I absolutely love pho – it’s one of my winter favourites. Big, wholesome, hearty and packed with flavours. Every bite is different and every bite is joyous. So it is with some oddity I write about a Crows Nest Vietnamese institution named I LOVE PHO, that I didn’t actually get to eat their pho. A couple of month’s back, the Ompty gents invited myself and the fantastic peeps from My Food Safari along to try out this gem of a place.
I LOVE PHO VENUE:
I Love Pho is on the Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest, strip. A food strip that is incredibly underrated and packed with many food delights. I am unsure how long I Love Pho has been running but I have spoken to people who used to live in the area many years ago who recall it from back then. It’s warm and comforting and has a relaxed homey feel. It has wooden floors, and bamboo pole walls with stunning black and white photos of rice fields. The lighting is dim and patchwork thanks to all the roof lights hanging inside woven baskets. It’s a beautiful place to eat.
The staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating and treat you more like you are dining in their house than university students earning their party money. This is what comes from a family business one would assume.
I did love their small shrines to the gods and good fortune. I may be incorrect and please correct me if need be but I think the title photo is for the Chinese Gods of Wealth. Respects to these deities is something I have always loved. Walking around Bali it was a highlight seeing offerings everywhere I went. But back to I Love Pho :).
I LOVE PHO FOOD:
The food at I Love Pho is fresh and authentic. It is also plentiful and delicious. We asked the restaurant to order everything for us so we could have a good sample. I need to return one day closer to winter and get their famed signature Beef Noodle Soup dish i.e. their pho. It’s made using an authentic Northern style recipe with the full natural flavour imparted from ox bones & spices then simmered for a full 24 hours authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Just reading that off their site makes me drool!
FIRST ROUND DISHES:
I can’t really separate the meals we had into entrees and mains. It was more first round then second round. They split their menu into Saigon Hawker Foods, Tasting Entrees, Exotic Salads and, finally, Amazing Signature Dishes. We actually didn’t eat anything from the Hawker Food section but this is your spring rolls, fish cakes, sugarcane prawns and the like.
From the Tasting Entrees section we indulged in the Salt and Pepper Tofu – you can have it with Tofu, Squid of Prawns. I loved the tofu – more surface area than squid for the seasoning to reach and texture was soft and fluffy and not too far from perfectly cooked calamari. We also devoured the crispy pork and prawn Vietnamese pancake – this was interesting. More like an omelette for me and I loved the chilli dipping sauce with it.
From the exotic salad section I enjoyed the Green Papaya Salad with Crispy Pork immensely. The flavours were great and the little cherry tomato pops of flavour added nice acidity to the crisp crunch of the pork. If I worked nearby I would get this for a regular work lunch.
I am unsure if it has been removed from menu now or not but there was one I would claim from this section. My favourite veggies dish was the Stir Fry Morning Glory – settle down tiger – it’s a vegetable. Water Spinach is also known as Morning Glory. It was delicious and will be ordered again on future visits.
AMAZING SIGNATURE DISHES:
The Crispy Pork with Kailan (also known as Chinese broccoli) was a table favourite. Beautifully flavour packed and drowning in epic sauce, this is one you will want to order. The kailin was also a great addition underneath it – I was happy eating this without rice.
Sadly the crispy skin chicken failed to impress, the dipping sauce was needed to counter the dryness of the meat.
But then my fave dish, our last for the evening, came out and I was sad I had to share. The seafood hot plate was absolutely perfect. Don’t be sad – I think it is temporarily off the menu – I see a prawn and a fish hot plate – I would ask them about this one – it could be a combination.
THE BONUS OF EATING AT I LOVE PHO:
Eating at I Love Pho is not just about the love of the food. Every meal that you order a portion of the money paid is sent to Vietnam to assist in building schools in regional areas. That alone makes me order more – any excuse really – and one that benefits people in need is golden.
Another three bonuses to note – 1) If you place your reservation online you get 10% off your bill – awesome. 2) You can join their birthday club – on your birthday if you take in three people with you you get $50 off your meal (guess where my birthday dinner is in 2017). 3) Dine there between 330pm and 530pm on weekdays and your second dish is half price! Winnings!!
I Love Pho is a great authentic Vietnamese restaurant on the North Shore of Sydney. People travel long distances to eat their beef pho so there is no excuses for me travelling back to Crows Nest to feast on it one day soon. Crispy Pork and the Seafood Hot Plate were my faves and oddly I loved Salt and Pepper Tofu for a change from squid. And you have to finish your meal with their Vietnamese Iced Coffee, a truly awesome drink sure to clean out the constitution in no time haha. Cảm ơn bạn cho một bữa ăn tuyệt vời.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 2/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 0/1 bonus
I Love Pho Deets:
PH: (02) 8065 1129
BOOKINGS: Yes – Book Online for 10% off
OPEN 7 Days: 11am – 10pm
BYO: Yes – Wine only
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment. However, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such.