Hao Phong

136 Hopkins St, Footscray
Phone: 9689 8373

I tend to get a little bi-polar when I’ve had a few drinks. Either I’ll be assertive and a bit alpha-male, insisting that I’m right about everything, or I’ll be massively indecisive and just want to go along with whatever someone suggests, as long as I don’t have to think. This isn’t always the best behavioural trait when you’re out on a date and things take a turn for the boozy. But I digress, as usual.

I’d had a few post-work drinks before meeting up with Mr I to finally get around to recording a new episode of our podcast. We went to grab a bite to eat before recording, and spent about 10 minutes wandering up and down Hopkins st, with me vacillating about which restaurant deserved our custom. To be honest, we walked past Hao Phong the first time, because I was unimpressed by the ethnic mix of people inside; there weren’t nearly enough Vietnamese people in there for my liking. Yes, let’s be honest, I do judge a restaurant by the clientele it attracts; especially Asian restaurants. Anyway, as I wasn’t in the mood for pho – I know, what the!? – we were rather uninspired by the restaurants which we passed, and we ended up back at Hao Phong.

Now this makes Hao Phong sound rather lacklustre, which isn’t fair. The place is inoffensive, in that new-school decor Vietnamese way, and the service was prompt, if a little on the characterless, efficient side. The menu, like most Vietnamese restaurants, was voluminous. You might have trouble deciding on what you want to eat, rather than finding something in the menu that appeals.

On this occasion, I went for one of the classics – bun thit nuong (rice vermicelli with grilled pork) with some cha gio (spring rolls) thrown in for good measure. There are probably five dishes on which I will judge a Vietnamese restaurant, and bun thit nuong is definitely one of them.

The pork was well seasoned, and satisfyingly moist and tender. The spring rolls weren’t bad, and overall, the dish was pretty good.

Mr I chose the seafood combination with stir-fried rice noodle.

This dish was pretty close to a Sha Hor Fun – stir-fried flat rice noodle topped with seafood, vegetables and a thick, crystalline gravy. It wasn’t what Mr I was expecting – I think he thought it would be more along the lines of a Singapore noodle, with rice vermicelli, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. I had a quick sample of the noodles, and it was pretty magnificent. Wok hei out the wazoo. Impressive. I wouldn’t normally order this dish off a menu, but I’d consider it here next time.

All in all, Hao Phong was a pleasant place to eat, and I think we may have stumbled upon the Minh Minh of Footscray – the place where the Gays like to eat – as we definitely weren’t the only gays in the village that night. It’s often busy, but there’s more tables out the back, so if it looks full, still pop your head in and try asking.

The lesson here is not to judge a restaurant by who goes there, right? I’m still not going to Poon’s or Jim Wong’s. Unless I’m drunk and indecisive. Oh, looks like maybe I am, then.

Hao Phong on Urbanspoon

4 Replies to “Hao Phong”

  1. Haha! I also judge a Vietnamese joint by its dry rice vermicelli with grilled pork. My all-time favourite dish! Didn't know it's called bun thit nuong. I usually just point finger on menu, >.>. (also thought it was called Bun Cha) Lol, farang much?

  2. Bun cha is the Northern Vietnamese name for it. It's slightly different, too. Usually the pork is fattier, from my experience. 🙂

    As most of the Vietnamese restaurants in Melbourne are of a Southern style, bun thit nuong tends to be the more common name for it.

  3. I have never been to Poon's or Jimmy Wongs either, for probably the same reason as you…maybe when I've exhausted all the other eating options in the area!

    I'm still on training wheels with Vietnamese food, so I stick to a handful of places where I've had some tasty food and keep going back.

  4. Yep, I have never been disappointed with Hao Phong. Not the most exciting restaurant but very dependable. This, Sapa Hills and Thien An seem to attract the most Anglos.

    Good bun cha can be found at Sapa Hills. Dong Que a little further down Hopkins is worth visiting too for more northern Vietnamese food.

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