In Short: An Restaurant in Bankstown is the place to go for a Pho fix. There are variations of chicken and beef pho, and that is all that’s served for the main meals. There are a selection of desserts to choose from as well.
There’s a battle being waged in the south west of Sydney. It’s a battle for the crown of the best Pho in the land, or even perhaps outside of Vietnam. I know, a big call, but having tried Pho in other parts of Australia and throughout the world, it’s hard to go past the quality of Pho that can be had in Sydney. The two suburbs waging the battle are Bankstown and Cabramatta. Both suburbs and the surrounding areas have a number of little eateries that specialise in Pho. Those in the know are either one of 2 camps; they either love Pho Tau Bay in Cabramatta, or An Restaurant in Bankstown. Both have been part of the landscape for many years, and as is the case for An Restaurant, it’s been a mainstay in Bankstown for over 20 years. An Restaurant are so confident about their Pho, their large dining space is wholly dedicated to it.
No rice dishes, no fried or braised dishes, just steaming bowls of Pho. The interior of An Restaurant is purely functional. The aim is to comfortably house as many hungry diners as possible; akin to a dining hall. Whereas some restaurants create an atmosphere that wills you to stay a while, the opposite is true at An Restaurant, where the aim is to slurp and run.
To provide some balance, and not just focus on the traditional beef Pho, I take one for the team and skim past the traditional favourites and choose Pho Ga, or chicken Pho. Chicken, noodles, and a clear broth, doesn’t sound too exciting, but at An Restaurant, it’s visually more appealing with 4 delightful yolks of quail egg. The bright yellow yolks are striking against the white bowls and green of the mint. Before you eat, you will be enticed by the beautiful aromas that waft up from the bowl. With a beef pho, a more robust flavour is immediately noticeable, but with a Pho Ga, the flavours of the broth are more nuanced. There’s the heat of ginger, and notes from both the spring onion and fine slices of onion. I love the generous chunks of chicken, and the house made noodles are silken smooth. I love the richness of the quail eggs, and it adds another dimension of flavour and thickens the soup. I ordered a medium sized bowl and I am not sure what kind of appetite you would need to have to get through a large bowl, safe to say the serving sizes are on the better side of generous.
Slurping on the other side of the table is fellow Coco and Viner ,Mavis. She gives me a taste of her Beef Pho. Mavis loves to have a pho without the accompaniments that are provided with each bowl. For other venues, I may add a little hoisin sauce, chilli and a splash of lemon, not so at An Restaurant. It just doesn’t need it. I love the robust flavour of the beef bone broth that has been cooked for hours. With rare cooked beef, tendon and tripe, it is just mouthfuls of pure goodness. An Restaurants’ beef broth is a bit darker than that of Pho Tau Bay, but it’s hard to seperate them. It’s packed with layers of beautiful flavours. Herbs, spices and seasoning deliver a soup base that is just addictive.
To cool off a little after two amazing soups, I finished up at An Restaurant with Chè Ba Màu (three colour bean dessert). There are variations of this dessert throughout the ASEAN countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia. The Vietnamese version served in this restaurant combines agar agar for the green stringy jelly, split mung beans for the corn coloured layer and finally red kidney beans. It’s all mixed in with crushed ice and coconut milk. To get the best out of the drink, I actually waited for a couple minutes to let some of the ice to melt. Then, I mix the ice in with the coconut milk and three beans. This results in a nicely balanced drink. I love the textures of the bean with the crunch of ice. Coconut milk delivers a creamy consistency to the drink, and that unmistakable tropical flavour. It’s a refreshing ending to a meal at An Restauraunt and will be just the tonic if you are to hit the streets of Bankstown and take in the market like atmosphere of Chapel Road.
An Restaurant is unapologetically all about Pho, and it does a great job of delivering Vietnam’s most famous dish to hordes of hungry Sydneysiders who flock there every day of the week. Service is superbly efficient.
You can be in and out within half hour, truly sated. Your only decision, do you go to An Restaurant or further south to Cabramatta and Pho Tau Bay. It’s a nice conundrum with a delicious conclusion, whichever way you choose to go!