It’s only one week until our engagement party! And even better still nearly everyone is coming! My Mum is travelling over from Adelaide and my sister is flying in from Melbourne. I am actually originally from the Eastern states but I have lived over here for seventeen years with a few years also in London. During my time in sunny Perth my Dad and Step mum have not been able to attend any of my little life milestones – not my 18th, my 21st, my University graduation or even my 30th birthday. So you can imagine my delight when they told me without hesitation that they are both flying over for our engagement party! To top it all off; my estranged best friend who has lived up in Dongara for far too long has decided to take the plunge and move down to Perth to live with her boyfriend. This means two of my gorgeous bridesmaids will both be in Perth for all the wedding planning and festivities!
To celebrate her arrival in Perth and also to celebrate her birthday which was earlier in the week, we all decided to have a little night out down on the local strip in Vic Park. Unfortunately for me I had a busy day planned at work the next day so it wasn’t going to be a crazy night. It was such a beautiful evening so the boy and I decided we would walk down instead of driving. I work in a very busy Veterinary Hospital and I was still really wound up from an absolutely insane day. The day had been a stressful yet very rewarding as we were flooded with a string of critical emergencies cases all of which we managed to save! This left me on a bit of a giddy high so we held hands, talked and strolled in the setting sunlight down to Albany Highway.
We all met at The Publican for few pre-dinner drinks. The crowd was a bit older than we normally expect to see on a Friday night and there was a one man band playing music that would have been better suited on the Love Boat. Good company has a way of improving things so despite the horrendous tunes we stayed for a few rounds and chatted away about how she is settling into the city lifestyle and about the upcoming engagement party outfits.
We moved on from The Publican and started walking down Albany Highway looking for somewhere to eat. We were drawn into the Vietnamese restaurant Phu Pho which unlike the other neighbouring bare and brightly lit Asian restaurants had inviting soft lighting and modern interiors. Although my last visit to the Park was also for Vietnamese I figured maybe this may be a way to do a bit of a comparison of the popular To To’s versus Phu Pho.
We were greeted with lots of smiles from all the staff – they were all lovely and very polite. I remember similar treatment when we ordered some take out from here recently. Service was prompt although it took a little explaining for them to understand what gluten was which always makes me a little nervous. We started with the obligatory Vietnamese fresh rice paper rolls. I cannot imagine a Vietnamese meal without them. We ordered grilled beef rolls and the combination rolls with prawn, pork and omelette. The rolls were presented on their own on the plate – no fuss and no garnish. They were made filled to capacity and were so fat it was nearly a struggle to open my mouth wide enough to fit them in. The combination rolls were fairly standard fare, and I also felt the dipping sauce was a little too mild and bland. The beef rolls were tastier than the combination rolls; the beef tasted like it had some marinade to improve flavour.
For mains we ordered four dishes all to share. Learning from my bestie’s boyfriend that crispy duck is actually flourless therefore hopefully gluten-free, we ordered some duck accompanied with Chinese mushrooms. The duck was very meaty and not covered in fat, but it wasn’t served hot enough and could do with some extra crisp in the skin. The mushrooms were a delicious addition to the dish which would have been less enjoyable without them.
The sizzling Mongolian beef was quite tasty although once again I forgot to ask for no onions. There was much less onions to negotiate compared to To To’s so it wasn’t really a problem for me. Better still the dish wasn’t just meat and onions (like To To’s) and actually had a range of other crunchy vegetables included. Again I felt this dish could have been made spicier – in hindsight I should have asked for some extra chilli on the side as the boy can’t tolerate too much chilli.
The Tamarind king prawn was the best dish of the evening. You are probably thinking I’m turning into a tamarind addict and you may very well be right. I blame Thailand and all her delicious tamarind dishes we have enjoyed for creating this new obsession to add to my growing list.
