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.

RMFFA: Kookaberry Syrups on 10-Minute Pancakes + GIVEAWAY!

During the primary/secondary school term, Saturday mornings are a bit of a rush for me because my first piano student comes at 9:30am.  Generally, I throw back an Up-and-Go to last me until 12pm but last week, I was feeling a tad ambitious :P.  There was probably about 20 mins before the first lesson was to begin but I thought I would challenge myself to make pancakes from scratch in 10 minutes!  Why?

I needed a reason to open up another two products from the RMFFA package :D.

Sweet Preserves

Kookaberry – Victoria (Kookaberry Raspberry and Boysenberry Syrup)

Category: SYRUPS AND CORDIALS – Bronze prize

The Kookaberry Strawberry Farm is a family run business, having grown gorgeous berries for 33 years including Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Boysenberries & Logonberries :D.  I’m a bit of a berry-kind of girl so they definitely have my interest, especially since Kookaberry products are 100% Australian grown and made with no preservatives, additives or artificial colours *big thumbs up*.

So how did these fare on the 10-minute pancakes?

Boysenberry (top) and Raspberry (bottom) syrup

What I loved about these syrups were that they weren’t sickly sweet which is always my slight aversion towards syrups in general.  I think the only thing that would have made them better was if I had a scope of ice-cream to go with it :D.

My favourite of the two just came down to a personal preference of boysenberry over raspberry.  Boysenberry used to be my favourite ice-cream flavour when I was growing up (I’ve since branched out to mint, coffee and pandan lol) so the taste brought back fond memories :).

Anyway, here’s the recipe for the 10-minute pancakes that I learnt from my friend, R :).

10-minute Pancakes

As I was on the clock, no photos were taken of the process… but enjoy the photos of the end product :D.

Makes 12 medium-sized pancakes (see below for reference)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 500 ml of milk
  • oil (I used rice bran oil)
Method
  1. Combine sugar and flour in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the middle of the mixture.
  2.  Crack the two eggs into the well, pour in the milk and mix well with a spoon/spatula (good workout for the arm).
  3. Place a medium frying pan on medium heat, lightly coat the pan with oil.
  4. Pour out enough pancake batter to cover the pan and watch for bubbles to rise before flipping.
  5. Top pancakes with whatever you’d like :D.
Look how fluffy those pancakes are! Delish :D

I didn’t get beyond putting together the pancake batter before my first student arrived but after the teaching block was over, I made myself a peanut butter and banana pancake sandwich topped with raspberry syrup…. amazing!

Another photo coz I can ;).

You can find out where these syrups and other Kookaberry products are sold via the Kookaberry website or head down and pick them up at the Royal Melbourne Show starting tomorrow!

Ames tried these products courtesy of the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards and WrightsPR.

GIVEAWAY TIME!

As part of the Royal Melbourne Show, there will be a new Tastes of Victoria Pavilion, celebrating all things fresh, local, seasonal and delicious!  This is the destination for speciality produce :D.  The Royal Melbourne Fine Food Deli will also be located there where visitors can sample and purchase award-winning roasted espresso coffee, wine, cured meats, relishes, preserves and cheeses!

Are you excited? If not continue reading…

Find yourself starstruck at the main stage with a chance to meet a range of Australia’s best chefs and TV personalities. Visit the Tastes of Victoria Stage to see half-hour cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs and industry professionals. This year, we are thrilled to announce Guy Grossi in our stage line up along with some favourite’s from Masterchef, including Chris Badenoch, Dani Venn and from the latest series Alice Zaslavsky.

Also on Stage will be some of Victoria’s hottest chefs; Matt Wilkinson from Pope Joan, Nicky Riemer from Union Dining, Jerry Mai from Dandelion, Scott Eddington from Mamasita, Travis McAuley from Hellenic Republic and Michael Patrick from San Telmo.

– see more info here

Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the preview event but the guys at WrightsPR were kind enough to provide me with a double pass to go visit another time… and you know what?  You, dear readers get a chance to win a double pass as well!

So, how do you score yourself two tickets to check out the Tastes of Victoria Pavilion and other food offerings??

Simply follow yours truly on Twitter or Facebook (if you haven’t already) and answer the question below:

What topping or filling do you like to have with your pancakes?

