Ever since reading Mrs Petticoat’s blog entry on I Am Pho, I have wanted to visit the only Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown for a massive bowl of pho, and a plate of frogs legs. Sometimes, I’m incredibly indecisive (the ladies at the village sandwich shop know full well not to ask me what I want as soon as I walk in, and always give me a couple of minutes to umm and ahh about what I’m going to order), but I knew what I was going to order days before visiting I Am Pho.
We’d accidentally visited Manchester on the day of the Manchester Day Parade, for the second year running, so getting around Manchester was a kerfuffle and a half, and we ended up parking miles away, and had to storm across the road mid procession, being told “you can’t cross the road” by one of the helpers, at which point I’d crossed the road, and it was too late. By the time we got to I Am Pho, we were a bit grumpy, tired and had worked up an appetite!
We descended into the basement venue, and were seated, and after helping explain to my dad what was what, we ordered. As I stated earlier, I had no need to look at the menu, I was having Frogs Legs to start (having had them once before and being blown away by them), and following that with Pho Bo Dac Biet (pho, with chicken, cooked beef and raw beef, cooked in the broth). We both had a bottle of Vietnamese beer, which was inoffensive, crisp and refreshing. Nothing special, but when in Rome…
My dad’s starter of pork and prawn spring rolls came out very fast, along with the starters for the table behind me. I was left wondering where my frogs legs where. I tried to get one of the waiter’s attention, but they seemed more interested in their phones, and talking about days off. When I finally got his attention, I was told that frogs legs take a while to cook. This is fine, I don’t mind waiting, but surely the chef should have held back on cooking the spring rolls (which won’t take long at all), until the frogs legs were nearly ready, so that we could have received our starters at the same time. My dad had almost finished his super tasty spring rolls (I couldn’t resist having a taste) by the time my plate of frogs legs had arrived.
I made my classic mistake of diving in before taking a photo, so there’s a frog leg missing from this photo (I removed the bones off the plate before taking the photo, though). Was that one time previously with frogs legs a one hit wonder? Nope. I can see why the French love them, they’re like the most tender chicken, the meat just melts in the mouth, and the sticky sweet chilli sauce was lovely against the crispy batter. Even my dad enjoyed it, despite him being nervous about the idea of eating frog (I forced him to eat a frog leg, just like I forced my friends to try goat). The weird thing about frog, is that it REALLY does taste like chicken.
Tray of condiments, perhaps they could wipe the dried up hoisin sauce from the nozzle on the bottle in the future
Next up, it was time for pho.
The waiter asked if I’d ever had pho before, I’d said I’d not, but wish I’d said yes to save him the embarrassment of telling me how to put herbs and bean sprouts into a bowl, I knew what to do. I took a big spoon of the beef paste from the tray of condiments, stirred it into the pho, added the herbs, bean sprouts, a squeeze of lime, and the mistake of chilli’s (I’ll explain later) into the bowl, and began the unglamourous act of slurping and chomping through my pho.
I was amazed by the chicken, it was tender, and unlike most chicken, which just tastes of generic white meat, it actually tasted of chicken. Both the cooked and raw beef were melt in the mouth, and the noodles were soft with a bit of bite, everything a noodle should be. The star of the show, however is the broth itself. I could have bathed in that broth, it was so tasty and savoury with aromatic anise scents. When I got halfway through the bowl, I was struggling (I only have a small appetite), but was determined to see off most of the broth, and I succeeded in that aim. I just had to leave a lot of the noodles.
WARNING: If you add the red chilli’s beware of how insanely hot they are. I added mine with the intention of not eating them, and just allowing them to add some spice to the broth, however, one got caught up in a mouthful of beef, it was so hot, I wanted to cry. I’m not a spice wimp by normal standards (maybe compared to my friends, though, but they’re chilli fiends), but this was off the charts burning. I had to fish them all out to make sure I didn’t have the same accident.
I can’t wait to return to I Am Pho, there are many things I want to try on the menu, the summer rolls look fresh and delicious, the Vietnamese baguettes are super generous portions, there’s more Vietnamese beers I need to try (for scientific research purposes, only, you understand), and, well. Everything. I could quite happily taste it all.
Cost : Frogs legs, pho & a bottle of Hue beer, £19.50 (but bear in mind, the frogs legs is a starter that is about the same price as a bowl of pho, and most other starters are about half the price)
Score : I think the service needs a bit of work, and please clean the condiment bottles. The food is delicious, however, so I Am Pho gets 8/10