Pho Tau Bay was a restaurant that was not on my radar for the longest time. However, it was no secret to a large proportion of Sydney’s food enthusiast population as it was voted the best pho in Sydney in poll conducted on the food blog Noodlies during the latter part of 2010. That was when it first came to my attention.
Curiosity had gotten the better of me. No matter how far afield I had to travel, I just had to find out how good this pho really was.
Pho Tau Bay can be somewhat tricky to find, especially for those that rely on their GPS as a blind person does their guide dog. The main issue being that whilst the official address of the store is on John St, the actual entrance to the store is around the corner and a couple of stores down on Hill St.
Once inside, the restaurant is rather typical of the cheap, casual Asian dining establishments that are ubiquitous to Sydney’s foodscape. Other than a rather impressive model of a wooden boat as you walk in, there’s little else worth mentioning that can’t be found in other, similar restaurants.
Pho Tai ($10) – Tender slices of raw beef, onions & spring onions sit on top of a mound of slippery rice noodles submerged in a large steaming bowl of beef broth. A generous handful of beansprouts, a couple of sprigs of basil and a lemon wedge lie in wait on a plastic side dish; textural and aromatic subnotes to be incorporated at the diner’s discretion prior to consumption.
The contents of the bowl, complete with the additions from the side dish, are turned over and stirred through with a pair of chopsticks, taking care not to spill a single drop of the flavourful broth. The raw slices of beef shift from deep red to grey as they cook in the soup. Suggestions of a pinkish hue still linger in the meat as the left hand slowly reaches towards a bottles of hoisin and sriracha; sauces to season and compliment the flavours of the soup. The right hand takes up a spoon, ladling a small amount of the broth. The first taste of that aromatic, spice-laden soup.
The left hand halts just short of the condiments, hesitating for a moment as the balance of flavours and the amount of seasoning required is considered. A small squirt of hoisin and a couple of the spicy sriracha chili sauce, a quick stir with the chopsticks and the bowl of beef pho is ready to be eaten.
If the image doesn’t speak for itself, the pho was really, really good. I’d argue one of the best in Sydney, though personally not my favourite. That honour that goes to Pho Bac Hai Duong, a well-regarded pho restaurant that’s also made the best pho poll and that I’ve posted about previously.
Maybe it a Ford vs Holden thing, in that the differences are less about an actual disparity of apparent quality and more a reflection of my personal preferences? There is no question that this was a damn fine bowl of Pho, one I’m sure I’ll be back for in future. Of that, there is no doubt. It’s just not what I consider to be the best, in spite of what the poll may otherwise suggest.
If you’ve been to both restaurants, I’ve love to hear what your opinion is on the matter. If you’ve yet to try the pho at Pho Tau Bay, or even ventured out to Cabramatta for that matter, do make the time to go. Prior to going to Pho Tau Bay I had no interest or inclination of making the trip out there. Now, there’s a growing list of restaurants in Cabramatta and the surrounding areas that I’m keen to check out. Cabramatta is probably one of Sydney’s most underrated eating destinations. It’s a destination I no longer take for granted.
Pho Tau Bay
12/117 John Street, Cabramatta (enter via Hill St)
(02) 9726 4583