Very cheap eats: November 2009

Personally, I think any good pho restaurant warrants a mention in any cheap eats guide. And since we are in Melbourne, there are many.Pho is just one of those quick, cheap but memorable meals. In my experience, outstanding pho restaurant never has 300 items on the menu. It concentrates on its broth, its noodles and its meat.

Pho 888 happens to be one of those places. The dining room is sparse, of course, but bright and clean. The wait staff relatively attentive. Drinks consist of your usual free thermos Chinese tea, three-coloured drink, various Asian fruit smoothie (heavily ladened with condensed milk) – your usual Vietnamese drink fare. All around $3. No license, I gathered but why pass on those blended, icy condensed milk (or coconut milk) goodness for something as boring as beer?

The soup, on the other hand, is beautifully rich. Both beef and chicken broth are perfectly well done – with the right amount of meat, fresh, silky noodles and sprinkling of green herbs. Choose your own condiments of beansprouts, lemon, chilli and Thai basil. I forgo them out of respect for the soup.

The rice dishes, on the other hand, are nothing to write home about. They consisted of Vietnamese Broken Rice (‘broken’ rice with grilled pork chop, fried egg, pork rind mix and salad), crispy chicken on tomato rice and your usual grilled pork or chicken chop on rice. They are decent but not outstanding. Unlike the pho.Really, just under $10 for a massive pho of great, warming, tasty soup, I go back there quite often. Please don’t stalk me.

Pho 888 Box Hill, 552 Station Street, Box Hill VIC 03 9890 1390Noodle soups $7.5 (S), $8.5 (M), $9.5 (L), Rice dishes $8.5, Drinks around $3. No license.