On a lazy friday afternoon, a while ago, three friends – Ameya, Dhiman and I had this urge to try out Southeast Asian food. Phobidden Fruit – a Vietnamese restaurant close by beckoned and we drove there . This Indiranagar restaurant is nestled amongst residential houses.
After parking, we walked past the restaurant signage that opened to a garage space, continuing further we across a couple of austere wooden benches, the restaurant kitchen and a spiral staircase. We finally reached the restaurant with simple interiors. The quiet whirring of fans and sturdy wooden benches with colorful cushions gave it a nice and open feel. The white washed walls with paintings of the country side had a sunken area with huge plants in one corner, we headed in that direction and sank in the cushions there.
Armed with the menus provided by the pleasant waiter, we decided on what we wanted to eat.We decided to place all our orders in one go to save time. We ordered Banh Cuon and Mekong momos as our starters (it had been a long time since we had all eaten momos). Dhiman and I decided on variations of the house specialty Pho (pronounced faah) while Ameya chose the Viet red curry with chicken. For dessert, the guys chose to have the lemon grass ice-cream. Ameya a tea lover wanted to try out the pandan iced tea, a new unexplored flavour.
Ordering done we settled down to talk about the world in general, bollywood music vs. bengali music vs. hard rock and weekend plans. Ameya’s lone tea made an appearance right about then. He had a whiff, a sip and it took him a moment or so to decide whether he liked it or not, while Dhiman and I made a big production of watching his expressions! 🙂 The pandan is a sweet, unique flavoured leaf commonly used in this kind of cuisine to enhance drinks, as well as dishes. They lend a sweet aroma and tastes a little like basmati rice. After a couple of sips Ameya declared he rather liked the subtle flavours and the after-taste it left on his palate. Time for a happy nod!
Maybe the waiters watching us mistook Ameya’s nod to herald the starters and soon our table had two very nicely laid out plates of Mekong momos and Banh Cuon – these are very light and delicate, steamed, thin, rice-flour crepes filled with a delectable stuffing of seasoned ground chicken, minced wood ear mushrooms, and bean thread noodles, topped with fried onions. Together with the tangy dressing the Banh Cuon was an explosion of flavours in the mouth. In Ameya’s words (when he could, in spurts) – “like a cracker…a burst…yum… woww”!!! That said it all I suppose!
Our mains made an appearance after a few minutes, Ameya’s ‘safe-bet’ Viet red curry – was served with a bowl of steamed rice and two slices of crispy deep fried potato slices. He felt the curry was a bit spicy but went well with the rice. The ample chunks of chicken in it along with potatoes, tomatoes and onions made sure that there was enough meat, body and flavour to the curry. He reiterated that this was definitely a safe dish to get around the flavours if you are trying this type of cuisine for the very first time.
The large bowls of Pho steaming and fragrant followed. Chicken for Dhiman and red meat (yeah,I live dangerously!) for me. The restaurant menu describes Pho as Vietnam in a bowl. A rice noodle soup served in a loong brewed hot broth served with meat, stir fried vegetables and a side of accompaniments. The signature dish of the country which is also an aromatic and a wholesome meal.
What we got, was piping hot clear broth with flat rice noodles, the meat of our choice and some vegetables. It was sooo fragrant – of cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cardamom and more. For the garnish and condiments, we got basil, bean sprouts, lime slices, a green chilly, thinly sliced onion, fish sauce and Sriracha (a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt). I loved it all – the way the steaming bowls were served to us, how the aromas assailed our nostrils and the side plates. The adding of all these things to the pho according to our palates’ whims and for that first spoonful… aah! pho-tastic!
I looked up to see Dhiman adding liberal amounts of sriracha to his broth. Peaceful minutes passed by as all three of us were totally into our mains.
Our final course. The dessert – Lemongrass Ice cream, was more of a custard infused with lemongrass. Dhiman’s sweet tooth found the not-too-sweet ice cream nice.
Ameya after sampling a taste said it reminded him of ‘kharwas‘, a sweet dish available in Maharashtra state, which has a similar texture and flavor (minus the lemongrass effect of course). He enjoyed it. That very sweetly rounded up our meal.
So, is Phobidden fruit the forbidden thing then?
Well, not at all in my opinion, do go. Have the pho :).