3 September 2018

Best of Canberra - Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup

| Elias Hallaj
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What are the most pho-nomenal restaurants you know in Canberra? Let us know! Photos: Elias Hallaj.

Where is your favourite Pho restaurant in Canberra? Do you have several favourites? Every region in Vietnam seems to have a slight variation in Pho style and most restaurants have numerous options to suit different tastes. If your favourite Pho joint is on the voting list below, please vote for it and let us know why in the comments. If it isn’t on the list, please let us know so we can add it!

Winter is the perfect time to devour a fragrant, fresh Vietnamese Pho (usually pronounced ‘fur’ or ‘fa’ – not ‘foe’), a traditional noodle soup usually found in beef, chicken or vegetarian combinations. Canberra is blessed with several fantastic Pho restaurants, with at least one highly recommended option in the major town centres and several smaller shopping strips and centres. Pho seems like a simple dish but to make it properly takes many hours of boiling bones and skimming stock.

Ms Ba Cô at Majura Park is a top contender for the best Pho in the Capital.

Ms Ba Cô at Majura Park is fast becoming a top contender for the best Pho Makers title in the Capital.

The RiotACT wrote a short review of some Pho places in Canberra in 2015, with some good feedback from readers, but the number of options has increased immensely since then. The recommendations from readers given then included Can Tho in Belconnen, Pho Phu Quoc in Dickson, Tu Do in O’Connor, Simply Pho in Gungahlin, iPho in Garema Place, My’s at Cooleman Court, Miss Van’s Street Food at Westside (which sadly no longer exists) and Pho Hub in Belconnen. The reporter went back to try the two most popular suggestions and found great merit with both. But the reality is new places have opened, and some have sadly closed. Five years ago I would have recommended Noodle Cafe in Garema Place but it no longer exists. And newer places like Bistro Nguyen and Phat Panda in Tuggeranong have a growing loyal following. Phat Panda is a great little place that only opened a few months ago and is about to also start appearing at local festivals. The driving force behind this great new restaurant is Luke Leong. Like all up and coming restauranters, he loves food and watching people devour and enjoy his creative passion. Phat Panda often has specials that aren’t on the menu so it’s always worthwhile to say hello to Luke and ask if he has any specials or surprises available to try.

Another newcomer to the Canberra pho scene is Ms Ba Co in Majura shopping centre. The owner Richard Phu’s family run a successful Vietnamese Restaurant in Richmond, Melbourne, which is like Cabramatta in Sydney, but more hip, easier for tourists to get to by tram, and just as tasty. Richard and his family came to Australia as refugees and are originally from Hue in central Vietnam. They’re working hard to build a new business and their food is delicious. If you’re ever near the airport it is a must-try. Their family’s authentic love for food is obvious from the care they take and the fresh ingredients they use. The Pho is amazing but the Banh Mi is to die for as well and they will also raise the bar for other Vietnamese restaurants in Canberra with their generous servings and authentic tastes.

Although I’ve never been to Vietnam I did work for three years in Cabramatta in the 90s, when it was known as both the Banh Mi and Pho capital of Australia, amongst other things. I learned to say Pho Bo (beef pho) and Pho Ga (chicken pho) and sadly, because I looked a bit western to most Vietnamese, often had to insist on extra chilli as they often assumed the western palate was not adapted to high concentrations of this delicious accompaniment. I also learned to expect a jug of cold water on the table, along with a box of tissues, and various sauce bottles and cutlery. Some of the old school Vietnamese restaurants still maintain these traditions and it is very endearing to Pho fans when you see it.

There are so many variables in what different people want in a Pho, so I think we need to let you, the readers, decide which is your favourite and maybe do a follow-up story after the data is in. Who knows, there might be a surprise contender. A recent stroll through the city showed me that while Bistro Nguyen was as busy as usual serving up delicious Vietnamese food to a packed restaurant, only a few metres away in front of the No5. bus stop at the Civic Bus Interchange, Hello Hanoi had a steady stream of cash-strapped students enjoying its slightly cheaper but still tasty $12.50 Rare Beef Pho.

So here is the voting list of all 25 Canberra Pho restaurants your intrepid but time-poor noodle connoisseur can think of easily. There are some Vietnamese cafes and restaurants (like the one in Griffith) that we know don’t do Pho, so we haven’t listed them here. Please let us know which is your favourite.

Where is your favourite Pho restaurant in Canberra?

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If you’re a Pho-lover like Darren in the picture below, then share this post with your friends and fellow Pho lovers so that your favourite place gets its rightful position at the top of the list once we publish the results!

Pho at bistro Nguyen with Darren Rodrigo

Pho at bistro Nguyen with Darren Rodrigo.

I’m told by a reliable source that the Vietnamese bakery in Curtin also does Pho occasionally. And there was word on the street that a Pho van had been set up in a car park in Gunghalin by an old Vietnamese couple but it sadly shut up shop last year. If anyone has similar hot tips please include them in the comments below.

Elias Hallaj (aka CBRfoodie) is a part-time food tweeter and blogger and full-time political staffer who occasionally masquerades as a food writer on RiotACT. All his opinions about Pho and other Vietnamese delicacies are his own. He also wishes he looked as handsome as Darren does while eating pho in the photo above. If you have any tips or feedback you can find him on Twitter @CBRfoodie.

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You forgot LL’s Bakery and Cafe at the Fyshwick Markets which hubby and I have been going to for about 10 years now. Also Iron Knob St Bakery and Delicatessen do a great Pho also. Yes, I know they are both bakeries but both serve delicious Vietnamese food too 🙂

Elias Hallaj12:47 pm 07 Sep 18

Thanks for the feedback @amsfromaus – as well as those two you mentioned, have also heard great things about the Vietnamese Pho at the Curtin Shops as well. Will add them to future surveys and lists! 🙂

tim_tam_twinky1:46 pm 07 Sep 18

Agree @amsfromaus, love the pho at LL’s from the Fyshwick markets 🙂

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