It's always soup o'clock at Edinburgh's newest Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Viet, says Gaby Soutar
Some might say it’s not the season for soup. Along with snoods, Vaporub and crumpets, cullen skink, cock-a-leekie and miso have mostly been shelved until autumn.
I, however, find it hard to have my daily sarnie without a side of liquid vegetation. I’m still glugging it down on the hottest days.
My colleagues shudder, in anticipation of my al-desko broth sweats, when I appear with my microwaved potful.
Anyway, this restaurant, named after and specialising in Vietnamese soup dish pho (pronounced “fuh”), has just appeared, at the height of summer.
It’s owned by the people behind the eight-year-old family eatery Vietnam House on nearby Grove Street.
At the Haymarket Station end of Dalry Road, you’ll find it opposite the shut-down Mexican restaurant that still has plants trapped in its window. (Someone has graffitied “Save the cacti!” on the glass with a Sharpie.)
Their newest venture is double the size of their original, with light-up livery that features bowls of pho on glowing lotuses. However, apart from the bottles of Sriracha on each table, the interior doesn’t have the homely appeal of the other place.
Still, the menu looks good, and we tried three starters to share.
We had ordered the fresh spring rolls (£5.99), with chicken and prawn, but ended up with the tofu variety. Fair enough, it had looked as if it was the waiter’s first day, and he was so bewildered, like a fledgling with a notepad.
We enjoyed them anyway, as these pretty parcels – transparent and ghostly, like something ectoplasmic from a Victorian seance – were stuffed with vermicelli threads, shredded carrot and honeycomb-like tofu puffs. Vibrant and fresh, their flavour was grounded by an earthily nutty dip on the side.
There was also an enthusiastic reception for the sliced beef with herbs and lime (£9.99), served on a bright green leaf-shaped plate. These meaty shreds, mixed with carrot, coriander, red onions and chilli, were dissolving soft and slack thanks to their acidic marinade.
Our lightly fried fish cakes (£7.65) were sweet and squelchy, with a bouncy texture that was very appealing and made me think I might be deficient in something.
Is rubber a mineral? This set of three were laced with dill and came with a sweet chilli sauce on the side.
For mains, one of us had to try the pho. I went for the chicken (£9.99) and it was wholesome, with a rich, not-too-salty broth, enough silky rice flour noodles to weave a tapestry, plenty of chicken bits, shiitake mushrooms, spring onions and chilli, plus a bowl of crisp bean sprouts, mint and lime on the side. Soul food – healing, like Jewish penicillin.
The lotus rice (£13.99) was similarly cockle-warming. There was a parcel of glutinous rice, caramelised along the bottom and in joyous sticky clumps, all laced with chicken, shrimps and mushrooms and wrapped in a cardboard coloured lotus leaf, which released a puff of steam when it was unwrapped.
Although their house curry (£13.99) had a slightly curdled texture, the flavour was good, if searingly hot, with coconut milk and a garlicky yellow curry base studded with bits of white fish, prawn and squid.
For pudding, I was the only one not squealing about frogspawn, when it came to the Vietnamese dessert (£3.99). I think it was the basil seeds that made them go bimbo.
Anyway, I loved the bubbly texture, with each seed lurching up the slightly-too-narrow straw as if it was in a shonky lift. This pudding also provided an opportunity to fish for the fragrant lychees and cubes of coconut jelly, iridescent like soap bubbles, at the bottom of the glass.
We also tried the green melon (£3.99) and coconut (£3.99) ice-creams, both served on the half-shell of their fruit. They tasted suitably refreshing, and you could recycle one of the discarded bowls and use it as half a percussion instrument to play John Cage’s 4’33” on.
So, here’s a lovely place, just as good as the original, where summertime soup lovers can feel at home.
(And, as an addendum, save the cacti, amigos!)
Pho Viet Edinburgh
15 Dalry Road, Edinburgh
(0131-337 7522, www.vietnamhouserestaurant.co.uk)
For the latest reviews, recommendations and events - join our new 'Best In Edinburgh' Facebook group here.