Thursday, 3 May 2012

Pho 68, Sheffield

Mission 'find pho in Yorkshire' arrived in Sheffield last Friday. Surely Pho 68 would come up trumps. The clue is in the name.

Pho 68 is a Vietnamese Cafe serving 'Traditional Vietnamese and select Pacific rim cuisine'. Their words not mine. I'm not really sure what they're on about with the Pacific rim bit, in practice the lengthy menu comprises a fairly short list of Vietnamese classics (noodle soups, summer rolls, clay pot dishes, grilled meat and rice/noodle plates) and a far longer one of Anglo-Chinese dishes.

We mixed and matched, left to my own devices I'd have stuck to the Vietnamese stuff but AS had a craving for crispy duck. A quarter duck and a Vietnamese pancake was clearly far too much food for a starter as both were enormous, a theme that would continue with the mains. Be warned.

The pancake was stuffed to bursting with beansprouts, other veggies and chicken, and wasn't overly greasy like some of these I've eaten in the past. I was rather pleased we'd chosen the duck once it had arrived, as it was fragrant with lovely crisp skin and still moist flesh. The hoi sin sauce doesn't really do it for me though, it's far too sweet. Give me some chilli bean sauce and I'm happy.

Here it is. The real purpose of the visit to Pho 68. Pho with rare beef and braised beef. It looked the part, and tasted it too. They've got the makings of a really good pho here. The stock was excellent. Deep, aromatic and intensely savoury. Wafer thin slices of beef were rare on arrival but cooked through as time progressed, the gentle poaching keeping them tender. The braised beef (brisket I think) was also sliced thin, but had a stronger, minerally flavour. The tendon running through it was soft and gelatinous speaking of long, slow cooking. The noodles, save for a little gluey clump at the top, were cooked just right.

So all was well with everything that arrived in the bowl, it was the plate of accompaniments that rather let the side down. For me, the thing that can really lift a bowl of pho from the good to the sublime is the plate of things to add. The contrast between the earthy depths of the nourishing broth and the freshness and zip of herbs and citrus can be just the best thing ever (especially when hungover).

You'd expect to get beansprouts, a wedge of lime, some chopped chilli, and as a minimum, a good handful of coriander and mint. There are several other herby possibilities (sawtooth herb is my favourite), but I've never seen anything other than mint and coriander offered outside London. Pho 68 offered up one measly sprig of coriander. To be fair, I didn't ask for extra, maybe the good folk of Sheffield don't want their tea tainting with unnecessary greenery so they don't bother. Next time I'll ask, but more herbs really should be the norm.

Our other main was a Vietnamese chicken stir-fry which was pleasant enough, if a little boring. A more generous hand with the lemongrass and chilli would have perked things up a bit.

It's a casual sort of place but they are licensed so we had a couple of beers each. Including those the bill came to around £34 before tip. Service was efficient but also very friendly. It's a bit of a tricky one to rate this, as some things were excellent (the pho broth, the duck) but others disappointing (the stir-fry, the lack of herbs).

I'll definitely return though, sort the herb issue out and this is best pho I've eaten in the North by a clear distance (ahead of Vnam in Manchester and Viet-Thai in Leeds).


175 London Road
S2 4LH

Pho 68 on Urbanspoon


Mr Noodles said...

Who'd thought it, Sheffield striking a blow for Vietnamese food in the north! Although one has to choose carefully, as the menu (in common with many Viet places) is bulked out with Anglo-Chinese stir-fries as filler.

That said, it does look intriguing. Especially as the menu also has steamed rolls, which might be the famed banh cuon, on it.

On the herb front, it can be difficult to get fresh regular supplies (even in London, they can be stingy with the herbs) which might be why there isn't much greenery.

Dave said...

I'm spotting all sorts of intriguing places dotted around Sheffield! Couple of South Indian places and a Chinese place are on my radar. The Chinese one has two signs in the window, one entirely in Chinese script listing what appear to be one dish meals (i.e. lots of stuff priced around £6-8) and the other in English listing only Anglo-Chinese set menus.

Agree about the herb stinginess even in London, and that they won't be able to get the more unusual ones. No excuses when it comes to mint and coriander though. I like Cafe East best in London, where there's always a good supply of herbs (and the broth is ace too).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...