196 Victoria St, Richmond
Phone: 9421 2418
I think it might be because I’m Asian. Or it might be that I lived in Sai Gon for a year. I’m not sure which is more to blame, really, but I always seem to get asked for recommendations for Vietnamese restaurants. Especially for restaurants along Victoria St, which makes sense, because it’s my closest Vina-hub (for now – I’m moving to the awesomeness that is Footscray in a few months).
Anyway, one of the places which always makes it onto my list of places you should go for Vietnamese food on Victoria St is Co Do. Or Co Ðo, if I could be bothered inserting the right character every time. Which I can’t, and I’m sure you googlers out there can’t either. Co Do (see? lazy) had been introduced to me by family as the place to go for Hue-style dishes such as banh beo and the eponymous bun bo Hue which I still find something of a contradiction, because the star of the dish, for me, is always the giant pig’s knuckle floating amongst the chilli beef broth.
But I digress. This post is about the pho at Co Do. I wasn’t actually aware that Co Do made pho, to be honest, until a friend told me recently. I suppose it’s not really surprising, as most restaurants along the strip are jack-of-all-trades types, if not pho specialists. I was a little sceptical, because jack-of-all-trades usually equals master-of-none, when it comes to restaurants. I was pleasantly surprised.
The broth was wonderfully fragrant – the hints of star anise and black cardamom were present, but not overpowering. The MSG in the broth wasn’t too noticeable. I’m fairly sure it’s Phil Lees that I have borrowed the phrase from – the use of MSG was judicious. Altogether, a successfully balanced broth. The pho was plentiful, and the accompaniments were pretty standard. The standout in all of this, however, was the tripe.
Now I understand that not all of you are fans of offal. And while I struggle to wrap my head around denying yourself the textural pleasures, I get the cultural squeamishness of eating an animal’s insides. Nonetheless, if you order “the special beef” as a lot of pho joints refer to pho bo dac biet, then you’ll know that the beef flank is usually the same, the rare beef is likewise, the beef sausage has a spectrum flavours, but often veers towards having too much pepper – that might be to do with the whole black peppercorns!? – and the distinguishing factor for beef balls is the springiness of the processed meat. My main issue with the tripe at a lot of places is that you get the thin part of the cow’s stomach, which is texturally interesting, a lot like jellyfish, but inferior to the thicker (though not the honeycomb-patterned) section of the stomach. It’s more than a lot of you will care to know, so suffice it to say Co Do serve just the right portion of the cow’s stomach in their pho bo dac biet.
For a restaurant that isn’t a pho specialist, Co Do does a more than admirable job. I’d heartily recommend the place, especially if Pho Chu The is full – as it often is on weekends.