On Valentine’s Day, I wanted Vietnamese food to reel in Banh Mi Date #13. L was game. He just requested to avoid any place that would be chaotic. For this post, let’s listen to “Real Love Baby” by Father John Misty.
I picked Pho 99 based on MJ Leung’s review on Calgary Food – Food YYC. The restaurant was previously Ricky’s, so it has an old-school family chain vibe. It was quiet and peaceful on a Tuesday at 11:30 am, just as L desired. By noon, it was busier, with customers dining in and placing orders to go.
We requested two Saigon beers ($7.50), Deep-Fried Pork Spring Rolls ($8.25), Self-Wrap Rolls ($19.25), and a Grilled Lemongrass and Sate Beef Submarine ($9.95). After we ordered, I spotted the number four at our table, which is bad luck in Chinese culture. Whoops. Good thing I’m not superstitious.
The water and rice wrappers for our platter came out before our appetizer. I noticed the water was only lukewarm, so when our wrap and roll platter arrived 15 minutes later, I asked if we could get the water replaced with hot water. If the water isn’t warm enough, I find the wrapper gummy and challenging to wrap.
The pork spring rolls were hot, crunchy, and slender, resembling Romeo Y Julieta mini cigars. I could see minced carrots and noodles in the creamy filling. The nuoc cham (dipping sauce) wasn’t overly sweet, and the smell and taste of fish sauce were subtle.
You can pick various combinations for the wrap and roll platter. We chose the special prawns, lemongrass chicken, and sate beef. Our plate contained a heaping pile of glistening vegetables: romaine lettuce, basil, carrots, onions, and cucumbers. The vermicelli was laced with crushed peanuts and cooked green onions. The noodles were noticeably springy, with a jiggly mouthfeel. If you like Cuty’s wrap and roll combo, you’ll love Pho 99’s version.
The shrimp was large and toothsome. The chicken was well-marinaded and generously proportioned. Of the three proteins, the clear winner was the sate beef. Oh my goodness – the wok hei flavour in the meat was so overwhelmingly delicious. The sauce wasn’t too sweet, and the meat was perfectly tender. I would get the beef wrap and roll platter again.
Historically, L and I disagree about who makes the best banh mi in Calgary. It seems fitting that we finally agreed on February 14, 2023, that Pho 99 makes our favourite beef sate sub. Lightly toasted, the bread is soft enough that your teeth sink in without scraping the skin on the roof of your mouth. L liked there wasn’t an abundance of mayonnaise or sweet sauces. Instead, the beauty of this sub was how damn good the beef taste – generously layered, charred and smoky from the wok.
Size-wise, Pho 99’s sub is bigger than Kim Anh and Trung Nguyen. The bread is softer than Soc Trang but on par with the freshness of MyMy Sub. By far, the texture and flavour of Pho 99’s beef is superior to Saigon Deli and To Me Sub . However, I prefer Banh Mi Nhu Y yellow mayonnaise, which adds a velvety texture. Thi Thi still wins in the vegetable department, serving up the best pickled carrots, onions, chilies and cucumber ribbons.
I mentioned to our server how much I enjoyed the beef sate wrap and banh mi. He stated that Pho 99 is known for its stir fry and that William from Vietnam Daily gave them a high rating. Based on the wok hei of the beef, I’m sure the stir fry is excellent. L and I are looking forward to returning and trying other beef dishes. Hitting the Sauce gives Pho 99 two phat thumbs up, and makes it on my list of Best Restaurants in YYC.