Monday, August 31, 2009

The Pho House, 5230 Dundas Street West

It is August 31 and with a high today of 22 degrees, I was cold and craving soup. Want to sit on patio? No thanks, give me a sweater and a bowl of something piping hot. Summer 2009 has been one of the worst on record for Toronto (that’s another story) but perhaps a very good time for a new Vietnamese restaurant in Etobicoke, The Pho House, located in the Six Points Plaza.

It is one of few Vietnamese restaurants in the area and the place has been busy. It is a typical Asian boite in that it is too bright and the music too soft. It is clean and sterile but in a nail salon kind of way. I wonder if the staff used to do nails because those shops are a dime a dozen in Etobicoke. It is non typical in that it is sort of chic and very modern and I kind of laugh at the banquet style table numbers that sit on stands as though we are at a wedding. I guess it eliminates confusion.

It is only appropriate that pho, that popular Viet rice noodle soup that no one knows how to pronounce is their specialty. They claim that their broth is the result of a “meticulous” twelve hour process that can only mean a unique and lively taste. There are seventeen varieties to choose from and although I am intrigued by the tripe and tendon, I stick with what I know – Pho Tai Bo Vien ($6.50 for a medium) also known as the rare beef and beef balls version.

It was loaded with perfectly cooked noodles and just the right amount of grease. Yes, grease – those thin little puddles of oil that refuse to mix with the water base of a soup. I love an oily soup and almost always add it to my bowl. Here, it is the right ratio. The beef was tender but the beef balls were too dense. They were like little balls of wooden meat. The sprouts and Thai basil were fresh but there was no mint. It was missing fresh mint.

The good news is that the broth is tastier than the dish water that some places are serving. The bad news is that it is exactly the kind of broth that the good places make. Unfortunately for pho, it has a myriad of ingredients that must go into it therefore there is little room for interpretation or change.

The cold shrimp rolls ($5 for two) make a nice accompaniment to the hot soup. Fresh shrimp, vermicelli, lettuce and grilled pork are all neatly tucked into a bed of rice paper. I quickly think that they, along with a cup of green tea, would make an excellent 3 pm snack.

Although the soup is typical, The Pho House is a nice addition to the growing ethnic food scene in southern Etobicoke. It deserves a place, pho sure.