THE Editor asked The Fat One to try out a relatively new Vietnamese restaurant on George Street, next to Long Legs. A lap dancing bar with a good deal more lap going on than dancing, if Gordo’s memory serves him right. Which is not to be trusted nine years after starting upon the mission that was his blog and is now good old ManchesterConfidential.co.uk.
It’s like fat-free spam. An acquired taste for Westerners, served with a fat slice of cucumber.
The Vietnamese have a saying that success has many fathers. Even so, Gordo is continually surprised by the number of people who come up to him and say, “Eh, Gordo, you never told me it was 'X' who really set up Confidential.”
Well, that’s because Gordo didn’t know that 'X' had. Because either he can't remember or he’s a twat. 'X' that is, not Gordo. Anyway 'X', you know who you are, please go and seek help.
In the meantime, Gordo can thoroughly recommend Long Legs.
Oh, sorry, it’s about I Am Pho this, innit.
Pho is the famous street soup that can become highly addictive when you find a good one. Alongside its cousin Bun, it’s made of first-rate stock, with loads of bits and pieces as standard, along with noodles. Pho’s being flat and Bun’s vermicelli.
You are then given the option of adding pork, chicken, beef or prawns. You can then move up the heat, saltiness or indeed sweetness by using the condiments normally hanging around on the table like a bottle of HP in a builder’s café.
I Am Pho makes a couple of its own; the hoisin sauce and the beef paste. This is a sign of a very good gaff. Additionally, bean sprouts, basil and another vegetable, a hard-core salad leaf called 'saw' are delivered. Pho imports the saw and the basil from Vietnam. The saw is a must. Less of a must are the chopped red bird's eye ring-burner chillies. If you are English and normal, you should endeavor to leave these out.
Gordo was being a bit too macho with the condiments. He came a cropper but cured his cold.
The restaurant is actually a café serving Vietnamese street food, the mainstay being great big bowls of the soup noodle stuff. The cooking is first rate, presentation is good and the service spot on.
Gordo is ever amazed at how lovely the Vietnamese are as a race. When he lived in St Tropez, a famous Vietnamese restaurant in Paris used to decamp to Pampelonne Beach, where they set up shop in the dunes for two months every summer serving Indochine food.
Indochine as a cuisine is heavily influenced by the French, who tried to be the colonial masters of Vietnam for many years. They (the French) never really pulled it off. The Vietnamese of course are well known for never really allowing any colonial power to beat them for over a thousand years; China, Thailand, France and then America all learnt their lesson.
The thing is, there are no hard feelings from them; business is business and even the lunatic genocidal Yanks are welcomed back if they have dollars in their pockets.
The boys and girls in I Am Pho are a delight; the pleasure they take in explaining what the dishes are, and how best to deal with them, is truly lovely. The pride is self-evident. Mind you, the décor is a bit too much dentist’s waiting room in cream for Gordo, very bright. You definitely wouldn’t be getting in the mood for an opium pipe down here.
Summer rolls (£4.80) are delicate rice paper filled with glowing health, as well as lettuce, fresh herbs and rice vermicelli. We had prawns in ours as well. Sharp, fresh flavour was the result. Oh yes, served with a belting, home-made peanut sauce, easily the best Gordo has had and that includes several down in Shoreditch.
Gordo had to order Fermented pork (£4.50) simply because it sounded foul. Basically pork that had been chopped and cooked and left hanging about in the chiller for some time. It’s like fat-free spam. An acquired taste for Westerners, served with a fat slice of cucumber. You should try it once. You may like it.
The Glaswegian across the table ordered Mi Hoanh Thanh, wonton noodles in chicken stock with wonton dumplings (£7.50) which had a nice velvety consistency; alongside its superior stock, this was soothing in the extreme. Again, the Vietnamese show class. With clear flavours and a great knack for mixing them, every one has a chance to shine.
Whilst this cuisine is not high end Indochine, you can tell the influence from France in the way that Viet cooks handle stocks, herbs and spices to ensure that everything they add is there for a purpose.
We drank a couple of bottles of Hanoi Beer. This on its own is worth the visit, drink nothing else.
We like I Am Pho. It’s better than Long Legs.
You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @GordoManchester
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I Am Pho, 44 George Street , City. M1 4HF. 0161 236 1230