much room for improvement – Pho Chu The, Box Hill

I’ve been contemplating whether or not to write this particular review because frankly, no one likes to be told that they’ve missed the mark, right?  But at the same time, if you don’t say anything, how will they know to improve?

So, it’s with a bit of reluctance that I share my first experience at the new Viet place in Box Hill, Pho Chu The.

all photos taken on Samsung Galaxy SII

With my mum’s workplace located in Box Hill, we often lunch there and are quite familiar with the food options available in the area.  So when the news spread like wildfire (as it does in an office setting – an email does the trick) that a new player was in town, it was inevitable that my parents and I would find ourselves outside Pho Chu The on their opening day.  There are two views when it comes to visiting a new restaurant – They should either have their best game face on to make a good first impression on opening day OR they haven’t yet got a chance to try things out properly so you should give them a bit more time to settle in.  For Pho Chu The, it came out the second way.

There was a bit of a wait as we came at the peak lunch hour, but once tables were cleared we found a spot in the front corner.  Taking over from the Old Tea House Restaurant, the ceiling was high with lots of natural light filling the space.  Medium-sized LCD TV screens were installed though not functioning when we were there for lunch.  However, I imagine there’ll be Asian dramas or TV shows showing in the future ;).  Tables were finished with different scenes from the Vietnamese landscape which I thought was a nice touch.

As is the trend with the new generation of Asian restaurants, you write up your own order and when you are done, you just press the pager and a staff member comes to collect it.  I guess it’s efficient and given that Asian restaurants aren’t known for their great customer service, it probably helps that bit along too.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the positives end.  Being at a Vietnamese church for 22 years that had monthly potluck with food after the service every other week, we’ve become quite critical when it comes to authentic Vietnamese food.   We started off with a serving of Cha Gio (tom) – Prawn Spring Rolls ($8.50) which weren’t hot enough.  It made me think that they had been deep-fried a while ago and they just reheated them before putting it on the plate.  Though definitely ‘prawny’, it just wasn’t good enough by our standards.

Clockwise: 1. Phở Dac Biet ($10.00), 2. Sliced Beef and Brisket ($9.00), 3. Chicken and Beef Combination ($10.00), 4. Condiments

Sadly, the phở didn’t measure up either.  The phở wasn’t hot enough, and the broth in general didn’t have a strong flavour = it hadn’t been cooked for long enough.  While there for lunch, my dad saw a friend who works as a butcher and went over and asked what he thought of the food.  He said that their meat wasn’t very good quality and was probably from an ‘older cow’ as opposed to a ‘younger cow’ that is more tender (lol, it sounds much less blunt in Viet I swear!).  I liked the onion condiments though – probably the only thing I remembered about the meal.

I know the staff were still finding their feet but it doesn’t look really good when you need to make a request (after the phở had arrived) for the plate of bean sprouts and mint that generally accompany the phở.  And what is this??

How is one supposed to squeeze the juice out of this?? lol, I was just dumbfounded.

Parents weren’t impressed with their drinks either.  The new owners have made use of the bubble tea machines left behind by the last tenants so there is a huge drink menu on offer. I got a Taro milk green tea ($3.50 + 50c w/pearls) which was alright I guess.  Dad should have stuck to what he knew instead of trying the Mango green tea ($3.50 + 50c w/pearls) since he just wasn’t used to it and didn’t like the flavour.  Mum chose something that was familiar but didn’t get what she was after…  Instead of coconut milk, they used coconut cream for the  Three Colour drink ($3.50) which produced a really weird result:

The cream didn’t mix well with the other parts of the drink and I think they forgot to add the sugar syrup as it was very bland  = mostly left untouched in the glass :(.

We really wanted to like Pho Chu The, given the reputations of the Footscray and Richmond stores of the same name.  However, there’s much room for improvement.

The staff seemed a bit flustered, not really knowing the ropes yet and getting orders confused but I think (and hope) that with a bit of time, things will pick up here.

We did find them a bit pricey for the quality of food that was produced but 20% off the bill (for the first 2 opening weeks – from 19th September) made it a bit more bearable.

