13 July 2016

Cheap Eats: Tu Do to Go

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With exciting new restaurants bursting onto the Canberra food scene, it is easy to overlook old suburban favourites. But sometimes the been-in-business-for-years restaurant at the local shops is the best choice. And cheapest.

A bowl of rare beef pho noodle soup ($12)

A bowl of rare beef pho noodle soup ($12)

One pay-day Thursday we ventured out in search of a quick bite to eat. “Food van,” we thought. But dreams of gourmet hotdogs and other delights were dashed by the reality of trying to find a car park. Hungry and time pressured, we decided on nearby yet not at first obvious solution: Tu Do Vietnamese Restaurant at the O’Connor shops.

I flagged down the waitress once we arrived pointed at an entrée and two dishes: Vietnamese rice rolls ($8), peppercorn chicken ($15) and lemon grass and chilli pork ($15). “Could these come quickly?” I asked. And they did. The rice rolls, an unfussy serve of four prawn filled rolls with a caramelized soy/peanut sauce, were on the table in less than five minutes. And the other two dishes followed soon afterwards. The peppercorn chicken was not quite the fancy French-influenced dish I had expected, but still packed a punch. The pork was also not quite the grilled version I expected, but also reliable. My date and I devoured hungrily. There were no leftovers.

A serve of Vietnamese rice rolls

A serve of Vietnamese rice rolls

It was unpretentious, robust, real food. In a no-frills setting. I shared photos on Facebook. This prompted a string of comments, which surprised me as this small restaurant hidden in the O’Connor does not feature in the social media campaigns on trendy Canberra cuisine. Yet those who had been there reminisced fondly.

We came back to dine again recently. We arrived just after 6pm mid-week, and a good thing we did as the restaurant was full by 6.30pm. We ordered more Vietnamese rice rolls and bowls of the iconic Vietnamese pho soup – one rare beef and one chicken. This menu combination was a popular choice: everyone seemed to eating pho, many with Vietnamese rice rolls (although some with sinful looking stuffed chicken wings that brought on an attack of food envy). I counted at least six bowls of steaming soup as we threaded through the packed tables to pay out bill, each bowl christened with its unique combination of Thai basil, mung bean sprouts, lemon juice, chilli or chilli sauce. (Word of warning, the tiny chopped chillies are hotter than you might think so add sparingly.)

A plate of Thai basil, mung bean shoots and chopped chillies

My bowl of pho soup was not the best I have eaten – the beef was not as rare as I would have liked and it was slightly too thick. But it was obviously house made and warming on a cold night. With $12 bowls of noodle soup and other cheap goodies, this must be heaven for a cash-strapped student from the nearby Australian National University. And probably not coincidentally, many of the patrons looked like uni students who were semi-regulars in the know.

What: Tu Do Vietnamese Restaurant
Where: 7 Sargood St, O’Connor
Opening hours: 10am-3pm and 5pm-10pm; closed Mondays
Phone: 02 6248 6030

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Crazed_Loner10:20 pm 19 May 16

I recall that Tu Do was very well regarded in the Vietnamese restaurant comparison a while back and, as my former local variant, I always enjoyed the food there. In particular, I can recommend the Hot & Sour soup which is beautifully fragrant and lighter in style than the Chinese version, and the Mint Beef. Yum.

DavidStephens6:07 pm 19 May 16

Kinh Do at Macquarie has been our Vietnamese of choice for more than 10 years. Get takeaway there at least once a month. Cheaper than Tu Do the last time I looked. Laksa is particularly good though sometimes hard to get on busy nights.

Sorry you were disappointed with your meal. Everytime we go there it is always very busy. We find Tu Do has the best pho, all others seem to be wishy washy. We are OAP not students and we travel from the other side of the lake to eat there.

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