Quick Bites: Pho Nom, Cacao Lab, Depot de Pain

pho nom

Venturing into Emporium feels rather surreal to me. It’s super bright, enhanced by a lot of white, stark in a sense and the myriad of elevators that do not connect directly with each other contribute to a general feeling of stepping foot into a sort of spaceship. But never mind all that, for when there’s food, all is good.

Emporium houses 2 dining spaces, one in the lower ground level and a vast food court up on the third. Most of these are franchises of famous establishments. Each were approached by the higher-ups of Emporium, who were striving for a sense of exclusivity and quality. To name a few from the food court, there’s Earl Canteen for sandwiches, Jimmy Grants for souvlakis, I Love Pho Express for pho (duh), and Chinta Ria Soul for Malaysian food. Down below pays homage to established names too, like Dumplings Plus and Ramen Ya.

pho 1
Pho Bo Saigon – sliced rare beef, brisket, meatballs $12

My sole purpose one afternoon, however, was a new introduction into Melbourne’s dining scene, Pho Nom. Pho Nom offers popular Vietnamese street food, from banh mis to Vietnamese spring rolls to pho. It was the latter that I was after, a piping hot soulful bowl of slurpy rice noodles and tender slices of beef in a flavoursome beefy stock. This is comfort food at its best, especially in the heart of a bitingly cold winter.

pho

Due to its locality in a shopping mall, it’s pretty much a self-service set up. Diners place the order at the cashier, wait in line for their food and take it away to their seats. Even the basil and beansprouts are piled high at the end of the counter, take as little or as much as you need. Thankfully, the seasoning sauces are generously scattered around the dining tables, if not, I can imagine a never-ending wait during peak times.

noodles

Being a fusspot for pho, I was quite ready to critique and dismiss Pho Nom’s pho. Instead, I was blown away and left to eat humble pie. And boy did I lick and slurp every bit of it, well, not pie of course. The soup, boiled from Warialda beef bones, was compressed with an amazing amount of flavour and the beef was of the utmost quality. I’ll be honest and say it beats I Love Pho Express hands down (The Express, I’m afraid, is just not quite as good as the I Love Pho mothership in Richmond).

Pho Nom’s pho is my absolute choice in the CBD. But given an option, I’d rather journey to Richmond, for there’s nothing like having it in true authenticity: Ethnic suburb, cacophonic restaurant and proper non-disposable cutlery.

eclairs
(Top Left) Madagasca single origin chocolate eclair with crispy rice puffs $5.50
(Bottom Right) Audrey Hepburn – vanilla rose $5.50

But of course, no true meal is complete without something sweet. I weaved around corridors and landed at Cacao Lab for a couple of eclairs. Normally having an aversion to creamed sweets, I have no idea why I was craving these delicate pastries. But I was and so I indulged. I preferred the chocolate one, with its deep cocoa tones apparent throughout the dessert. The Audrey Hepburn’s white chocolate portrait had overwhelmed the subtle rose cream, much to my dismay.

Depot de pain

However, these just weren’t as good as the 2 that I’d sampled from Pain De Depot in Hawthorn. Pain De Depot’s choux pastry was fresh, light and crisp, despite eating them half a day after purchase. The rose and raspberry éclair was delightful with the pink flavours marrying well.

So this concludes what is most likely to be a continued series of quick bites with the remaining of Emporium food stores awaiting my tums.

Pho Nom
Store 33, Lower Ground
Emporium
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 8609 8221
Phở Nom on Urbanspoon

Cacao Lab
Driver Lane
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9662 4777
Depot de Pain on Urbanspoon

Depot de Pain
616 Glenferrie Road
Hawthorn
Vic 3122
+61 3 8803 7898
Cacao Lab on Urbanspoon

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6 Comments

Filed under CBD, Emporium, Hawthorn, Noodles, Pastries, Sweets, Vietnamese

6 responses to “Quick Bites: Pho Nom, Cacao Lab, Depot de Pain

  1. Emporium has proved my long-standing snobbery about food courts wrong many times now… Will have to check out Cacao Lab!

    • I come from a country littered with food courts so I was initially skeptically about having a meal in a food court in Melbourne. Emporium has chosen the food tenants well but I must admit that using disposable cutlery in a sit-down place kinda cheapens the entire experience.

  2. Glad you posted about this, I’ll try Pho Nom over I Love Pho when I’m next in Emporium.

  3. Dear Hangry Bitch,

    I was in Melbourne recently and tried Pho Hung Vuong in Springvale which is supposed to be Melbourne’s best. It was good, especially for winter!

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment and yes, I’ve heard of Pho Hung Vuong’s superb pho but have yet to drive out to Springvale! It’s quite a distance from where I am, and also Richmond and Footscray are a lot nearer! I’ll definitely keep it in mind if I venture out that way, thanks!

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