You can leave a different answer to this question as many times throughout the competition to increase your chances of winning but max once per day.
  • Competition ends: 8pm, 24th September (Mon) – NOW CLOSED
  • Open to Australian residents only (well, Victorians really unless you are willing to fly in for the Melbourne Show!).
  • The winner will be selected at random and notified by email and on this post!
Best wishes for the giveaway!  If you don’t want to enter the giveaway but want to leave a comment, that’s ok too (just say so in the comment hehe).
Have a fantastic weekend!  Maybe you can try these 10-minute pancakes sometime ^^

♥ Ames

UPDATE: The winner of the giveaway is…… SOPHIE of Edible Posts!! :D

Will email you to get your postal details to send the tickets to you :).  Thanks for entering everyone!

GC Grazing feat. MOS Burger + Mövenpick, Surfers Paradise

Today’s lovely weather inspired me to finally get around to writing about some of the places we grazed at while up at the Gold Coast (GC) earlier this year :).  I’ve had the photos edited months ago (hence you’ll see some discrepancy in the watermarking), so if you’re ready, take a trip down memory lane with me, to a much warmer place…

It was a beautiful GC morning.  The sun was out, the sky was blue.  Perfect day for Surfers Paradise!

I forget why but for some reason Ant (our driver for the day) had decided to park on the other end of the beach but because the weather was so nice, there were no complaints as we walked and talked for the length of the beach.  The boys were hungry as I recall and suggested we grab a bite first so after a bit of wandering around, we found ourselves at…

MOS Burger is the second largest fast food franchaise in Japan (after McDonalds – says wiki) that opened a store or two in Brisbane before setting it’s sights on world domination! OK, maybe not world domination but they do aim to open up 30 outlets in the next five years across Australia.  I wonder why they chose Brisbane… for the tourists factor perhaps? Anyway, to the food!

As the name suggests, burgers are star of the menu.  You pretty much choose your burger, whether you want chips and drink, pay (of course lol) and then wait for them to bring it out to you.  I liked how you could see exactly what was in the burger on the menu… or maybe I just like pictures.

phone photo

I didn’t take any notes (and admittedly that’s not the greatest photo) so I can’t be certain but I’m pretty sure if I saw Waggu Beef Cheese Burger on the menu, I would have picked that.  I do remember really enjoying my burger, the meat was juicy and the bun wasn’t too dry which I find is a common flaw with fast food.   The chips were alright, nothing special.  The berry drink was just right, not too sweet and actually pretty cool because it had actual blueberries floating inside (I know, I’m easily amused…).  So in total, the meal (which was very filling btw) cost me about $10.40 (that burger is the most expensive one on the menu) so it’s not your everyday kind of fast food (but you shouldn’t be eating fast food all the time anyway…) but it’s definitely satisfying and if and when it does come down to Melbourne, I’d be keen to give it ago – especially those rice burgers!

MOS Burger Surfers Paradise on Urbanspoon

INTERMISSION FOR NON-FOOD-RELATED PHOTOS

And we’re back!  After lots of sand and water, a dodge Nandos stop (seriously, didn’t know guys ate that much!) we braced ourselves for the long walk back… but not before I dragged them to Mövenpick!

I’ve passed Mövenpick stores before in Melbourne but never got any ice-cream from them so if not on holiday, when right?

I asked the staff member for a recommendation and without skipping a beat, she suggested… and here’s where my memory is a bit hazy ^^’ I’m pretty sure it was Caramelita or the Salted Butter Caramel…

Either way, it was smooth and creamy, just the way you’d think Swiss ice-cream should taste like :).  A lovely way to end a day catching up with old friends and meeting some new ones :). They’ve just opened a Mövenpick outside Box Hill Centro and my mum showed me this Buy One Get One Free voucher (from one of those free Chinese magazines lol) so I’ll be getting me some more Mövenpick soon no matter what the weather is like hehe

OK, I’ll leave it there for now!  Will be back after my last essay is due (10 more days!!) to hopefully continue on with the GC Grazing :).  Take care til then and stay warm Melbournians!

Question: What overseas/interstate restaurant or food joint did you enjoy so much that you would like to see it come to your hometown?*

♥ Ames

*I have no power to make it happen but just wanted to hear your suggestions for more foodie adventures in the future :D.

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