Their Beef Pho ($7.50) might not be the most affordable dish you can get at Johnson Eatery, but it was definitely good value for money. This sizeable bowl came generously filled with rice noodles, beef slices, a beef ball, white onion, spring onions and culantro. Contrary to popular belief, ‘culantro’ isn’t just an alternative spelling for ‘cilantro’. Even though it tastes very similar, culantro’s flavour is much more intense. With black soya sauce, Vietnamese chilli sauce and fish sauce all being offered to me, I wasn sure what to eat my pho with! Que’s cute little infographic, “How to eat your pho, eat like a Viet”, really helped to clear my confusion.
Before adding any condiments to my beef pho, I decided to get a slurp of the mouth-watering clear broth. Light and herbaceous, the broth was incredibly refreshing. However, it didn’t quite have that rich beefy ‘oomph’. It turns out that the chef-owner uses chicken bones instead of beef bones to simmer the broth. In my opinion, the use of chicken bones resulted in a lighter and less intense flavour. That being said, I could still taste the spice mixture that was used to fortify the flavours of the broth. It’s commendable that Que does not use any MSG in their food!
To remedy the lack of depth in flavour, I added a squeeze of lime, black soya sauce and chilli sauce, as instructed! This improved the broth dramatically! The squeeze of lime added a tantalising touch of acidity, while the chilli sauce added a tinge of sweetness and spiciness. The black soya sauce served to sweeten and season the broth. The culantro elevated the flavours further by adding a distinct, earthy aroma. Every slurp of the springy rice noodles was accompanied by the crunch of onion slices. The beef slices were definitely not the most tender that I’ve had, but they added a much-needed meaty component to the dish.
Que also has an ever-changing special menu. The special dish of the day was Grilled Pork Rice with Egg ($5.90). There’s no need to describe the dish — its name says it all, to be honest. The grilled pork had a light char which went brilliantly with the sweet marinade that thoroughly coated the pork. Dipping the pork in the fish sauce added umami and saltiness to the meat. The runny yolk of the perfectly-cooked egg enriched every mouthful of rice and pork. This is a simple, but satisfying dish!
You can opt to have their Spring Rolls fresh ($4), or fried ($4.50). I’ve been making a conscious effort to eat clean recently (unsuccessfully), so I decided to try the fresh spring rolls. To say that these were delicious would be an understatement. The spring rolls had an addictively springy bite to them, due to the thin rice paper wrapping. The lettuce added a refreshing crunch, which was complemented by the soft rice vermicelli. The shrimps were delightfully succulent. The real star of the show was the home-made soya sauce that was served on the side. Flavoured with sugar, chilli and garlic, the sauce lent a lovely sweetness to the spring rolls. Yes, Que’s spring rolls are amazing. But, I have to say that $4.50 is quite a price to pay for just two spring rolls!
I think it’s really impressive that Que is a one-woman show. With recipes that come straight from the owner’s Vietnamese mother, Que serves food that’s as authentic as it gets!