Fusion · Restaurants · Vegetarian · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 takeout edition

L and I dropped by Uncle Ben’s house for dinner. Since Veggie Girl is having pregnancy cravings for bún (vermicelli bowl), we ordered Vietnamese takeout.  I picked Pure Kitchen and Bar because their vegetarian dishes offer a more varied selection than its competitors. For this post, let’s listen to “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige.

My photos are particularly bad as I didn’t feel like even putting in my usual half-ass effort. Pandemics make me unmotivated for self-improvement. Hopefully Pure Kitchen and Bar doesn’t mind me using some of their Instagram photos.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I’m a big fan of the Papaya, Mango & Shrimp Salad ($13).  I thought there was a lot of shrimp in this dish, particularly for the price. The fresh basil was aromatic and plentiful. The shredded papaya and mango was pleasingly chewy. The chilli lime sauce was really spicy. I liked all the crunchy elements in the salad –  peanuts, fried taro and crispy onions. I couldn’t finish this salad in one sitting and the next day, it tasted just as good.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

L and I shared the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($15). This dish illustrates how Chef Lam has mastered the art of takeout. I want to know how the shrimp remained so crunchy almost forty minutes after picking up our order. The dipping sauce of nori and tobiko mayo stood up beautifully against the crusty battered shrimp. He needs to charge more for this dish.

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I ordered Veggie Girl the Vegetarian Vermicelli ($15).  She raved about the texture of the fried tofu and noted that other Vietnamese restaurants often skimp out when it comes to the vegetarian dishes. Veggie Girl mentioned the vegetarian spring roll tasted similar to a Chinese style egg roll.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered Uncle Ben the Lemongrass Ultimeat Feast Vermicelli ($17) because he doesn’t often get the chance to eat meat. The ultimeat feast includes chicken, beef, shrimp and a pork spring roll. Uncle Ben mentioned the shrimp was large and not like the peanut sized ones that other Vietnamese restaurants use. He said that all the meats were generous in size and not overcooked. When Veggie Girl mentioned she was digging her spring roll, Uncle Ben chimed in that he enjoyed his spring roll as well. When I pressed him to describe the flavour he said, “It tastes like a good spring roll”. Uncle Ben, for the love of my blog, you got to work with me.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered L the Caramelized Chilli Lemongrass Chicken ($17) but I substituted vermicelli noodles for the rice. When I handed L his food, he asked me what I got him. I reminded him that in March, he wanted to try the lemongrass chicken but with noodles instead of rice. I tried a bite and I can confirm that I prefer the original rice version. The rice soaks up the rich flavour of the lemongrass better than the noodles.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered the Crispy Chicken Noodle Soup ($17) to eat the next day. The broth contained strong notes of garlic and something sweet. I opted for the spicy broth version and by the end of my breakfast, my whole face was perspiring. Yes, this is definitely a pho to eat at home alone, and in the dark. The portion was so generous I was able to make the soup last for two meals.

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With the rising number of COVID cases in Calgary, L and I are being extra careful where we dine. Currently, Pure is only accepting takeout or delivery orders. If you are ordering pickup, you have to call the restaurant once you get there and an employee will bring out your order to the door. I’ve ordered twice now from Pure Kitchen and I’m satisfied with their safety precautions.

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Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Song Huong – COVID edition

Due to rising coronavirus concerns, the Kokuho rose rice I buy at Superstore was sold out.  L and I decided to make the trek up to True World Foods for Koshihikari Homare rice.

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As we were minutes away from Song Huong, one of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, we stopped by for lunch. Since Albertans are still reeling from a hell of a lot of bad news (e.g. health care and education cuts, stocks and oil prices plummeting) let’s listen to something calming. For this post, I’ll play “Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61:1”  by composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

The last time we visited Song Huong, we shared the restaurant’s specialty dishes – Bon Boe Hue (signature soup), Cha Gio (spring rolls) and Bun Hen (sauteed baby clams with vermicelli). I read on Instagram that Bo Tai Chanh (sliced rare beef with lime sauce) Banh Loc Tom Thit (pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings) are popular dishes.

