Phamily Kitchen has been chuffing along for a little while now, but it hasn't lost any of its just-open charm. I'd all but forgotten about it since it exploded into north-of-Johnston Fitzroy with a fresh paint of bright blue at the start of the year, but after seeing a girl toting one of the Vietnamese kitchen's canvas tote bags in the Smith Street Woolworths, I was given a gentle, welcome nudge to head up with street and revisit. And they say you shouldn't go grocery shopping when hungry.
The all-blue interior — the walls, the tables, the tiling and the chairs are all blue — still stands, although admittedly, it looks better during daylight hours than after dark. The staff greet you on arrival and continue to be attentive from the first spring roll through to the last dregs of your pho. The pale pink chopsticks are so cute I want to eat them. And even though it has a designer fit-out and professional branding, it still has an air of legitimacy about it; it may seem a world away from Victoria Street, but that doesn't mean it isn't any good.
Said legitimacy comes from the food, and the staples are done well. The bun (vermicelli bowls) come with chicken, beef, tofu or a roast pork belly, the fat rice paper rolls come in sets of three, and the thit kho (caramelised pork with a braised egg on rice) is one of the best you'll find this side of town (all $10-14). They do a good bahn mi at lunchtime too, but it's sort of pricey at $8-10 when you could just go to N. Lee down the road.
Perhaps more interesting though are the things you can't get on Vic Street — the things that have been altered for the inner city dietary requirement-requiring palate. Spring rolls have been altered to somehow taste just as delicious gluten free (veg $10 or pork $12 for three), and the grilled eggplant with tofu, shisho, peanuts and rice ($14) looks like the best vegan thing I've seen on any Vietnamese menu. Even the Vietnamese cold drip filter coffee can be made vegan with coconut milk ($4).
If you're into undisclosed, gelatinous liquid-like substances, the nondescript 'three colour drink' ($5) might be a good way to finish up. Either that, or spend your last five bucks on a tote bag on the way out. That way, you'll be sure to remember to visit your Phamily more often.