Living in a melting pot of different cultures has blessed me with the opportunity to try out different cuisines without having to step out of the country (and saving lotsa money as a result). Besides, it has become such a commonplace in Singapore for restaurants of non-local cuisines to establish their businesses in our neighbourhood, predominantly in shopping malls, thus making it even easier to satisfy our cravings for the food we ate abroad. But of course, these food usually don’t come cheap if they are prepared or created by chefs hired from their native countries in an attempt to keep the tastes as authentic as possible. So does it mean that it’s impossible to enjoy a good four-course non-local meal with just S$30 in an air-conditioned setting?
With the number of casual dining restaurants offering affordable food springing up these days, it may be possible. But with lower price, comes compromise. How many of them can actually serve quality and true-to-original (or close) non-Singaporean dishes while still maintaining its competitive prices? Not many but I have a couple of names in mind.
Pho Street, Westgate
And one of them is Pho Street, a quick service restaurant offering authentic Vietnamese pho and street delights which I only came to know about recently through an invited food tasting (that I’m about to feature in this post). Having founded only in December 2013 with just 2 outlets (Westgate and Bedok Mall) nationwide currently, it’s not unusual that not many people have heard of it. But with the new Vietnamese chef (Chef Kenny Hà) on board with his new revamped menu, it’s only a matter of time before crowds start flocking to the restaurants. You will know why as I take you through the newly added items.
In fact, crowds have already started forming at the Westgate outlet (photo taken around 8pm on a weekday)
Let’s begin with the beverages that Pho Street has ushered in to liven up your palate and open up your appetite for the hearty meal that is to follow.
(left) Lemon Cooler with Peppermint & Basil and (right) Passionfruit & Basil Mojito (S$3.50++ each)
Mint and basil leaves
Garnished with mint and basil leaves to give diners a burst of cool flavour, these two latest additions provided a refreshing start to our meal. Both my boyfriend and I preferred the lemon cooler because it has a very sweet and addictive tang to it. Crisp and perky, this zesty drink is a summer classic, perfect for the hot and humid weather we’re all experiencing right now (just like Vietnam!). Even before the first dish arrived, we were already halfway done with the drink. That’s how much we loved it!
The passionfruit, on the other hand, pales in comparison in terms of the intensity of flavour. Nevertheless, it’s still a nice thirst quencher with a fairly strong minty aroma to awaken your senses. If you’re especially sensitive to strong flavours, this is the drink you should go for 🙂
Fresh Summer Rolls with Prawn, Pork Belly & Fresh Herbs (S$4.90++)
Spot the pork belly
To whet our appetite further, we were treated to a variety of palatable street snacks. The first of the four new appetizers served was a Vietnamese staple called gỏi cuốn which literally means salad rolls. Like how it’s traditionally prepared, these rolls are made with pork (belly in this case), fresh prawns, vegetables (cucumber, turnip, lettuce and carrots), herbs (basil and mint leaves and a stalk of lemongrass visible on the surface) and rice vermicelli wrapped with rice paper, giving you a good mix of sweet and sour flavour. Every ingredient here is cooked lightly hence the roll on the whole tastes absolutely healthy yet delicious, not forgetting the resounding crunch with every bite is super shiok and melodious to the ears can 🙂 Each serving comes with two pieces of summer roll served in room temperature.
Shades of summer – green, orange and yellow 🙂
The dip that came with it is widely known as tương xào, a thick and pungent sauce also commonly used in Chinese cuisine. Topped with ground peanuts, the sauce gives the rolls an added sweetness and texture. It also kinda reminded me a lot of the black sweet sauce that’s drizzled over Chee Cheong Fun. Who knows, they could even be the same thing, maybe with slight modification, based on their standard recipes I saw online!
Vietnamese Snack Platter (S$8.90++)
Roasted Chicken Skewers
Vietnamese Crabcakes (only 1 piece shown here)
Crispy Fried Pork Rolls (only 1 piece shown here)
Ohh, look at the vibrancy of the colours. These snacks are not only visually appealing, but they also tantalise the taste buds. Everything on the platter was just.. delicious. The roasted chicken meat was tender, well-marinated and evenly peppered all over (hence some may find it spicy). The crispy pork rolls were fragrant and are even tastier dipped in the fish sauce (the less opaque one in the first picture) provided with the dish. But what boyfriend and I enjoyed the most were the crabcakes, which mainly consist of crab meat, pork and fungus (mushrooms). They were extremely meaty, thick but soft and chewy. This also goes well with the fish sauce.
Do note that what you see above (except for the skewers) is just half of what you’d get. That’s right, you will have TWO pieces of each snack! All these Vietnamese delights for just S$8.90! How value-for-money is that? 🙂 (omg I subconsciously made my sentences rhyme hahahaha #hiphopfionayo)
Still not convinced? How about MORE pictures of the snacks in action? *evil cackles*
Roasted chicken dipped in the sexiest chilli sauce..
Glistening crabcakes calling out your name…
The crisp, the crunch and the crumbles around your lips. Mmmm-mmmm.
OK, if this 360-degree view of the platter doesn’t entice you, I don’t know what will.
Moving on to the next appetizer, it was something that titillated the fried chicken fanatic in me because no casual dining menu would be complete without a plate of finger-lickin’ good fried chicken wings. I personally prefer the mid-joint area because that’s where the juiciest meat is.