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I ordered a large Bon Boe Hue ($11.25) without the blood pudding. If you’re starving, I’d recommend ordering an extra large bowl. For the garnish, Song Huong provides mixed greens instead of the usual bean sprouts and basil.

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I liked that despite adding a ton of raw vegetables to my bowl, my broth remained steaming warm throughout my meal.  I find that at most Vietnamese restaurants, once you add the sprouts, the soup drops to a tepid temperature.

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The clear broth was lively,  fragrant with lemongrass. I could taste tart, sour, and spicy notes. There was a proportional amount of noodles to beef shank, pork meatballs and Vietnamese ham. The white noodles were the round and smooth, hot and slippery.

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L ordered his go-to dish – Bun Ba Cha Gio ($11.95). The lemongrass chicken tasted like it was well marinaded before it was grilled. The spring roll is made with rice paper, resulting in a thin, light, crisp wrapper. The vermicelli noodles were bouncy and fluffy.  I thought the combination of the cool, crisp vegetables and hot pieces of chicken and spring rolls makes this dish perfect for winter or summer. L said the portion was generous.

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My new favourite appetizer is the Banh Loc Tom Thit ($8.50). The tapioca dumplings were filled with small pieces of pork and shrimp. Like my soup, the dumplings arrived piping hot.

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The dumplings were chewy and gelatinous. I like tasting the warm, squishy texture of the tapioca against the saltiness of the Vietnamese ham. The wrapper and meat filling were mild in flavour, which accented the toppings of crispy garlic chips, cilantro, and green onions.

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I forgot to request no cilantro in all the dishes, but that didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the meal. I’m never going to love cilantro, but in these particular dishes, I can tolerate the herb.

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For a filling and highly satisfying meal for two, the bill was only $30.00. When L went to pay for our meal, we chatted with the owner’s son. It turns out he took a class with L. What a small world!

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If you haven’t checked out Song Huong, you are missing out! For non-westernized Vietnamese cuisine, you can’t go wrong here.  Hitting the Sauce gives this gem two fat thumbs up.

Song Huong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chain Restaurants · Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Cuty Restaurant – Dalhousie

For my birthday lunch, I wanted to check out Cuty Restaurant’s newest location in Dalhousie. I was craving something fresh and crunchy and Cuty is known for their wrap and roll combo plates. For this post, let’s listen to “Let’s Go” by The Cars.

The last time we visited, we shared the Grilled Combo ($19.50) – a mix of traditional fillings like the grilled minced beef la lop, grilled pork meatballs and shrimp paste. Though I wanted the deep-fried bounty in the Traditional Platter ($31.50), I resisted and ordered something slightly healthier.

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We ordered the Grilled Shrimp Paste Platter ($18.50), Imperial Rolls ($8) and the Vietnamese Crispy Pancake ($12). Cuty is generous with the herbs. Our plates contained plenty of basil, mint and lettuce. The texture of the shrimp roll is bouncy and firm and the taste reminded me of ho gow, a Chinese steamed shrimp dumpling.

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The shell of the imperial roll was crispy and chewy. Tightly packed with pork, taro root and black fungus, the filling was tastier than a regular spring roll.  I like contrast of the fresh, cool herbs wrapped around crunchy, blistering hot pork roll.

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The Vietnamese Crispy Pancake or bánh xèo is an Asian crepe. The pancake is made with tumeric powder, rice flour and coconut milk. I thought there was egg in the pancake batter, but it’s the tumeric powder that gives the crepe a yellow hue.

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The crepe was lacy and crisp. The crepe wasn’t overloaded with mung beans and sprouts, there was a balanced amount of chopped up shrimp, pork and squid. I’d recommend going heavy on the basil as it cuts into the sweetness of the coconut milk.

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The crepe harder to eat than the wrap rolls. I found it difficult to wrap the mixture with lettuce because when I went to dip, the filling would fall out into the sauce. L and I noticed our wrapping job wasn’t as good as the other customers. No one else was struggling.

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I ordered too much food. We could have made do with one platter and the imperial rolls, with extra vegetables and noodles. Overall, this restaurant is a nice change from the standard pho and bún chả joints in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Cuty Restaurant two fat thumbs up.

