Plenty of Vietnamese restaurants can be found on Kingsland Road and north of Chinatown in Soho. In fact, the lower half of Kingsland Road is colloquelly known as the ‘Pho Mile’. Can new outpost, “Salvation In Noodles” (or ‘S.I.N.’) spread the love for Vietnamese noodle soup in Dalston?
Salvation in Noodles is owned and run by Colin Tu, half of the street food burger duo, ‘Big Dirty Burger‘ (sadly now mothballed). The site on Balls Pond Road was previously occupied by Malaysian restaurant ‘Puji Puji‘
Japanese ramen noodles shops have been sprouting up quickly in London and were proclaimed to be the ‘next big thing’ in 2013. Meanwhile, ‘pho’ the Vietnamese cousin to ramen, has been growing slowly but steadily in the background. With the notable exception of Pho Restaurants, most of these Vietnamese venues are small independent family run businesses.
Pronunciation of ‘Pho’… it’s ‘Fuh’ not ‘Faux’
This video teaches you about phở and how to order the dish correctly. If you want to impress your Vietnamese friends, pronouncing their national dish correctly might be a good start…
The venue holds approximately 50 covers separated into a main room which leads through to a small ‘noodle room’ decorated with a ‘noodle bowl theme’ and a single table for four. Walk further and you’ll find a much larger sunken room next to the kitchen’s serving hatch.
The first (and largest) room holds lots of tables for 2 along banquette seating and doesn’t feel cramped. The bar area is cleverly arranged in an ‘inside out’ configuration with drinks on display, not quite ‘help yourself’ but it uses the space well.
Pho Gate, 2013
In September 2013 the ‘Pho Restaurant’ chain threatened legal action against small independent restaurant “Mo Pho” for their use of ‘pho’ in their title. It appeared that they had made a successful application to trademark ‘pho’, the Vietnamese National Dish, in the UK for multiple category use. Fortunately for all the many independent shops, Pho Restaurant group made a u-turn after the uproar that ensued and a request for more information from food critic Jay Rayner.
WHAT’S ON OFFER
Beers are from the craft beer company ‘Crate’ and the distinctive ‘Dalston Cola’ bottled soft drinks are on offer. I am told that the wine list was put together by Borough Wines.
The menu is reassuringly small during the soft launch but I am told by Colin that the menu will expand. (Experience has taught me to be very suspicious of any venue which offers a ridiculously large number of dishes.)
There are four starters on offer in a menu section marked ‘Social’, (so I assume this means sharing plates). ‘Goi Cuon’ (Vietnamese Summer Rolls); ‘Cha Gio’ (Fried Spring Rolls); ‘Goi Ga’ (Shredded Chicken, Vietnamese herbs with black sesame crackers); ‘Goi Ngo Sen’ (Pickled Lotus Stems, Carrot, Daikon with prawns and pork belly)
All of these dishes were great entrées. The chicken and the lotus stems were excellent, but the spring rolls particularly impressed the table!
The main (and only only other section) of the menu is marked as “Hot Noodles”. There are six noodle soups to choose from. Pho Bo (Beef), Ho Ga (Chicken), Bun Bo Hue (Beef & Pork), Bun Rieu (Crab, Prawns & Pork Belly), Bun Cha ca (Fish Cake), Pho Dau Phu (Tofu). Everything is served in big bowls with a soup spoon demanding that “Thou Shall Slurp Thy Noodle With Great Gusto”.
A note for vegetarians. Although two of the four starters are available in vegetarian form, of the six noodle soups on offer only one is vegetarian. Just like Tonkotsu, the Japanese ramen noodle dish, the soup base of pho is traditionally made from a beef broth so it isn’t too surprising that there is not a plethora of alternatives for non-flesh eaters.
Bear in mind this is a ‘first look’ and we were the first customers on opening day! However, initial impressions are good. Our table of four unanimously favoured the ‘Bun Bo Ho’ soup stock (Beef brisket and pork in a hot & spicy lemongrass soup). I also liked the strong crab flavour “Bun Rieu” soup (Crab noodle soup garnished with prawns and pork belly).
All of the four starters were excellent, especially the ‘Cha Gio’ (Vietnamese fried spring rolls with pork and wood ear mushroom).
The opening night was extremely busy, so I suggest you go to try them out before all the locals discover them.
- Pho lovers
This is a great little venue and with very little direct competition in this location.
- Take away (Possibly?)
During our visit at least 5 passers by came in asking for takeaway (which they aren’t currently doing). However, if the demand increases I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t appear after the initial rush.
NOT SO GOOD FOR
- Sweet Dessert Fans
There was only one dessert on the menu which didn’t catch the imagination. That didn’t bother me much as I don’t have a super sweet tooth, however my three dining companions took flight to Dissenting Academy to satisfy their need for a traditional sugar rush!