137 Church St Parramatta, NSW 2150
|Opening hours||Daily 10am-9.30pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9635 0782|
Eat Street is the name given to the strip of restaurants on the north side of Church Street in Parramatta. And while it is a street that you certainly can eat on, Eat Street's offerings – a collection of mostly burger, pizza or dessert chains that can be found in most suburban strips near Westfield shopping centres – don't do a good job persuading you that you should eat there.
Granted, there are a few exceptions, like the only Gelato Messina in Sydney that you don't have to line up for, or the fiery Lao-style papaya salad with a side of sun-dried beef at Lao Der, but the largely underwhelming Eat Street is emblematic of a greater Parramatta problem: a rapidly growing city made up of many cultures with few authentic cultural dining experiences within its borders.
So where does a Parramattan (this is a real term I promise!) go for food when they've already had their fill of Temasek's Singapore chilli crab for the month? To the most reliable local spot we have, on the south side of Church Street – Pho Pasteur.
A family-run Vietnamese restaurant chain, it has branches in Haymarket, Blacktown and Bankstown. If you're heading to Parramatta, make sure you get the address right – there's a second, independently run Pho Pasteur in George Street that isn't as good.
Pho Pasteur in Church Street has seen Parramatta's Westfield complex grow around it since it opened in 1992.
I've eaten some 50 bowls of pho here over the past five years and I have to admit to taking this place for granted. But after eating pho at almost every restaurant that sells it in Sydney, I can say that Pho Pasteur's rich, fragrant broth has a depth of flavour and hidden sweetness that comes close to that of the mighty Pho An in Bankstown.
What gives Pho Pasteur the edge over other Sydney Vietnamese restaurants lies within the hefty laminated folder – a long list of Vietnamese specialties that'll convince even the most hardcore pho fan to reconsider their order.
They might be swayed by banh xeo, an enormous, crisp, yellow pancake made with coconut cream and turmeric that's filled with plump prawns, pork mince and bean sprouts. Pho Pasteur's is a thing of beauty (and also a thing that's great to wrap in herbs and lettuce before drowning in lime and fish sauce).
Any meal that starts with rice-paper rolls is a good one, and the variations found here are fantastic – my favourite features grilled pork sausage. Vietnamese-style fried chicken, with skin so crispy you can wield it as a weapon, is served with noodles, rice or soup. My vegetarian mate Arthur swears by the spicy vegetable soup noodles and the eggplant hotpot. There are pages and pages of options and I haven't been burnt by an adventurous order yet.
If I wanted the best pho, spring rolls and crispy chicken in Sydney, I'd have to spend an entire day driving to Pho An in Bankstown, Phu Quoc in Cabramatta and Tan Viet in Eastwood respectively. But if I wanted a very close second-best of all those dishes? I'd just go to Pho Pasteur, the reliable local that offers more eats worth eating than an entire street does a few metres north of it.
Banh xeo (crisp Vietnamese pancake with prawns and pork) $15
Three more restaurants to try in Parramatta
Parramatta's first fine-dining restaurant opened in 1984 and still offers a great modern Australian menu.
30 Charles Street, Parramatta
This Lao and north-east Thai restaurant specialises in grilled ox tongue, Lao-style jerky and papaya salads.
277B Church Street, Parramatta
One of the best places in Sydney to go for a laksa, or an enormous pile of Singapore chilli crab with a side of white bread to mop up the sauce.
71 George Street, Parramatta