Cuty Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pho Da Bao

For a long time, I’ve been salivating over Pho Da Bao’s Instagram photos of their sate pho with bone marrow. On Sunday, I convinced L to make the drive over to Forest Lawn. For this post, let’s listen to “Long Time” by Blondie.

I was expecting a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We were surprised to see that Pho Da Bao was anything but your typical pho joint. The branding of the sign was modern and eye-catching. The ceilings are pretty with the dropping stars. The fish swimming in the tank are gorgeously coloured and looked healthy.

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I ordered Pho Da Bao’s signature dish – Pho Sate Ga Hoac Bo Hac Do Bient – a spicy sate beef ($13). I didn’t add the bone marrow because I looked up the calorie content and saw it was 1,000 calories. I tore up basil leaves and dumped all the sprouts into my bowl.

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The beef broth was creamy and tasted like there was coconut in it. I enjoyed the deep, spicy notes. The meat was silky smooth and tender. The broth was served piping hot and  remained warm for a good 15 minutes. I thought the pho was very good.

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L ordered Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio ($13). The grilled pork was nicely grilled and of good quality. The bowl contained the usual suspects – fresh lettuce, bean sprouts, chunks of cucumber and carrots. The fish sauce was pungent and not overly sweet. I thought the bun was noodle heavy compared to the proportion of meat.

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I was still hungry so I ordered Cha Gio Banh Trang ($8) – gluten-free taro and pork spring rolls. This appetizer is a winner. Reminds me of a simpler version of Duncan Ly’s imperial rolls at Foreign Concept.

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To assemble this masterpiece, you take a piece of iceberg lettuce, basil leaves and a spring roll, then wrap it up and dip it into fish sauce. I found this appetizer refreshing. A tantalizing mix of cool from the basil and lettuce and hot from the crispy spring roll.

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It’s messy to eat – the water from the lettuce would intermingle with the fish sauce and drip on my hand. If you visit Pho Da Bao, I would recommend the pho and taro pork spring rolls.

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The portions are smaller than what I’m use to. I told Loaf2go and she said her husband gets the large sate pho and he’s stuffed, so it’s likely just me. The pho is worth the price, as it’s a step above their competitors.

I’m curious to compare Pho Dau Bo with its next door neighbour – Noodle World. I hear Noodle World has more uncommon dishes, like dried noodles with crab, sweet and sour soup with fish, braised fish clay pot, caramelized fish, and red fried rice. Beep Beep is coming for my birthday next week. I will likely convince her to go with me as she’s easygoing and doesn’t really care where we eat.

Pho Dau Bo Vietnamese Beef Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

The Submarine

Divine Offering informed me that after work she was heading over to Red Shoes’ parents restaurant – The Submarine – for a bánh mì. She said their subs were yummy. Divine Offering and I have similar taste so on Saturday, I asked L if he wanted to drive to Highland Park for lunch. For this post, let’s listen to Business by Eminem.

I hemmed and hawed when I saw the menu.  I had a hankering for pho but I read that the subs here reign supreme. One of the owners – Sue –  told me that everything on the menu is good as she picked and designed the recipe for each dish.

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L ordered a Sate Chicken sub ($9.25) and I picked the Sate Beef sub ($9.25). Sue asked us if we liked spice. We responded in the affirmative. While we waited for our subs I could hear the something sizzling in the kitchen. The meat is cooked fresh off the grill as you order, unlike other places where the protein sits all day in a warming container.

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Sue is outgoing and chatty. When she found out we know her daughter, she brought out complimentary teas and four pork spring rolls to our table. I find at some Asian restaurants, spring rolls are mostly wrapper with little filling. It’s the opposite here. The spring roll was packed with a juicy, meaty filling. Very good.

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L noted that the white chicken breast meat was of good quality. He could taste the freshness of the cilantro and vegetables. The spiciness of the sub was pleasant – enough to feel the heat but not hot enough to overpower the other ingredients.

