The pho Gods have spoken. Woken up at 7am by an unexpected thunderstorm, every fibre of my body immediately cried out for pho, despite still being half asleep. With Pho Bo Ga Mekong Vietnam (usually known as just Mekong) being the only pho-serving restaurant in the city we’ve yet to check out, it seemed like a perfect spot for some pre-exam nourishment.
Whenever we walk past Mekong at mealtimes, it always seems to be packed to the rafters, so we made sure to arrive just before the lunch rush and thankfully managed to avoid having to navigate our bulky bags around irritated sardines diners. Which is just as well, because I had enough trouble as it is trying to squeeze into my seat.
On each slightly sticky table sat enough condiments to make a meal out of. Aside from the various sauces, there was also a little glass bowl filled with chopped chilli, and a plastic box of what we thought were pickled onions.
Small Beef Special Pho ($8.5)
Being a bit of a pho-purist, I went with my regular order of small beef special pho ($8.5), which came with all the goodies the humble bovine has to offer. The beef brisket and tripe were fairly standard, though the tendons weren’t as tender (heh) as I would have liked. The beef sausage and beef balls (spheres not testicles) however were peppery and meaty, without that disconcerting bounciness that they usually tend to have, and overall were a lot better than what I’m used to getting in my pho. There were also a couple of pieces of marrow but I stayed away from them. The soup was piping hot and redolent with spices, but unfortunately there was so much MSG in it that I started to feel a little ill towards the bottom of my bowl, and was thirsty for a good 3 hours afterwards.
Small Chicken Breast Fillet Pho ($8.5)
Chris, who isn’t very fond of beef pho, decided to get the small chicken breast fillet pho ($8.5) instead. This is the first time either of us has had chicken pho, and we agreed that it was a lot lighter and less gamey than its beefy counterpart. Perhaps the best part of this dish was the fried shallots floating in the bowl, which imparted a lovely fragrance to the soup. There also thankfully seemed to be less MSG in the chicken pho than in the beef.
Sprouts and Thai Basil
Like the pho, the condiments that came with it were also smaller than average in portion. A small handful of sprouts of were accompanied by a sprig of Thai basil and a wedge of lemon. Not that they weren’t sufficient but I couldn’t help but wistfully think back to the huge, fresh pile of vegetables provided at Pho Dzung.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about Mekong. On one hand, the pho wasn’t any less tasty than most pho I’ve had, but on the other hand, I left feeling like there was something missing. Maybe it was the smaller portions, maybe it was the gratuitous use of MSG, but the next time I’m craving pho in the city, I’d probably head over to Pho Dzung on Russell Street instead.