With this Crows Nest eatery’s name referring to a particular Vietnamese dish, it’s a reasonable bet that their pho - beef noodle soup – is going to be great. So during my recent visit to this undeniably popular restaurant, I gave pho a miss in favour of trying some of the other dishes on their extensive menu.
I visited for Saturday lunch, and the narrow restaurant was packed to the rafters with families, couples and bigger groups, with many of them opting to slurp beef noodle soup.
Despite the crowds my table is very quickly littered with colourful Vietnamese fare, all of which was very appropriate to Sydney’s warm summery weather.
I Love Pho’s Mixed Entrée ($15.50) platter is an eye-catching collection of tasty long things, running from nicely blistered Hanoi crispy spring rolls to a fresh roll filled with pork and prawn. Looking nude and pink, are two nem nuong pork skewers, and there's also a standout house-made chao tom (or as you might know it, sugarcane prawn).
You’re given a trio of sauces to choose your own dipping adventure – if you’d like my advice go sticky-sweet hoisin with the fresh roll, the lighter nuoc cham with the sugarcane prawn, and skip the sweet chilli sauce completely, because the crisp rolls and the slightly sweet pork skewers are perfect just as they are.
Skipping pho doesn’t mean giving up the idea of a bowl-in-one meal entirely. Vermicelli salad bowls like the Grilled Marinated Pork & Spring Rolls with Vermicelli ($14.90) give you both entrée and main in one compact package. Pour in the nuoc cham, give it a good mix to combine, and you’ve got yourself a healthy, tasty lunch in one bowl.
Goi Bo Tai Chanh ($15.90) is a more elegant way to salad. Pleasantly pink thin slices of rare beef (the same kind you’d find in your pho) are tossed in lime juice with a blend of julienned raw vegetables – carrots, onion, celery and green mango – then dressed with fresh Vietnamese herbs and roasted peanuts. Spooning it onto the accompanying prawn crackers gives you a fun way to eat it.
It’s easy to see why Crows Nest locals flock to Emma Nguyen’s restaurant. It effectively brings authentic Vietnamese to their back door, without necessitating a trip to any of Sydney’s better-known Vietnamese enclaves. You can either dine in the modern interior, which is decked out with bamboo, woven basket lampshades, and black and white prints of traditional Vietnamese farmers, or an al fresco table, where you can take in the hustle and bustle of Willoughby Road. If both of those options sound too hectic, Emma also does home catering platters allowing you to regale your friends and family with the same fresh, Vietnamese bites that have captivated Crows Nest for years.
I Love Pho
47 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest
Ph: (02) 8065 1129