Pho 31, Toulouse

Pho 31 is a recently opened Vietnamese joint on the edge of the Chinese quarter in Toulouse, France. The owner used to run a particularly popular Pho joint a number of years ago. There are at least three other Pho spots in Toulouse. Pho 31 offers a number of other dishes beyond the simple beef noodle broth it takes it’s name from. As a new customer, the owner plies me with a sugar rimmed glass full of frankly bloody awful house speciality litchi alcohol and I order a bo la lot and a banh xeo. Noodlegirl goes classic with the Pho bo option.

The prawn, onion and beansprout filled Banh xeo arrives with a few paltry greens and a fairly thick layer of grease… It was much the same story for the leaf wrapped dish, bo la lot. However, I’m told the pho was a very beefy triumph – I only got to try a mouthfull of Pho before it was all gone… Back to my order, now I’ve been holding off on Vietnamese restaurant food for maybe too many a month – I get fantastic Vietnamese food cooked for me at home whenever I want it. And, I could’ve predicted the outcome before I made my first order, if you know what I mean.

Neither of these dishes was total crap. But, after a decade in Vietnam, they couldn’t live up to the memory of the Saigon rendition. Maybe that’s not so in California and other places outside Vietnam – and THAT’s a debate we’ve had a number of times. But, when I know I can eat French food at every turn and get great Vietnamese food cooked at home, the desire to eat out in a Vietnamese restaurant outside of Vietnam is virtually non-existent. That said, I’m trying another one tomorrow :)


  1. Francois says

    Lucky you at Pho 31, Toulouse! How did they offered you 2 cocktails maison and a coke? I have to pay almost the drink here in Vietnamese restaurants in Lyon… :-(

  2. Mike says

    It’s true that you’re rarely going to find Vietnamese food that tastes like it does in VN. I suppose that’s due to several reasons… local ingredients, the setting, the smells, the sounds, etc. They all go into a culinary experience. That said, Vietnamese can still be good (though perhaps not as good!) even without the little plastic chairs and open air seating with views of the road.

    I think Bao Noodles ( in NYC is the best I’ve come by in NYC though in Washington and SF, there were a great many pho and banh mi shops. For some reason, NYC doesn’t really have the more basic Vietnamese spots but some of their mid-range and upper-range Vietnamese restaurants are decent.

  3. StickyFingers says

    I wish I was visiting summery France, instead I will be rugging up tonight to go out to eat a fantastic Cassoulet with Toulouse sausage, duck confit and braised belly pork, down under in Melbourne, Australia.

    Down here we are also lucky enough to have some of the best Vietnamese food abroad. I think StickyRice would agree.

    Thanks to the influx of Vietnamese refugees in the mid seventies – we can boast 3 ‘Little Saigon’ districts (Richmond, Springvale, Footscray) all featuring excellent Vietnamese food plus a few with Laotian and Cambodian dishes. All are very cheap by Aussie standards, and the quality of ingredients is as good as those in Vietnam thanks to our diverse climate, availing us of both temperate and tropical climate crops.

    As Aussies embrace pan-Asian cooking, local Viet grocery stores are stuffed to the gills with authentic ingredients, to the point where an authentic Bo La Lot with Mam Nem can be made at home.

    As you say, excellent French Food can be found the world over – though not necessarily cheaply – but it takes a special intuition and the right ingredients to make excellent Vietnamese fare.

    Have a great time back in the UK.

  4. says

    I feel the same way, especially with pho (outside of one somewhat consistent joint here in Portland, OR, USA). Most broths are insipid, the meat old and pulverized, the herbs skimpy and wilted. The citrus is barely larger than the tip of your thumb.

    And forget trying to get good bun rieu (or cia gio even). Most churn-and-burn pho factories do not put out the required effort to make involved dishes that require patience and quality ingredients.