Pho Hien Vuong 1

37 Leeds St, Footscray
Phone: 9687 1470

Pho Hien Vuong is oldskool. Neon lights in the window: check. Mirrored walls: check. Bad 80s chairs: check.In short, there’s very little not to like about the place. The deal was sealed, however, when I stopped in on a Saturday morning and they were playing old pop ballads from the 60s. We used to have a tape (yes, kids, we’re talking cassettes here) of old 60s songs that my father loved, playing on loop in our restaurant when I was growing up. I always imagined to him listening to the songs in Viet Nam out of an old transistor radio when he was a teenager.

Anyway, there’s a feeling of authenticity when you walk into Pho Hien Vuong 1. It’s probably due for a nuskool makeover, but I hope not anytime soon, because there’s a certain charm about its complete lack of regard for modern decor. Something charmingly Vietnamese. If it ain’t broke, right?

As per usual, I had the pho bo dac biet. There was a good amount of beef, and I remember running out of pho noodles before I got through all of the meat and offal in the bowl.
I really wanted to love this place, because the outward appearance is just about everything I think a pho joint should be, but what let it down was the broth. It was just too sweet, even for me! I believe that you should never have to adjust good pho broth – just add the fresh lemon and chilli as accents, but if I have to touch the fish sauce bottle on the table, something’s amiss. I had to add some fish sauce at Hien Vuong 1.

The crowd on that day was an interesting mix of Vietnamese people and Caucasian punters who were clearly about to go, or had just come from Footscray Market, and stopped in because of Hien Vuong’s convenient location. Once again, which is an increasingly troubling trend, Hien Vuong 1’s pho is not bad, but it’s not great. It’s mediocre. And according to the rule of proximal pho, that’s just not good enough.

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