Monday, September 21, 2009

Review: Pho 236, Newtown

Every neighbourhood has a restaurant like Pho 236; the walls are slightly sticky with oil, the plastic chairs have seen better decades let alone days and the menus are filled with helpful descriptors like 'Soup, short' but the restaurant is packed day and night and people walk out clutching their stomachs happily. Unlike Happy Chef just up the road Pho 236 doesn't even have the ubiquitous backlit plastic waterfall painting that seems to have been cloned across every cheap and cheerful Asian restaurant in Australia. This is just a space that you enter, functional only for people to eat and leave satisfied, not to linger and chat.

On a sunny Spring afternoon there really is nothing better than sitting down to a big fresh bowl of noodles and vegetables, and Pho 236 has amazingly fresh and authentic soups to appeal to any food afficionado. They do other Sino-Viet cuisine but really if a restaurant is named for a dish, you should order that dish.

Beef Pho $7.50

Par cooked beef is added to fresh delicious beef stock with fresh coriander, rice noodles and onions. Just perfect with lots of chilli.

Spicey noodle soup with chicken $8

An almost laksa like soup is thick with chilli oil and spices, soaked and roasted Viet style chicken is boned and shredded into the soup with thin rice noodles. Table thumpingly good. To top it off there's enough for me to take half home and eat it for lunch the next day, when it is just as good reheated. 2 tasty lunches for $8? Don't mind if I do.

Our order comes with fresh herbs, lemon and bean sprouts to be added at will to your soup. I add a very generous amount of coriander and lemon to my soup because they offset the fresh shredded chicken perfectly.

If you're so inclined though they also have red vinegar, soy and fresh birds eye chilli on every table.

There's nothing refined or special about Pho 236, it's just good fresh food done well and served fast and at $20 for two with a soft drink affordable for even those on a student budget. The service isn't the friendliest, though that may change if your Vietnamese is good; but the food is cheap and excellent and highly recommended. In Newtown where your choice of Asian restaurants is plentiful this is a local favourite for a good reason.

Pho 236
236 King St
Near the Mitre 10, look for the sign

Casual dining atmosphere
Walk in for a table, come early for dinner


  1. I do think of this place when I want a soup meal : )

  2. Weirdly enough, the decor feels like restaurants currently in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where such areas are designed to be cool and functional.

    You could say they're trying for an authentic experience...maybe...

  3. I only had vietnamese for the first time this year but I'm still yet to try a pho dish....
    I probably should!

  4. Yes, please! This is one of those places I always walk past but never think to stop in and try. You're the second person in a week to recommend it, so I think it's finally time I went in.

  5. I eat at Pho regularly, including takeaway dinner last for two for under $20, but I consider calling it's food excellent being a little too kind.

    I like the dingy fitout, the disinterested staff, the small menu, the low prices, the speedy service, and its convenient location. The food is good and consistent and cheap, and that is reason enough to eat there, but calling the food excellent makes it sound like Pho's meals are better than they are.

    Writing about it makes me hungry and I want to go back right now.

    Have you tried the vegetarian (I think it is vegan) Vietnamese place near the Sando? It uses mock meats like Green Place Thai on King Street. Once again, it is good but not exceptional. It does makes a nice change from meaty fair.

  6. I can't abide mock meat, if I want meat I'll eat it. If I want vegetarian I want vegetables.

    The best Vietnamese in Newtown is IMHO Viet Maison which is a much more upmarket affair and has prices to match though.