Finally to add some green to our meal we had the Sambal with garlic and oyster sauce. Although this dish was served with a lot of garlic, it wasn’t overpowering and made the perfect light addition to the rest of our more heavy dishes.
Overall in comparison to the other week at To To’s, I feel the food here was much more flavoursome. I also preferred that their meat dishes included some vegetables other than just onions. Only the rice paper rolls were not quite as good. Nevertheless if I had to pick between the two restaurants I think would return to Phu Pho.
Food 7/10 Service 7.5/10 Venue 7/10Phu Pho Vietnamese Rice and Noodle House 800 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park | (08) 9361 2139
Oh my goodness! What bliss it has been this week to finally return back to my gluten free diet! I know it will take me a few weeks for my skin to heal and a few more weeks to maybe months on top of that for my gut to settle down……but my mood? It is astonishing how avoiding eating just one seemingly harmless little protein can alter my mind so dramatically. For the past six weeks I have carried a whinging, negative dark presence in my mind that was constantly criticising and complaining about everything and anything, and made dealing with all the other physical effects of eating gluten so much more difficult. I was oblivious to the presence of this monkey on my back until now when I can see he has left! My energy and excitement for life is returning and my sense of humour is lifted!
One of my bridesmaids suggested we go out for a casual meal to kick off the CHOGM long weekend. As we both had later shifts at work that day we opted for an easy peasy local night out on the strip in Vic Park. To To’s was packed full of customers and only had a couple of spare tables. This is always a good sign. After enquiring about gluten free dishes, we were promptly assigned a very flamboyant waiter who was bubbling to help us. He pondered expressively on options for us and was keen to ensure that we chose a good range of dishes. For Vietnamese starters, I can never go past fresh rice paper rolls. Unfortunately they only offered prawn rolls which meant my bridesmaid couldn’t try any as she doesn’t eat seafood. I would have liked there to be a pork or chicken option for those who don’t eat prawns. Nevertheless, the rolls were fresh and neatly rolled and the dipping sauce was not too overly sweet.
The sang choy bow was made with chicken and pork mince. The meat was very moist and seasoned perfectly, however silly me forgot to ask for the shallots to be omitted and I had to pick them out. We also ordered chicken satay for my bridesmaids children but unfortunately they contained gluten so I did not try. They gave us a generous serve of these and I was informed they were finger licking good.
For mains we were recommended to order the stir fried chicken with chilli and lemongrass, Vietnamese style beef, chilli and pepper spare ribs and stir fried vegetables with garlic and oyster sauce. Both the chicken and the beef dishes contained copious amounts of onions which I had once again completely forgotten to request omission. I guess after six weeks of foodie freedom it will take a bit for me to remember to ask for all the finite details of the fructose malabsorption part of my diet. Thankfully fructose ingestion doesn’t mess with me to the extent that gluten does. The onion was in big strips so it was pretty easy to pick it all out. By the end of the night I had a cute little pile of onion next to my plate.
Despite having to negotiate my chopsticks around the presence of so much onion I really enjoyed the lemongrass chicken. The beef on the other hand was quite dry and bland and I wouldn’t recommend it. Unfortunately when the ribs were brought out to our table we noted that they were covered in batter and called our exuberant waiter over to double check that this wasn’t wheat flour batter. He was very apologetic and offered to replace the dish. This wasn’t before one of the kids managed to quickly nab a pork rib to try! According to his palate it tasted like KFC so he renamed the dish VFC! (Vietnamese Fried Chicken). As a replacement we were offered a dish that wasn’t on their menu – some roast pork. This dish was definitely the best of the mains – the pork was deliciously tender and marinated to perfection and enjoyed by all at the table. With our bellies comfortably full we all skipped over the road to Baskin and Robbins for an ice-cream fix to end our chilled out evening and we were very satisfied and ready for our long weekend!
Food 6/10 Venue 6.5/10 Service 7/10
To To Vietnamese 875 Albany Hwy, East Victoria Park | (08) 9355 2388