Left or Right? Left or Right? I wonder how many people have experienced this same dilemma when standing in front of Pho Gia Hoi (Left) and Pho Pasteur (Right). But we chose Left, just because it looked busier; that has to be an indicator? Right? Or was it Left? *Confused look*
Craving crispy chicken with tomato rice, we made our way to the two best Vietnamese restaurants in the CBD, by-passing all the other Chinatown options, and were pleasantly surprised to see that Pho Gia Hoi had undergone a face-lift, with new graphic menus on the walls and I think the chairs were new as well! After going through the motions of reviewing the menu to see if anything else could dissuade me from what I had come for (there really are heaps of choices to choose from!), I was resolute in my craving, and went with the crispy chicken with tomato rice, and my better half went with the Spicy beef noodle soup (mild).
While waiting for our food (it wasn’t a long wait), I went about assessing their table setting. The quintessential tub of over 20 chopsticks was present (check); tub of 20 or more metal spoons, forks and soup spoons were there (check); condiment cluster like chilli, chilli-garlic sauce, soya sauce and other crusted over sauces were also there….I truly wonder who is game enough to use them? (check); the thermos of complementary tea was there, but oddly they had transitioned to giving people disposable (non-recyclable) paper cups instead of the reuseable hard plastic cups (check); and the good old box of facial tissues were also there crowding out one side of the table (check- no surprise, napkin score of 1 star). But without these usual table settings, it just wouldn’t be an authentic Vietnamese restaurant? Right? And from the nearly packed out restaurant, buzzing from many people all talking at once, crying babies, sounds of wooden chairs being constantly dragged in and out (why can’t people just lift up their chairs?), I think all the other diners didn’t mind what I had deemed as rough edges, and with all the natural noises from the restaurant who needed music from speakers to create table atmosphere?
When our food arrived, the smell of baked chicken wafted up to greet me, and I poured all the vinaigrette which came with my dish onto my more-orange-than-red-coloured rice. The chicken lived up to its name, it was crispy seemingly like it had just left the oven, and the meat was real nice – tender and juicy. My wife’s Spicy Beef Noodle Soup had a good variety of textures from the thick rounded rice noodles (a good kind of chewy); various meats (beef with a bit of fat, blood jelly, and that pale-coloured processed ham); and assorted fresh veg (bean sprouts, chopped mint, lettuce and purple cabbage) making it an interesting experience in the mouth. The downers of our respective dishes were that my tomato rice was very clearly made from day old rice, where I could easily fork up big chunks of clumped rice; and the negative for my wife’s dish was that when she requested mild spicy, the soup base just tasted watered-down.
But hey! All in all, it was what you’d expect from a CBD institution like Pho Gia Hoi, anything more polished would just feel like Faux Gia Hoi! Will we be back? Of course? New restaurants pop-up and poof they’re gone in the CBD! But I’m sure Pho Gia Hoi and Pho Pasteur will continue on their multi-generational long competition with each other, trying to win over customers when they stand-out front, pondering if they should go Left or Right? Left or Right?
Pho Gia Hoi- Sunday 5 August
(02) 9211 0221
711 George Street, Haymarket NSW
Mon-Sun 9.30am – 9.30pm