Jo's been talking up I Love Pho 264 (formerly known as Chu The) for a while; we had our chance to lunch there together on Saturday before braving IKEA. It's plain, popular and has a high turnover. The five minutes we queued at the entry were well spent perusing the wall-mounted menu so that we could order before we'd even cracked open the thermos of tea on our table.
Here pho is of course the star, with the menu board dominated by the different varieties offered. It's full of beef, tendons and cartilage, but us vegos can skip right to the bottom and focus on the tofu and vegetable pho. There's as wide an array of drinks as soups and then a couple of spring/rice paper rolls on offer (with veg options on both). Prices aren't listed.
Pho bowls arrived within minutes of being ordered. (Note: the one above is a medium, and the large looks like a bird bath.) Michael liked the veges, trimmings and chilli, but the stock was pretty plain. By smell alone, we could tell that our beef-ordering friends were having a tastier time of it.
It took a good while longer for our double serve of vegetarian spring rolls to arrive. Spring rolls don't tend to vary a lot, but these were notably above average. And I liked that they were served with lettuce for wrapping.
A few more minutes down the track, my vegetarian rice paper rolls turned up. They were simple and fresh, stuffed with carrots, lettuce, noodles and a strip or two of fried tofu, and were accompanied by an excellent dipping sauce.
Last to arrive were our iced coffees (does this meal seem reverse-served to anyone else?). They were just OK; we've enjoyed better at Thanh Nga Nine and Tom Phat.
The bill (totalled up opaquely and perhaps arbitrarily on a calculator) came to about $15-20 per person; not bad for a big feed and a drink each. Service was rushed but also friendly and accommodating. It was nice to see clear vegetarian options, and I was really impressed with the freshness of everything we ate.
That said, there's probably much more to love at I Love Pho if you're into meat. For a greater variety of meat-free Vietnamese dishes and a faux pho to boot, we love Thanh Nga Nine down the street.
Under its current name, this restaurant have received positive reviews on Sweet and Sour Fork, Barley Restaurant Reviews and Foodie About Town. That Jess Ho covers the drama and intrigue surrounding a recent name change, and is disappointed with the new incarnation.
I Love Pho 264
264 Victoria St, Richmond
veg fare $5-15
Accessibility: There's a ramp on entry; the interior is densely crowded with tables. We ordered at the table and paid at the counter. We didn't visit the toilets.