Best Pho in Calgary
I was wondering what are the Calgary Hound's favourite Pho restos in town?
The best Pho that I have is at Pho Hoai in Chinatown...their Pho Sate is outstanding.
Pho Hoai is the one inside the Far East Shopping Centre, right? It's not too bad, but I personally prefer Pho Pasteur Saigon, around the corner (facing the Harry Hays building, right next door to the best Vietnamese Sub place - Thi Thi?)
My coworkers preferred Little Vietnamese Village, which was in the space at the south end of the mall, you have to go down a couple of steps to go inside. Sadly, Little Vietnamese Village either closed or moved maybe a year ago and there's a different restaurant there; what's sadder is that most of my coworkers never noticed the difference, other than that their standard #29 (Bun with grilled pork and spring roll - aka White Man's Special) was now something in the 50s.
Pho Hoai is indeed in the FE shopping center.
For me, it depends on the type of Pho.
For Pho Sate, my favorite is Saigon Y2K - they have the thick broth like my favorite pho sate restaurants in Edmonton, Pagolac and Oriental Noodle House. A close second is Noodle King. Their's is a very different variation (a more rich type of broth...tastes like some coconut milk in there to me), but quite tasty.
For Bun Bo Hue, I havent found one im happy with yet. The broth is always too runny...Should be a rich broth with a heavy kick.
For Pho Tai or other variations, i like Pho Pasteur or Pho So 1.
Interesting...I was aware of the Viet sub place around the corner but did not know about Pho Pasteur. I will have to give it try. I suspect why I like Pho Hoai is that it was my first introduction to Pho Sate some years ago and found it very flavourful and spicy. I must admit I'm not much of an expert but I have not had anything similar in Calgary.
I'd like to second Pho So 1 on center & 16th Ave NW for straight up pho. I like their broth, and they're really good at packaging everything up for take out, with rare beef in it's own plastic wrap, hoisin & hot sauce, basil, sprouts and hot peppers. They're my go-to folks when i'm sick and want soup.
Pho Minh Chau (sp?) on 9th Ave SE in Inglewood makes a mean bowl of soup as well, their sate is pretty good (their grilled pork is better, however ;)
I don't want to sound like a wet blanket, and that is probably not even the right term. But to me, Pho is Pho is Pho. Granted I am sure there are some that slip in/out of that generalization. I know the stock takes a while to make so there could be some differences here, but it always makes me smile when people talk good/best vietnamese because I truly dont see much difference. After visiting Vietnam and seeing all the street food you realize how basic, cheap and simply prepared it is.
That being said, I go to Halong Bay, Codo, Dalat and all the usual suspects in my area, never finding too much variance between them all.
Sorry, but i respectfully disagree. In one sense, you're definitely right - what goes into Pho is pretty much the same. It is basic, cheap, and simply prepared. It should be completely repeatable.
However, the variations i find in Vietnamese restaurants here in Calgary concern several things:
1. How long they reduce the broth for. Many places fail to concentrate the flavours of the broth, leaving a weak, watery product. There are huge differences between Vietnamese restaurants in the richness, the flavour, and the consistency of the broth.
2. Quality of the ingredients. Fresh ingredients are the Vietnamese way... this often is not the case locally, where i've gotten moldy basil, terrible sprouts, and crappy beef.
3. Regional differences. Even within Vietnam there are regional differences in how broth is prepared, constructed etc... there are a lot of Vietnamese immigrants in Calgary from differing regions, and they all reflect a different style of Pho.
Now to most people, im being an anal-retentive, picky snob. But with regards to food, that is what being a Chowhound is all about. While what is good/best is all a matter of personal preference, i believe there is significant variance in the Vietnamese restaurants in Calgary.
It's my understanding (and I've heard this from people who've lived/visited there) that in Vietnam, pho often has MSG- in fact they often use a powdered soup base (no stock, no reducing, no "cooking" really), and very very little meat. As such, the pho in North America is, like Mexican food in the US, often better (made with more expensive ingredients) than at "home."
Just to add a couple things, the seasoning of the broth is really important as well - the spices should be balanced. I like how it's sour in some places as well, though am not sure where the sourness comes from. Not just from the lime they give you.
Another point is that good Vietnamese cooking contrasts and balances textures skillfully, even in something like hot soup. This kind of attention to textural detail is reflected in the variety of cuts of meat you can order in it. So you get a piece of tendon melting in your mouth one moment and a crunch of sprouts the next. Many places do not cut or cook the meat carefully enough. Would not surprise me at all if in Vietnam, as here, there is more bad pho than good.