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The beef in my sub was also of good quality. The warm toasted bread offered a nice crunch. The bread was light and not too soft or hard enough to scrape the roof of my mouth. That sate sauce is killer – a heady mixture of sweet, salty and garlic. I liked how the sate sauce and homemade mayonnaise intermingled and drip down onto my napkin.

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How good were these subs? He said The Submarine destroys all the other places I’ve taken him to and he would be happy to drive me here again. L was pissed off the last time I made him drive across town for an underwhelming banh mi. He still complains about that sub. He believes that other sub shops use low quality meats and gristle.

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The subs are a dollar or so more than competitors but what you get in return is more than worth it. L said he would gladly pay for The Submarine’s banh mi all day long. The subs are filling. I was full all day, which is unusual for me.

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The location is not close to my house or place of work, but since L is so keen to return, I know we’ll be back often. Hitting the Sauce gives The Submarine two fat thumbs up and this gem makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

The Submarine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Vancouver/Richmond · Vietnamese

Banh Mi Très Bon – Richmond

I was sick after Beep Beep’s birthday dinner. I knew it wasn’t from the dinner as I was nauseous much earlier in the day. When I woke up on Sunday, I hung out with Naomi until Beep Beep picked me up to visit my father Ludwig and then to the airport.

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On the way to see my father, I received an email from him saying not to bother dropping by because he wouldn’t be home. Ludwig wanted to go to the mall instead with my brother Jacuzzi. Alrighty then. Beep Beep suggested we eat something nourishing before my flight. I picked Banh Mi Tres Bon in Richmond because I felt like pho and Banh Mi Tres Bon’s version is MSG free. For this post, let’s listen to Fever by Peggy Lee.

The cafe was busy. We were given a number and waited until a table opened up. Customers were also ordering take-out. The employees were working as hard and pleasantly as they could, though you could tell they were in the weeds. Our orders were messed up twice, but fixed immediately with a smile and a sincere apology.

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Beep Beep and I shared the Banh Mi Jambon ($7) – a cold cut baguette with warm slices of pork belly and creamy pate. The filling is sparser than I’m use to in Calgary but the intense flavours made up for the sheer quantity. The baguette was light and airy on the inside and crusty on the outside. I would order this again.

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I tried one of Beep Beep’s Salad Rolls ($6). I liked the quality of shrimp – it was bright orange and actually had flavour. The sauce was mild tasting, crunchy from the addition of crushed nuts and spicy from the pool of sriracha sauce.

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The showstopper was the Pho ($12). The golden broth was slightly sweet and felt so nuturing, like it was breathing life back into my body. The beef meatballs tasted clean and when you bite into it, you could feel the bouncy texture. I could tell the slices of  beef tenderloin were high quality. The best of the bowl was the addition of bone marrow. The marrow was this rich, mellow decadence that melted in my mouth. The noodles could have been more al dente, but that’s just my preference.

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I witnessed a little drama. The customer next to me threw a nasty hissy fit. The server dropped something and then picked it up and replaced it. The customer insisted that the server did not replace it and after arguing back and forth, hissed with pure venom, “Just remove it. Remove it. Just go.” Her eyes narrowed and her face contorted with such ugly rage, she looked like she was going to have a ‘nut fit’ like Heather Cho. It made me think of workplace mistreatment and the abuse servers face in restaurants. I wish I said something to the customer but instead I told the owner in front of the Heather Cho wannabe that I loved her restaurant and the pho was amazing. If that girl gets so upset over a napkin, I shudder to think how she would handle a real life problem.

Unlike the other reviewers on Zomato and Yelp, I did not find the prices expensive. Yes, it’s a bit more than the hole in the wall on Main Street, but the quality is so much better. The portions were generous and I didn’t get that thirsty feeling I sometimes get after eating pho. Hitting the Sauce gives Banh Mi Tres Bon two fat thumbs up.

Bánh Mi Très Bon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Van Son Vietnamese

Ah, what a crazy m%&*king month! After a particularly hairy week, Office Dad and his boss Choo Choo Train (CCT) took me out for lunch. As it was snowing, CCT didn’t want to walk. He wanted to go to his favourite Vietnamese restaurant, Van Son Vietnamese Cuisine. For this post, let’s listen to something completely random and silly.

