I still remember my first pho soup. It was dark and mysterious, full of odd flavour combinations that now seem to walk hand in hand, but at the time were almost disquieting. The soup contained a deep flavour of simmered beef, with the uplifting overtones of star anise, onion and garlic. Underneath the foreboding broth were slivery, fat rice noodles and as a generous and unexpected accompaniment, a plate of lemon slices, bean sprouts, Thai basil and chilli, to add as one felt needed. I was blown away. How could six bucks get you this close to heaven?
The place was Pho Pasteur, however not the same as joev's revelation. My Pho Pasteur is in downtown Sydney and I can add that the surroundings and service are as startling as the soup. The place is Spartan. Bare Formica tables, white tiles on every surface and a huge cacophony of voices and sound. You walk in, hoping to be greeted by an employee, but that rarely happens. There are about 60 seats and they are almost always full of mainly Vietnamese patrons (a very good sign). Head down to the back, there might be a seat there. Ah good, you can squeeze in next to a family enjoying lunch after shopping at the nearby Paddy's Markets.
What to order? There is pho bo, beef noodle soup, the old mainstay, or how about pho ga, chicken noodle soup. Wait a minute, pho bo special. Special beef noodle soup. What makes it so special? Tripe, beef tendon and brisket, that's what. Perfect for letting the locals know that you mean business.
Place your order, if you can find a waiter. The place is going mad! The only person that you thought was a waiter is having a verbal spat with the chef. He spits the dummy, yelling expletives in Vietnamese and rushes to the other end of the restaurant. Must be patient.
I get up and go to the counter. One special beef noodle soup please. I hurriedly pay the man and take my seat. All is well. 6 minutes later, a steaming bowl of heavenly broth is delivered, with herby accompaniments. I am sated. The cacophony subsides. I am at one with the soup.
709 George St, Haymarket, Sydney 2000.