This is a somewhat embarrassing confession – for someone who’s lived in Sydney for just over three years, I actually don’t know that much about different areas of Sydney, outer suburbs in particular. It’s a sad fact that my life here is somewhat localised – I live, work, shop, and eat mainly on the North Shore and rarely have a reason to venture outside of my comfort zone.
To combat this sheltered existence, K and I have recently resolved to spend a day, every couple of weeks, in exploring different areas of Sydney. From Paddington to Parramatta, Manly to Maroubra, we’ll spend time getting to know Sydney over the course of the next year. Our first stop was Cabramatta (which is an old favourite of mine) and we also made a stop in Bankstown for a meal.
K remembered his grandparents taking him to An Restaurant in Bankstown nearly two decades ago, and so naturally, we indulged in a spot of nostalgia for him and stopped in for an early lunch.
It’s a very large and very professional outfit, a far cry from your usual mum and pop pho restaurant. Over a dozen uniformed staff man the tables and everyone has a clearly defined role – one guy even has the job of just bringing plates of herbs, bean shoots and lemons to each table for the bowls of pho.
Our waitress seated us, and lingered around clearly waiting for us to order. As we stared bewilderingly at her, she sighed and went off to get us some printed menus – we were obviously committing some kind of a faux pas by expecting to look at a menu rather than order immediately. I noticed that the other tables around us were ordering almost before they even sat down – clearly the locals are already well-versed with the menu options!
As it was quite a warm day, I ordered a soy milk to help quench my thirst. Interestingly, it came out slightly green in colour, with a clear tiny of pandan essence. While I don’t mind the twist to my usual nutty soy milk as it makes it quite interesting, I think I would have preferred to get exactly what I ordered. If I had known I wouldn’t get my actual order, I probably would have ordered something different like three colour drink.
K’s pho bo (beef noodle soup) comes out in what is actually the perfect serving size. Often I find pho servings a bit too large to eat comfortably – a medium serving from An Restaurant on the other hand is perfect for satisfying appetite without resulting in physical pain from having eaten too much. The broth is surprisingly dark – I’m more accustomed to clearer broths. It is wonderfully rich and aromatic though, and really doesn’t require the flavour enhancing sauces that most people add to their pho.
My beef and chicken pho (photo taken post-mixing with bean shoots and herbs) was very satisfying, and definitely hit the spot. There was a healthy serving of both the thinly sliced beef and the chicken thigh meat – so much that I happily shared a quarter of it with my meat-loving husband (then fiance). While I wouldn’t say that it’s the best bowl of pho around (the honour still goes to Pho Hung Vuong 2 in Melbourne for a much more reasonable price), it’s still a very satisfying meal from a really interesting part of Sydney.
I won’t be back to An Restaurant any time soon for the pure reason that I’m unlikely to go back to Bankstown any time soon. However, I still recommend it as somewhere you can go for a great meal, and prompt efficient service.
For our other Bankstown adventures, we dropped by Chehade El Bahsa & Sons Sweets to grab some baklava for a sweet treat over the next few days. Half a kilo of delicious sticky sweet baklava cost us only $12 – a bargain! I’d definitely go back to buy some more baklava – it would make a great sweet treat to take along to a dinner party.