Store 33, Lower Ground Emporium
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Having just had my other two wisdom teeth removed, I am currently strung out on a potent combination of oxycodone, diazepam, yesterday’s adrenalin, and a 40 minute struggle with a tooth that refused to come out. So brace yourselves, bad writing is coming.
As far as I’m concerned, Emporium has two food courts – the one on the top floor, and the one at the back which extends vertically through all 6 stories. The options are definitely better than your run-of-the-mill shopping centre, with big names like Jimmy Grants, Dainty Sichuan, and Earl Canteen all making cameos.
One of the most talked about places at the moment in Emporium is Pho Nom, located at the bottom floor of the vertical food court. Aside from noodles, they also have banh mi, rice noodle salads (aka bun), and the fattest, most succulent looking rice paper rolls.
I have had a massive hankering for pho recently, and a deep bowl of Pho Bo Saigon ($12, one size) was exactly what the pharmacist ordered. I liked the way the condiments were self-serve at the counter, which meant that you could have any ratio of sprouts to herbs to chilli you want!
My first impression was that this was a very gentrified bowl of noodles – no fat on the brisket, cleaner cuts of meat, and the distinct absence of the more interesting offerings such as tripe and tendon. One sip of the soup confirmed my fears – this was a delicate bowl of noodles pared back for the city folk, thus lacking all the spirit and punch of authentic pho. Though I’m not entirely surprised, I am a bit disappointed.
The Pork Spring Rolls ($4, 5pcs) on the other hand were pretty great. They were crisp golden batons filled with moist pork mince, served with lettuce, herbs, and a delectably sweet fish sauce to dip it into. It’s like a doll’s house version of what you get at Vietnamese restaurants, but it hits the spot just as well.
Not being a fan of pho, Chris decided on a Crispy Roast Pork Belly Banh Mi ($7.5). Now this was pretty delicious. The crunchy roll held even crunchier crackling and sticky roast pork, all doused in sweet plum sauce and served with salad. Despite its deliciousness however, I couldn’t help but be scandalised by the price, especially thinking back to the $4 banh mi I had for lunch earlier that day.
Compared to the non-Vietnamese Vietnamese restaurants in the city, Pho Nom is quite good. All the right pieces are there, and the banh mi are fantastic, albeit horrendously marked up. It’s not that I didn’t like Pho Nom; it’s just not what I’m looking for in Vietnamese food.