day ago we were sweltering through the city's hottest November day ever as the mercury hovered around 38°C for most of it, and yet this morning we woke to the wettest day in several years with temperatures cool enough to have to dig our sweaters out of the back of the closet again. If we'd a similar constitution to pet fish in an aquarium, this rapidity of change would've guaranteed to find us all floating belly up on the surface.
Bowl of phở bo mixed with herbage, lemon juice and plenty of bird's eye chilli just the way I like it!
The morning's rain and greyness had us lingering in bed till late but once up and thinking about food, the only brunch craving that insistently crept into mind for a need to be satisfied was a piping hot bowl of soupy noodles. Luckily for us, Footscray is only the next suburb away so it didn't take any deliberating to find ourselves walking into Chu The for large warming bowls of phở. As usual for the two of us, a medium bowl ($8.50) each of phở bo (beef) and phở ga (chicken) were promptly ordered, and I also fulfilled my first caffeine need for the day with a strong hot Vietnamese coffee syrupy with sweetened condensed milk. There's nothing much to share about the venue itself, it's a rack-standard phở joint albeit quite a small one and wholly dedicated to the Vietnamese breakfast staple. Springrolls to whet the appetite are about all you can stray away from the bowls of noodles. Choices are pretty much limited to one's preferred size of bowl, beef or chicken, and to what extend one would like to add associated offal and viscera to accompany the sliced meat (blood cubes, tendon or brisket for beef, and liver or giblets for the chicken). Order the Special for the complete experience. Lingering uncertainly over these selections when the waiter asks for your order will more than likely produce an impatient look to get with the programme.
We have visited the place quite a number of times and it's always full of local suburbanites on their grocery shopping break so there must be something going for it. Chu The produces satisfying enough bowls of phở, not the best and not the worst in Melbourne though I'm now somewhat surprised that I hadn't really been dedicated enough to have kept a phở track record. But here's my breakdown on Phở Chu The.
- Generous amounts of soup and meat, more so than any bowl one is likely to find in Vietnam.
- Beef slices always added to cook through in your bowl and thus served perfectly pink.
- Slices of chicken breast meat also tender and not overcooked nor grainy.
- Okay depth of flavour in the broth though lacks the heady spiciness and pepperiness of some establishments.
- Great rice noodles left with requisite bite.
- Limited variety of herbage with only basil and sprouts and wedge of lemon supplied.
- Chicken can include some pieces with gristle attached (and even non-chicken bits such as tripe!) if one does not expect or care for that; and beef can be untidily sliced and prone to clumping.
- Chicken broth always lacks the punch of the beef, though this is the case everywhere.
Walking outside warmly satiated and full of soup, we looked up and saw a patch of blue sky. Did they or did they not say it was going to keep raining!
Food: 14/20 - Phở or phở.
Service: 14/20 - Efficient, impersonal, inoffensive.
Value: 16/20 - Standard.
R-Factor: 16/20 - Sure, unless I can remember better elsewhere but close by.
Spot Score: 15/20 - See Pluses and Minuses.
Pho Chu The
92 Hopkins Street, Footscray VIC.
[There's another outlet somewhere in Little Saigon, Richmond]
For Footscray local and Food & Travel writer, Phil Lees' take on Chu The, visit his food blog "The Last Appetite".