Crispy Fried Chicken Mid-wings served with Caramelised Sweet Dip (S$4.90++)
Fried chicken buffalo wings served with an extra punch
The batter was a nice golden brown but it looked a bit puffed up with excess breading noticeable on various parts of the wings, making them look a lot bigger and meatier than they originally were. But the wings themselves were superb and the meat was moist and succulent with a tinge of spiciness because of the pepper in the marinade. If you have low tolerance for spiciness, submerging the meat into the nectarous caramelised dip would only make it worse because it’s also loaded with pepper. But I’d say go for it because the dip is so heavenly, it’d make the burn worthwhile 😉
Sesame Rice Crackers with Fragrant Minced Meat and Spices Dip (S$6.90++)
Sesame Rice Crackers
Fragrant Minced Meat and Spices Dip
The final appetizer of the evening was another distinctive snack unique to Vietnam. Known to the natives as bánh tráng mè, these sesame rice crackers are made from rice flour and sprinkled with sesame seed. They are the Singapore equivalent of prawn crackers, crispy and delicate. But instead of eating them on their own, they are typically served with dips, such as the minced meat and spices dip shown above!
To ensure that ingredients are of highest quality, the rice crackers at Pho Street are all imported from Vietnam.
The correct way of eating the sesame rice crackers
The dip was warm when it came to us, which could suggest that they were freshly prepared (as opposed to preparing them way in advance and storing them elsewhere). It tasted like rendang paste and was a little greasy. Still, this was one of the best dishes we had at the restaurant that day (because we can’t decide between this and the snack platter).
After stuffing our face with the appetizers *burp*, it was finally time for our mains! When you’re at a Vietnamese restaurant, it’s almost like a hidden rule that you have to order Pho, so we did.
Pho Beef Combination (S$9.90++)
Close up on the different cuts of beef in the Pho
The perfect rice noodles
Chilli sauce and a slice of lime for the broth
Prior to the launch of this new menu, there were only beef balls, beef slices and beef shank in the Pho Beef Combination. Now, you get two additional beef cuts – the beef tendons and beef tripe (stomach) – for the same price of S$9.90! Seriously, you’re not true beef lover if you haven’t tried this. The overall taste seemed to have improved tremendously too as I couldn’t detect any of the faults mentioned on online negative reviews (bland broth, hard noodles, just to name a few) posted before the revamp.
In fact, I thought the broth was very flavourful and even more so after dribbling in some lime juice. The chilli sauce that comes with it is actually blended with the same soy sauce that’s served together with the summer roll I mentioned earlier. Talkin’ about getting the best of both worlds y’all 😉
Beef ball dipped in chilli sauce
The other mains we had was a dry version of Pho but it’s thinner and better.
Dry Rice Vermicelli with Roasted Pork Chop and Spring Roll (S$8.90)
Close up of the pork chop
Mixing them together, lo hei style
Truth be told, I felt a little twinge of regret when this arrived at the table because it looked a tad too dry for my liking (I wanted bánh mì initially but changed my mind) and at this point in time I was already feeling almost like a stuffed teddy bear so I was afraid that the vermicelli wouldn’t be slippery enough to glide down my throat.
But guess what? This seemingly dry dish turned soft and moist the moment it’s mixed with the sweet and spicy gravy at the bottom! The vermicelli was so smooth, soft and easy to stomach. Plus, it also included a generous piece of chewy peppered pork chop and crispy spring roll, which in case you haven’t realised, was the exact same one from the snack platter.
I caught a whiff of the dish and was instantly reminded of rojak. But of course, it didn’t taste like it. Not even close. This wins hands-down with its uniquely piquant and gratifying flavours. Therefore this would be my go-to dish (sorry Pho Pho) when I’m at Pho Street.
Apart from the two mains featured above, there are also two others I didn’t manage to try (oh how I wish I had a bigger stomach eh no I take that back). They are the Bánh Mì combination (bun with pork belly, grilled beef and chicken ham, S$6.90++) and the Roasted Pork Chop with Fragrant Rice (S$7.90++).
And last but not least, we shared a dessert to end the meal on a sweet note (pun intended).
Cream of Mung Bean with Coconut Sauce & Crushed Peanuts (S$3.50++)
Topped with crushed peanuts that exuded a pleasant fragrance, this thick and milky dessert is a must-try for all coconut lovers or anybody who wants to relive their Vietnam or Thai experience. It contains shaved water chestnuts, mung beans (green beans), fresh coconut sauce and banana essence so it’s like a burst of sweetness and a party in your mouth. It’s a pretty big serving so it’d be better to share it with someone.
Also, do allow me to emphasise that only fresh coconut sauce is used so it should taste sweet and nothing else. If your Cream of Mung Bean turns out to be sour, it’d mean that the coconut sauce has turned bad and you should return your drink to the friendly servers and ask for another one 🙂
You nutty nutty
Do note that all prices are subjected to prevailing government taxes (7% GST) and a 1% service charge. Now, if you add up the prices of the most expensive item from each course, you’ll come up with this:
Lemon Cooler with Peppermint & Basil (S$3.50) + Vietnamese Snack Platter (S$8.90) + Pho Beef Combination (S$9.90) + Cream of Mung Bean with Coconut Sauce & Crushed Peanuts (S$3.50) + 7% GST + 1% Service Charge
And the final price would only be S$27.90! It’s a very good deal for a very satisfying meal I must say.
Have you tried out the new menu at Pho Street? If not, would you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Thanks for reading!
Pho Street @ Westgate
3 Gateway Drive
Mon – Sun : 11:30am – 10:00pm (Last order at 9:30pm)
Pho Street @ Bedok Mall
311 New Upper Changi Road
Mon – Thurs : 11.00am – 10.00pm (Last Order at 9.30pm)
Fri – Sun : 11.00am – 10.30pm (Last Order at 10.00pm)
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