585 Little Collins Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Pho N Roll is a little Vietnamese cafe, hidden away in a bluestone building near Southern Cross Station. It’s easy to miss, but I found myself being led to it by my nose. The restaurant itself isn’t much to look at, being more of a series of tables in the foyer, but the intoxicating aroma of spices and beef bones hint at something a little more special.
I had promised Chris a date at Max Brenner, so the plan was to eat lightly. We started with a nibble of Roast Duck Steamed Burger Bun ($5ea). Biting through the fluffy bun, our teeth sank into a fatty, succulent cut of duck, boasting a layer of crisp skin. It was simply but aptly garnished with hoisin sauce, and crunchy pickled carrots.
The rice paper rolls here sound fantastic, especially in comparison to the skimpy rolls at my work cafeteria. The Seasonal Mushroom ‘n’ Tofu Rice Paper Rolls ($5.5, 2pcs) were fat and generously filled with tofu and pickled mushrooms. It was light on the flavour but the tangy peanut sauce on the side was the perfect remedy. It just needed some more fresh herbs.
The Chilli Tiger Prawns ‘n’ Green Apple Rice Paper Rolls ($6, 2pcs) on the other hand were great, simple as that. The prawns were marinated in a rich chilli sauce, and complemented by the brightness of apple batons. Dipped into nuoc cham, I could eat these all day.
Last but not least, we had a plate of Prawn ‘n’ Chives Dumplings ($8, 5pcs). These definitely looked the part; sitting in a shallow pool of chilli soy, the greenness of the chives peeked promisingly through the translucent skin.
Sadly, these were a disappointment. The skin that seemed so pearly on first glance turned out to be thick and gluggy, whilst the centre was indistinct and mushy. Flavour-wise it was reasonably tasty, but having expected springy skin and supple chunks of prawn, I was left disappointed.
All things considered, I was pretty happy with my meal at Pho N Roll. Despite a couple of misses, I found the food to be homely and yummy, and I really liked the variety of dishes on offer. Despite finishing the meal on the fence about whether or not I wanted to return, the smell of the pho from the next table changed my mind. I’ll be back. Pho sure.