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Phô Bar Exotic Delights South Asian Hawkers Corner in Cork
With cabin fever about to set in and a change in menu required, after the Christmas marathon, we were inspired to head across town to Douglas Street and to the relatively new Phô Bar. We had already tried and tested this bright and friendly place a month or more back and so had hundreds of others over the holidays if the many crowded Facebook photos were anything to go by.
Brian Casey, who owns the South Asian venue with chef Kash, confirmed it had been busy and so too did the staff. They weren’t expecting that many in on the Friday evening after the New Year celebrations but, even at six o'clock, were surprised at the numbers. It all added to the buzz and we were happy to have had made a reservation before calling.
Chef Kash is from Penang, right bang in the middle where culinary traditions of the neighbouring countries meet and mingle, and what he serves up here is very close indeed to what hawkers might serve you from their rickshaws in Penang. Rice dishes include Phô Thai and Malaysian curries and a gorgeous jasmine rice is served with the Beef Rendang.
In the well named Hawker Corner (of the menu), you'll find Khaw Pad Bai Krapow, Thai stir-fried rice with prawns and sweet basil. Flat noodles feature on the Char Koey Teow; more noodles, big fat roundy ones, on the simpler Hokkien Mee. There are Udon style noodles cooked with pork liver and soy sauce. Delicious. Other noodle dishes include Phô Bo (from Hanoi) and Penang Prawn Noodles.
Keeping it cool!
There are a couple of vegetarian dishes, including Po Pia with a Hoisin sauce and chilli paste and also watch out for the Sweet Potato and Peanut sauce with the Mamak style Pasembur. Most of the dishes can be halved (chilli removed if need be) for kids.
So where to start? Well, with a Roti Prata, of course, an Indian influenced flat bread, fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, served plain or filled. Very popular as a starter to share while you're waiting for the main course.
It is quite a substantial starter! We shared the Murtabak version (7.50). This is filled with chicken, four big “sandwiches”, and served with Lentil Curry and Anchovy Sambal Dip. A stunning mix of textures and flavours, absolutely irresistible even if the heat factor was #3 (out of 3). That heat is not a problem, especially since I had a pint of the Franciscan Well Ale at hand.
They do quite a few craft brews here, along with some Asian beers. There is a also a short wine list and the usual soft drinks. Don't overlook the cooling Asian drink called Lassi, a lovely yoghurt based drink that comes in peach or mango flavour. And, of course, they have a list of very special Asian inspired cocktails all at a good price!
On then to my main course. I said I’d try the Fish Curry: mackerel, tamarind, aubergine and okra. Mackerel wasn't available so I got a mix of different coloured fish, including swordfish and hake. It came in a very tasty warming broth, veg included, with a side plate of rice. Again, bursting with flavour, this was amazing - what a change from the turkey and ham! Quite a plateful and worth every cent of the €11.95.
Char Koey Teow, a dish of Malaysian stir-fried flat rice noodles, with prawn, slow smoked duck, pork sausage, bean sprouts, dark soy sauce and duck eggs, was CL’s choice. Again great textures and flavours, the prawns and sprouts a highlight, and excellent value at €11.50.
Must emphasise that these mains are quite filling. So much so, we couldn't even rise to share Phô’s one desert. I've tried it previously and it is a gem called Ais Kacang: shaved ice with screwpine jelly, grass jelly, rose agar agar, palm seed, rose water syrup, palm sugar syrup or ice cream. The most delicious glassful you'll get anywhere for €4.50. Cooling too if you’ve indulged in the spicier dishes!
There is a full bar here and the Douglas Street venue is a lively informal spot. But service is quite good and very friendly as well. So now, if you're fed up of turkey and ham or simply want a change with a bit of spice, you know where to go.