So to celebrate the ‘official’ opening of Pho24, a renowned chain straight from Vietnam, a decision to tempt the masses with free Pho or Banh Mi for a day was made! Despite being open for several months, I wasn’t complaining and let my Asian focus on free-things senses guide me. Now, there was a lot of hating going on about Pho24, the comments ran something like, “tastes like dirty dish water mixed with MSG” and “not worth the free”, but I wasn’t going to let people rain on my free parade. Plus, the benefit of the doubt is always nice to give establishments second chances.
The line was considerably shorter than I expected, but I soon realised this was due to the subway-style chain line production system they had going on. It was incredibly effective and made a quick lunch even faster. The staff handling the money (not this time) dispense a ticket and you move down the line sliding your aluminium trays (a la American high school lunch line) watching them create your Pho or Banh Mi from scratch. I assume this means you can choose your fillings as you go, but as this was free day they were pre-made, beef weighed and the standard everything chucked in without question. Then the soup is dispensed from massive vats and handed out at the end of the counter where there are tubs of fresh cut chilli (very spicy!) and lemon.
The coolest part of this whole process is the potted herbs around the seating area, these are there for you to garnish your meal with something a little extra and they even provide the scissors to cut the plants too! The uncool part was they served the pho in disposable bowls, again, may have just been due to free day, but that was a lot of environmental waste. Uncool!
The Pho itself was quite non-descript, the soup didn’t have a lot of depth of flavour and tasted quite weak and thin, despite simultaneously tasting like it had been reboiled over and over, instead of having a fresh and clean taste like other shops. The noodles were a lot softer than standard fare and I don’t think the beef was served raw to be cooked in the steaming hot broth. Despite that, they were very generous with the apparent southern beef porterhouse slices. The normal price sits at $8 for regular and $11 for large, which in my opinion, isn’t worth the price for something that is subpar to what I can get for a cheaper price.
The smoked paprika pork Banh Mi was also available, which was acceptable although the meat they used tasted cheap and stringy with a lot of chewy tendons through it. The bread was crispy though smaller sized than the Springvale variety and IT WAS MISSING THE PATE! As such, it didn’t taste anything like what I am used to, and despite the claim on Vietnamese roots, it tasted white. The overall flavour was slightly sweet due to the relish added and only had one slice of meat, rather than the three varieties stuffed into the roll. For $7.50 it was very much capitalising on the CBD location, as Springvale Banh Mi are sold for $3.50 and they are much heavier.To their credit however, they did allow me to take another Banh Mi to my friend who couldn’t get out of work.
TL;DR Unless they pick up their game, I’d spend my monies somewhere else.