The restaurant was busy, packed with regulars. Some customers looked like they had a long night. I recognize the signs – slumped shoulders, tired eyes and a hoody pulled over their head. I realized that this place must be good spot to get over a hangover or a botched B&E.

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The portions are big and cheap. I copied CCT and ordered half the amount of noodles. Even with the decreased size, the regular portion of sate pho ($9.99) was huge. Office Dad ordered a large bowl of sate pho with peanuts ($10.99) and the bowl was so big, he only ate half. What a waster taster!

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The broth was light, only a little spicy. I didn’t get dry mouth or thirsty after lunch, so I’m guessing MSG here is either non-existent or kept at a minimal. The soup was served hot. The beef was plentiful but not super flavourful on its own and a tad tough. I liked that Van Son didn’t cheap out on the basil and sprouts.

I’d come here again. I’d like to try some of their other dishes, like the vermicelli and spring rolls. Hitting the Sauce gives one and a half fat thumbs up.

Van Son Vietnamese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants · Vietnamese

Lotus Vietnamese

I’m on a pho rampage. My friend Todd told me he eats at Lotus Vietnamese once a week. It’s his favourite spot for sate beef pho. I ate at Lotus over three years ago and I thought the noodles were too soft. Last Tuesday, Baron asked me if I wanted to go for pho at Lotus. It was a sign. Enter Ace of Base – The Sign.

Located two clocks away from the City of Calgary municipal building, Lotus is always packed with office workers. I ordered the Sate Beef Rice Noodle Soup ($11.99).

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The meat was nicely sliced and tasted like good quality beef. It wasn’t razor thin or stringy or too fatty like some places. The beef was tender and still pink. The broth was hot, the sate flavouring was subtle and clean, with a nice heat to it. The sprouts and basil were fresh. The noodles were soft. I prefer if the noodles had a bit more of a bite.

Overall, I like Lotus and would go again. I can deal with noodles that lack a bounce. Hitting the Sauce gives Lotus 1.5 fat thumbs up.

Lotus Vietnamese Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pho Anh Huyen Noodle House

It was a cold, windy October day. I was door knocking earlier and I was in the need of something hot and nourishing. I haven’t been to Pho Anh Huyen in ages, so I thought I would revisit.

I ordered a regular bowl of coconut beef pho ($11.99). The bowl came out fast – within five minutes of ordering. I was disappointed that the broth wasn’t hot. With the addition of the cold bean sprouts and basil, the bowl was lukewarm.

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The noodles were perfectly cooked, smooth and with a bounce. The beef wasn’t cooked all the way through due to the cool temperature of the soup. The sprouts remained crunchy as well. The broth itself was milder than I would have liked. I like my Vietnamese soup with a good spicy kick to it.

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I’m still on the hunt for the best pho in Calgary. So far, Song Huong in the NE is my favourite. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Pho Anh Huyen Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pho Huong

Please note – since Pho Huong was shut down, I no longer eat here.

Pho is the ultimate comfort food. Nothing beats an oversized bowl of hot beefy broth in an abundance of slippery noodles. I like getting a mouthful of noodles, thinly sliced beef, crunchy bean sprouts and basil all in one bite. For this post, let’s listen to something pho-nomenal. Have you ever listened to Vietnamese pop?

I like Pho Huong Vietnamese Noodle House because its close to our house and cheap. This small restaurant is always busy, even at off times. I think its popular because the portions are massive, the prices are cheap, and there aren’t a whole lot of Vietnamese restaurants in the hood.

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Usually, the sate pho ($9.99) is spicy and full of peanut flavour. However, this time around, the broth tasted one-dimensional and flat. The basil was not fresh like it usually is – it was bruised and a bit slimy.

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The lemongrass chicken bun ($9.99) was light on the vermicelli noodles but big on the veggies –  lettuce, cucumbers, carrots and green onions. The chicken was dark meat and a generous portion. Spring rolls were all meat – it tasted like minced pork.

This isn’t the best Vietnamese I’ve had, but for the price and convenience, Pho Huong Viet is pho-bulous.

Pho Huong Viet Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato