A chilled, friendly, local favourite serving fresh, tasty Vietnamese street food in a cool contemporary cafe setting. Great for a fully-packed banh mi or a satisfying bowl of pho.
Location: 25 High St, Glen Iris, VIC 3146 Ph: (03) 9885 2846
The lucky residents on either side of High Street in Glen Iris are spoilt for choice when it comes to Vietnamese restaurants. On one side of the road there’s the lively QT Kitchen and the other, the smaller, but equally vibrant So Pho So Good.
So Pho So Good is exactly the kind of buzzing local eatery that so many suburbs would love to have but sadly lack. Cheerfully serving both the lunch and dinner crowd of the surrounding suburbs – and on speed dial for take away in numerous homes – it’s a popular eatery.
Light, bright and contemporary with a black, off-white and green colour scheme, So Pho So Good has a funky vibe.
Out the front there are a handful of tables and chairs. Plus a hand-written sign inviting you to ‘Come In & Try The Best Banh Mi In Town!’ You’ve got to admire their confidence!
Step inside and you’re in a busy, lively little cafe. Clean, white-washed walls, illustrated chalkboards carrying specials and concrete floors make the dining room functional, but welcoming. A few well-chosen photos of modern Vietnamese life and pretty coloured lantern lights add a pop of colour. There’s a counter crammed with a till, coffee machine and display stands of treats towards the back of the space.
Look closer and a few quirky details start to emerge. In particular, there’s a bicycle suspended over a doorway set back to the right of the serving counter. Duck under it and through and you’ll come out into a surprisingly large courtyard. Partially covered and with plenty of seating it’s a great place to sit and slurp a bowl of noodles on a warm summer’s evening.
Another great courtyard can be found at new cocktail bar, Oydis, up the road in Ashburton
So Pho So Good champions Vietnamese street food. Some items are perfect grab-and-go lunch options whilst others involve sitting down and focusing – unless you want soupy noodles in your lap.
The Something Light section holds a number of Southeast Asian staples. The ubiquitous Goi Cuon (Rice Paper Rolls – $4.5) make an appearance, as do 4 variations of Cha Cio (Spring Rolls – 4 for $9.8 +$1 for Prawn). However, the Spring Rolls here come with Lettuce & Mint – giving you the authentic Vietnamese experience of wrapping the fried fingers in greenery before dunking them in a pungent Dipping Sauce.
I’m a sucker for a dumpling – whether it’s steamed, fried or bobbing in a bowl of soup. So Pho So Good offers Pork Wontons ($12.8) in all 3 forms, but I can never go past the ones bathed in a fiery Chilli Oil.
Whilst we’re in this part of the menu, let’s tackle that boast about making the best Banh Mi ($9.8) in Melbourne. I make no secret of my love of Banh Mi and am happy to trudge all over the city sampling them. And the Banh Mi at So Pho So Good are…really excellent.
Fresh Baguette with a good crunch to the crust and a soft, pillowy interior and heaps of delicious fillings. Apart from the usual Cucumber, Coriander, Carrots, Fried Shallots and Chilli (if you want), there’s your choice of Chargrilled Chicken or Pork or a Vegetarian version. There’s also Roast Pork Belly for $1 extra. This Pork Belly is dusted with Chinese 5 Spice, which adds a comforting aniseed warmth to the sweet flesh.
I know purists won’t be happy that there’s no layer of pate. Admittedly, given the choice, I’d prefer a smear of fragrant pate too. However, the kitchen certainly doesn’t skimp on the protein in their Banh Mi and they are all very tasty and substantial.
This is a range of Vietnamese salads, all of which are packed with fresh ingredients and dressings that sing.
The Goi Du Du ($19.8) – Green Papaya Salad – is summer on a plate. Whenever I eat it, I wonder why it isn’t a staple at BBQs across our sunny country.
If you want something with a bit more body, the Bun ($18.8) – Warm Vermicelli Salad – rarely disappoints. Although there are a variety of protein options, the Lemongrass Beef (photo below) is the go to dish in our house. Slivers of tender beef, spiked with the generous citrus kiss of a marinade thick with Lemongrass – it smells as good as it taste. Add to this the Spring Roll, Lettuce, Cucumber, Peanuts and Mint that accompany every Bun, and you’ve got a decent feed.
If you feel like rustling up a zingy Asian dinner tonight, see our Simple Vietnamese Recipes
The heavier part of the menu is rice and noodle soup territory.
The Com Tam ($18.8) – Broken Rice – gets consistently strong reviews online, whilst I can vouch for the yumminess of the Bo Kho ($22.8) – Vietnamese -Style Beef Stew – myself.
Sometimes, all you really want is a big, comforting portion of noodles and broth. On those occasions, few things hit the spot as satisfyingly as a well-made bowl of Pho ($16.8-18.8 – depending on protein).
Are you struggling to find a present for a family member or friend who is a nightmare to buy for? Take a look at our Gift Ideas for some inspiration.
As you might expect from a Vietnamese restaurant who’s whole name is built round a Pho pun, the version at So Pho So Good is worth the effort that clearly goes into making it. The Broth is aromatic with notes of star anise and if you choose the chicken, beef or pork, the meat is beautifully cooked and the portion size generous.
If you love Vietnamese coffee, check out this Vietnamese Coffee Filter Set. It makes a great gift and is perfect for camping or backpacking.
It’s always pleasing when an eatery has the confidence to add new, interesting items to its much-loved menu.
Therefore, on our last visit to So Pho So Good, it was great to see Barramundi Congee ($19.8) being advertised on a chalkboard near the door. Congee may be an acquired taste, but it’s a truly Asian speciality and it’s great to see it making an appearance on High St, Glen Iris.
As you may have already noticed, this place is a dream for those with gluten intolerance.
Vegetarian and Vegan Options
Pleasingly, there are Vegetarian and Vegan protein alternatives scattered across the menu. After all, Tofu is an Asian staple.
That said, the Banh Cuon – Steamed Rice Crepes ($15.8) are a particularly appealing option. These delicate, yet substantial beauties come with Cabbage, Leek & Lemongrass Tofu.
That coffee machine that we mentioned at the start turns out a good latte. Here, the Coffee is by Padre and the baristas know what they are doing.
For the Asiaphiles, So Pho So Good has Nuoc Dua ($7.8) – Fresh Whole Coconut – and Sinh To ($8.8) Vietnamese Smoothie. They also have Vietnamese Iced Lemonade ($8.8) and a small selection of Asian Beers ($8.5), including Saigon Special and Singha.
When the weather is balmy, it’s lovely to sit out back in the courtyard with a glass of wine whilst you graze through a few plates from the kitchen.
So Pho So Good is the kind of neighbourhood restaurant and take away that any community would be happy to welcome.
The menu is authentic, flavoursome and pleasingly diverse and the establishment itself is welcoming with friendly staff.
Add to this a cool external courtyard and funky dining room and it no wonder it’s always busy.