Corner of Corsair Avenue and Wirraway Parade, Inala
Pho is addictive. It manages to strike the right balance between being a hearty meal yet somehow still seeming light and healthy. There's enough going on to keep me full and satisfied every time yet it's never so overwhelming that after a meal of pho, I vow not to eat it again for a year or so (I tend to do that after a big Indian feast or too much dessert).
I usually get my pho fix at one of the array of Vietnamese eateries around the city/West End or even in Sunnybank. To mix things up a bit and to touch base with the real deal, I decided to stop by Inala on the way to Brisbane from Toowoomba one weekend. For those not in the know, Inala has a strong Vietnamese community and by extention of that, the most genuine grocery stores, butchers, bakeries and eateries for Vietnamese produce.
I asked my foodie friend Nina (from Nina Will Eat) for a couple of recommendations due to her Vietnamese background. The first restaurant I tried was closed that day so Byron and I settled for Pho 99. At first, we thought it was closed too because it looked so dark from the outside but after much peering in, we realized there were people eating inside and it was indeed open for business.
The restaurant is plain and unadorned with rows of tables, simple chairs and a number of booth seating areas. The menu offers plenty of dishes with rice-based or noodle-based options, as well as sides, starters and beverages.
Roll-it-yourself rice paper rolls with sugarcane prawns
We went for some DIY prawn rice paper rolls to start with, plus a bowl of pho each. The rice paper rolls came as a platter of potential filling materials, unsoaked rice paper and a big bowl of water. The filling materials included fresh lettuce, cucumber and carrot, fresh mint, bean sprouts, rice noodles and of course, the prawns.
The prawns weren't fresh prawns like I expected but rather, reconstituted prawn meat in a spongey form. That might sound gross but it was actually very nice in the rice paper rolls. I'm awful at rolling these things and every time I order DIY, it's a reminder as to why I should order pre-rolled versions instead.
Beef pho and beef brisket pho
Byron ordered the pho with beef brisket as well as thinly sliced beef. I had it with just the sliced beef (the original version). When our bowls arrived we couldn't tell which was which. The brisket wasn't that distinguishable. In any case, the servings were both huge and we were very happy with our meals. The stock was that perfect blend of salty and sweet with a bit of five spice.
Close-up of beef pho
The beef was abundant and reasonably tender. The noodles were delicious too. These were a great example of how a simple, well-done bowl of pho can be amongst the best comfort food available. I've just recently tried the fat pho noodles at Luke Nguyen's Fat Noodle and have to say that had NOTHING on these, and it was around double the price for a much smaller serve.
Pho 99 definitely delivered some good pho. It was exactly what I like in an Asian eatery. Cheap, fast service, big servings and great tasting food. Byron had been there once before and didn't like it that much then but he had ordered a rice dish. Nina did mention that the food was good "depending on what you order". I guess if you stick with the pho, you'll be right!