*sigh* It’s not nice writing a bad review but I must stress that this was their opening day!  They were open from 9am that morning so perhaps with the lack of experience, the quality had dropped over the few hours… My dad has said that he won’t go back unless there is an improvement so I hope that when we revisit, they’ll have ironed out the creases and I’ll be able to report back with more favourable comments.  Hope you can visit and make your own assessments.

Pho Chu The

936 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill VIC 3128

Tel: (03) 9890 1688

Trading from: 9am – 10pm (as per advert)

Pho Chu The on Urbanspoon

Question: Do you think you should visit on a restaurant’s opening day or is it wiser to give them a bit more time before visiting?

♥ Ames

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Royal Melbourne Show giveaway!  One more night before the winner is announced :). Edit 24 Sept: Giveaway has ended now.

Checking out Middle Fish, Carlton

Edited from my review published in Purely Dicta, Issue 1, 2012 …

Move aside Momo Sushi, Pearls and cheap Chinese – there’s a new eatery in law school town!

phone photo

When you wander down to Middle Fish during lunch hour, the first thing you will notice is just how packed the place is!  Located conveniently next to Seven Seeds (entrance on Berkeley St side), this Southern Thai café has won the hearts and stomaches of many law students and lecturers since it opened about 6 months ago.

On my first visit, I tried the Pad Gapao Moo Kob ($15.50), which was a delicious serving of pork belly, assorted stir-fried vegies and fried egg with rice.

phone photo

My fellow law student had the Green Chicken Curry ($14.50), which I tried on my second visit.  The Green Chicken Curry came with rice (as most main dishes) and with SO MUCH chicken and sauce that I just had to order some roti ($3.50) to finish it off (that’s how good it was!) – can’t seem to find my photo of the roti :(.

Another one to try is their Tom Yum ($14.50) that had an abundance of juicy prawns and a perfect balance of sweet and sour (so says another law student).

Addition: On a separate occasion after I sent this off to the publishers, I had the Gapi Fried Rice (forgot to note the price) as mentioned in this post.  

phone photo

Normally I don’t order fried rice when I’m out (Asian pride thing I think) but I made an exception because the use of apple in this dish intrigued me.  The apples made this dish quite refreshing and the separating all the ingredients on the plate meant that it not only looked good to the eye when it came out (and you could see exactly what was in the dish!), but it meant that the apple strips remained crisp and crunchy even after you mixed it together.  Very filling and satisfying.

Now don’t forget to give their Thai Milk Ice Tea a go too!  Served in what looks more like a bowl than a cup, it a sweet accompaniment to any meal!

Loved how it was served in a little bowl too!

 Middle Fish also has lunch specials now so if you haven’t done so already, set a lunch date to check it out! Probably a good time now since there’ll be less students around…

Distance from law school: 3 minutes walk

Opening hours: Mon- Fri: 7am – 5pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-4pm

Price Range: ~$4.00 for drinks, $15-$25 per meal. A bit outside what I’d usually spend on a regular student lunch but it’s a pleasant change to the usual sandwich, sushi or salad every once in a while :).

Middle Fish  on Urbanspoon

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I admit it.  I’ve got Facebook withdrawal symptoms.  Been reading and commenting on a few blogs here and there to make up for the lack of social networking so decided I needed to make a contribution too lol.

No random questions tonight… just hope you’ve all had a good start to the week :).

♥ Ames

Groovin’ twice in a week

It’s rare that I go to a restaurant twice in one week but somehow I ended up at the Groove Lounge for lunch on a Saturday and then was at the Groove Train for dinner the following Wednesday.

The Groove Train has a number of franchises and as I’ve found out, they are all slightly different.

The Groove Lounge, Williamstown

I took the Werribee line for the first time to get down to the Groove Lounge.  I was technically still on the Daniel fast at this time but since Ray was shouting, it was difficult to just still to the greens…(not sure about the prices)

1. Vedura Mista Wood Fired Pizza top left

I thought I would be eating most of this pizza with mushroom, eggplant, roasted capsicum, pumpkin, spinach, onion, mozzarella cheese & Napoli sauce topped with basil pesto but I think they were a bit too generous with the pesto and so I found it a bit oily.  The base was just right for all the pizzas :).

