Two of my friends had recently returned from visiting their families in Hong Kong for the summer and we decided to go for a reunion dinner when they arrived back in Birmingham. According to them, Vietnamese food is popular in Hong Kong, so one of them suggested Pho, a “Vietnamese street food” restaurant that has just opened in Grand Central. I had already spent a while drooling over their menu (which is mainly both gluten-free and dairy-free) and so knew I had to try it!
When we got th Cơm Tấmere we were very quickly shown to a table, but not before I had had a chance to stare at the kitchen. I was very happy to see bowls of fresh ingredients lining the kitchen.
We decided to order one of the gỏi cuốn to share as a starter. Gỏi cuốn are rice paper summer rolls which are filled with herbs, vermicelli & vegetables. We decided to have it with a nước chấm sauce – a slightly sour sauce traditional to Vietnam. Four gỏi cuốn arrived and I was very happy when my friends said that they wanted to save their appetite for their main, so I happily polished off the last one very quickly.
We all then decided that we just couldn’t go to Pho and not order its titular dish. So, we ordered three bowls of the aromatic pho – one Phở chín (pho with brisket), one Phở tái chín (pho with steak and brisket) and one Phở chay (pho with tofu and mushrooms). After the waiter repeated my friends’ orders back at them with the Vietnamese pronunciation, I felt like the pressure was on for me to pronounce the name of my choice correctly – to give the waiter credit, he didn’t mock my (probably awful) pronunciation and after some confused pointing at the menu I managed to make my order.
In the broth were flat rice noodles (which resembled skinny versions of the Chinese ho fun noodles, which we tried at Cafe Soya), a mix of onions and our chosen filling. The pho came with a side plate, containing beansprouts, lime, chilli and herbs so we could add our desired amount. (Naturally, I tipped most of the plate in at once.) I had the Phở tái chín, which had lovely pieces of very tender brisket as well as delicious thin slices of steak. I really enjoyed this dish and as it shared a main ingredient with my friend’s Phở chín, can vouch that that dish is delicious too! I didn’t try any of the Phở chay, as I’m not a big fan of mushrooms, but the smell coming from the dish was absolutely divine.
The bowls of pho were ridiculously filling and even I – very reluctantly – had to leave some in the bowl at the end. Looking at the menu after I left, I was also really shocked at how healthy the meals are in Pho (it makes me almost tempted to order two dishes at once). I’m already planning my next visit back and I’ve got my eye on their Nem nướng pork balls bún (noodles with grilled Vietnamese pork sausage) and the divine looking Xào Cơm Tấm (stir fried greens in a gingery sauce, served with rice).