Sunday, 8 April 2012

Hung Vuong

128 Hopkins St
Footscray, VIC 3011

Pho is the best medicine there is, and as a pharmacist-to-be, I don’t say this lightly. It cures everything from colds to unhappiness to a big night out. If everyone just ate more pho, the world would be a happier place.

Hung Vuong came with the recommendation as the best pho in Melbourne by a fellow pho enthusiast. And it had better be, considering the unseasonably cold weather, complete with lashings of rain and wind that we had to brave to get to the restaurant.

The interior was a lot more spacious and modern compared to most pho pit-stops, but the slightly grotty tables piled with miscellaneous sauces, a thermos of tea, and handfuls of chopsticks were reassuring (???) signs of authenticity. The hot, strong tea was a welcome stomach warmer after shivering our way through the wind and rain. The menu is written up on a big board in English, Vietnamese, and Chinese, and it contains all the basic dishes you could want, but nothing you wouldn’t expect.

Small Special Beef Pho ($8)
Small Special Beef Pho ($8)
The most important aspect of pho is the stock, so the first thing I do whenever someone places a bowl of pho in front of me is take a sip of the soup. And this soup was good. Like holy balls good. It was heady with beef and spice and the right amount of sweetness, the clean flavour untainted by the devil’s MSG. However, it was let down by the fact that it was hovering somewhere between warm and hot. And once I chucked the sprouts and basil in, it was settled firmly into being lukewarm. For a Small Special Beef Pho ($8), there could have been more offal (I only had one slice of beef ball, albeit a very good one that was studded with black pepper), and the bowl could have been larger. Though I’m hard-pressed to be annoyed about either of those things, not when there’s a generous serve of the slippery , slurpy noodles topped with an equally generous amount of thinly sliced, beautifully pink beef brisket, all bathed in that glorious, glorious soup.

Grilled Chicken on Rice ($10)
The plate of Grilled Chicken on Rice ($10) is a refined departure from the norm of golden slabs of pan fried chicken draped over rice. Instead, a deboned piece of chicken was carefully cut up and grilled until golden. The meat was sweet from a light glaze and tender and from careful cooking, served with the essential garnishes of cucumber slices and carrot pickles. Bonus points to the soup for being fragrant with fried spring onion. 

I can certainly understand why Hung Vuong is such a hit with pho-lovers everywhere; a killer stock combined with medium-rare beef slices makes for a good meal any day of the week. However, I think their downfall is in the little things; the temperature of the soup and the freshness of the garnishes may seem like minor issues, but they nevertheless impact on the overall experience. They already have a soup that’s good enough to drink down to the dregs; a little more attention to detail would make this the best pho in Melbourne, hands down.  

Rating: 14/20 – vuong is well hung and makes an excellent soup too

Hung Vuong on Urbanspoon

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