2. Tandoori Chicken Wood Fired Pizza top right

Pretty good though nothing that was particularly memorable.

3. Greek Wood Fired Pizza bottom left

Really enjoyed this pizza as the tzatziki on top was a refreshing contrast to the marinated lamb strips.  Spinach, fetta and the Napoli sauce were good accompaniments.

4. Greek Salad bottom right

Was good to have something else besides pizza lol.

The Groove Train, Melbourne Central

Went for a bit more variety this time with our core team however, now that we were paying for it, we realised how expensive the place is :S.

1. Groove to the Caesar Salad ($18.90) top left

Just a basic caesar salad – I would have liked the egg to have been a bit more runny but still a good side dish to the other mains…

2. Salmone Wood Fired Pizza ($20.90) top right

Smoked salmon, Napoli sauce, Spanish onion, cream cheese & capers = fail-proof combo :).

3. Chicken Calzone ($17.90) bottom left

I liked the presentation though it took me a while to get to the filling…

4. Traditional Fettuccine Carbonara ($18.90) bottom right

Can’t go past a good Carbonara with pan-fried bacon & spring onions, tossed in a creamy egg yolk & parmesan cheese sauce though for the price you pay, it’s not that great money for value.

For our meal at The Groove Train it worked out to be about $15.00 per person and so I put aside $7.50 for the Eat Out: Help Out Project.

See the story behind the Eat Out: Help Out Project here.

I wouldn’t mind going back to The Groove Lounge if it wasn’t so far off but I think in future (unless someone else is shouting!) I won’t be heading on The Groove Train any time soon :P.

♥ Ames

Collective Espresso – hipster find in Camberwell

I thought I’d squeeze in a short food post before the Christmas festivities…

The only criteria was to be near a train station, preferably in the ‘burbs.  So with a bit of research (seriously, where would we be without GoogleMaps?), Collective Espresso was the chosen spot for a quick catch up before a dear friend disappeared overseas for the summer.

It definitely had that Melbourne CBD hipster vibe which exuded from the staff and the customers that seemed to be regulars at this quaint little joint.  The staff are definitely an eclectic bunch (look out for the guy with the quirky moustache) and their menus reminded me of Auction Rooms

My friend was running late so I ordered myself a Granny Smith Apple Juice ($3.50).

I think I was expecting the longlife-type apple juice you can get from the grocery store (which just shows how often I order apple juice from a cafe  = nil) so I was pleasantly surprised when this arrived.  It was amazingly refreshing on this warm summer day though.. I could have ordered another :).

After perusing the menu numerous times, I settled on the Chorizo w/romesco, spinach and fetta on a pida ($9.50) which had been recommended on one of the sites I’d stumbled upon in my Google search: Continue reading “Collective Espresso – hipster find in Camberwell”

Review: Batch, St Kilda

Before the photography class at Obscura Gallery, I had about 40 mins for a late lunch in the area and being the wannabe foodie I am, I had GoogleMapped the suburb and made a beeline for a little cafe nearby called Batch (Espresso).  I rarely go out to eat on a Sunday afternoon (it’s usually a family affair) so I don’t know if the busy-ness of Batch was what you would normally expect.  It felt like a lot of the other hipster-type cafes that are around Melbourne but it had a more homely atmosphere with a few dads grabbing a coffee and reading the paper with their kids in tow.

interesting bit of interior design

Given that the staff were so busy, I was left standing at the door, unsure if I should just grab myself a table or wait to be directed.  After a few moments, I went to the counter and asked for the menu ha.  Before I took a seat, I was told that their corn fritters and fish curry was sold out.

Being alone and not yet confident to whip out the DSLR, I mainly just observed with my eyes :P.  So besides their breakfast all-day menu, they have freshly baked bread from Bakery Lievito (I assume a local bakery – $6 per loaf) plus their own blend of coffee.  Being close to 2 in the afternoon, I thought it was probably wise to stay away from the caffeine… Continue reading “Review: Batch, St Kilda”