AJ Vietnamese Noodle House

Today is the first Tuesday of November.  The day Australian economy stops.  There is a huge horse race called Melbourne Cup and all the corporates have functions and their phones are put on answering machines.  I decided it might be a good timing to have a bowl of pho at the popular AJ’s. 

Image0085

AJ Noodles on Urbanspoon
Satay Club Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Image0082AJ’s is a place I must confess I was a bit conscious of when I started thinking about setting up my business.  Out of a room that is about the size of an average bedroom, they turn many many times over their 26 seats.  From an efficiency perspective, this business is probably up there on the top.  As you can see, the tables are crammed together, no space for ideals such as barrier free or pram friendly.  The waitresses not so subtly take away empty plates to give the relaxed Brisbane diners an idea that it’s time for them to leave. 

Image0083I always order the special beef noodle soup.  Flat rice noodles with beef broth, tripe, tendons, beef balls, boiled brisket and thin loin slices as well as fresh sprouts, Vietnamese basil and lemon on the side.  The broth is pretty good though it makes you pretty thirsty afterwards… By the way, I don’t deny MSG in fastfood at all, I think it’s an amazing invention that changed the world.  In the world of ramen, the same debate goes on and on.  My current conclusion is, I think if it tastes good and if the customers aren’t being betrayed for their expectations, it’s ok.  My ramen at Taro’s is a super premium product, (the haagen dazs of ramen!) and it will be an act of betrayal to the super premium ingredients and to the customers to use MSG.   

Image0084The noodles are always very soft, the texture that of a canned spaghetti rather than noodles which I am used to, like ones you can pick up with your chopsticks rather than your spoon.   I wonder what an authentic appreciation for the pho noodles is.  I can understand that from the nature of the flat rice noodle, enjoying the chewing texture is probably not important.  Is there a Vietnamese or keen pho expert reader that can comment? 

I would also prefer the thin loin slices to be more rare instead of being well done like theirs.  Still, when I have my noodle craving, I can satiate with a pho fix at AJ’s. 

And regardless of my few complaints, they are pretty good and out of the choices we have in Brisbane CBD lunch spots, are still high on my repeat list.

6 Responses to AJ Vietnamese Noodle House

  1. eden says:

    Oooh now I know where to go when I go down to Brisbane!

    You should also try Ryo’s Ramen in Crow’s Nest, Sydney or Gumshara Ramen in Chinatown!

    – eden from nutsaboutmynuts

    • Thanks for visiting Eden! Love your blog name.

      Being a ramen mania, already been to both of them.

      I tasted both Hakata (thin) and Tonkotsu (thick) at Gumshara. I really respect Gumshara guy for what he is doing. His style of stock is really really labour intensive. With that much pork bone and increased density of his soup, the pot can burn if you leave it unattended for a few minutes. Once burnt, the soup is no longer saleable and hours of work along with the following day’s sale is gone foreever. The successful resulting Tonkotsu soup is not something I want every day, or every week but is really intense and flavoursome to the degree you can’t help but talk about it and recommend it to someone to share the experience. In that sense, what he (and the original owners at Muteppou in Kyoto Japan) created is a monster of a ramen! I strongly recommend eaters not to go for the thinner Hakata soup. I believe he is true to his word and uses no MSG so unlesss you go for the thick soup, the flavour in Hakata is too weak and not so nice in my opinion.

      Ryo’s is also amazing. Although in Sydney, where the Asian population is much larger, just being able to do so well with that style in the middle of a non CBD location gives me a lot of hope. Their Shoyu Tonkotsu is pretty good!

  2. honolulueats says:

    Looks yummy. Looking at your picture, it seems like the pho noodles are thinner in Hawaii, and you can definitely pick them up with chopsticks. Not sure if one is more authentic than the other.
    Also, you can request for the beef slices on the side (raw) at most pho places here, so that you can dip them in the hot soup “shabu shabu” style. That might be a good idea for you, since you like your beef rare.

    • Hmm, that style of asking for a side of rare beef is really good. I find Hawaii’s service is pretty good. But in Australia, good service is only available in the top end and amazingly, in general, the consumers are in a real weak position. It may also relate to the fact of the strong union power here, maybe there being no incentive system like tipping has to do with it too. Very often, staff are just working blankly, not eager at all to take your money.
      It’s a bit hard to do that special request in the busy peak hour so maybe if I am there at a off peak time, I might try asking.

  3. J says:

    I once had a Thai friend, and she liked her noodles soft. She would wait for 7 min for a cup noodle (that you’re supposed to wait for 3 min) when I ate it after 2 min…

    • Actually, although I agree with you and I too am a 2min person, I can also understand the junky appreciation of having instant ramen on the softer side… Kouhai K in our dorm (the QB who quit after 1 year) used to cook his demae iccho instant ramen for 5min. But 7 minutes,,, that’s a bit over the top for me.

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