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Pho in Montreal: 2009

  • m

So let us finally start that thread on Pho. As some of you may be aware, I am a huge fan of Pho Lien on Cote des Neiges and Cote St. Catherine. I could eat their pho forever. For me, their broth is one of the most perfect foods I have ever had. I am a fan of their #4 pho, with rare beef and brisket. They meat is tasty, the broth excellent, and all I need is a spritz of lime and basil leaves, and I am good. Now, some might find the offering here a bit limited. For example, they only offer basil, none of the other Vietnamese herbs are present, although they do put sliced onions, green onions and coriander on top of the soup. But the broth, oh the broth...

SO: feel free to report on good pho you have had recently. This is perfect pho weather.

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  1. Chez Nga
    4022 St. Catherine St. West, near Atwater metro

    I had their #9 pho. This was served with slices of well-cooked beef and tendon. The meat was very flavourful, and the broth was delicious, it has a nice depth of flavour. It is almost as yummy as the broth at Pho Lien! The pho is garnished with coriander, onions, green onions, and basil, and comes also with a lime slice. There is only one size, a very large bowl for $8. I wish they had a slightly smaller size, as I find this bowl is a bit big for me. But this pho was excellent, and I am happy to have found such a good quality pho in a different location. Very friendly staff, nice atmosphere, this is a good spot.

    1 Reply
    1. re: moh

      Went to Chez Nga yesterday with gf, after reading the above review. Had a spring roll appetizer (nothing special) and a bowl of pho each. I had the #11, "soupe tonkinoise avec boeuf saignant" and gf had the #12, pho with well-done beef. The broth was indeed very nice and was the highlight of the meal. The noodles were also nice - not overcooked. The "rare" beef was way, way overcooked. Also, we were very disappointed by the quantity of meat - my soup barely had 3-4 small pieces in it. Gf's soup was the same. I could've easily eaten 2-3 times more meat than that! Good thing we had some nice pastries at the Pekarna next door, otherwise I would've left hungry after a pho (which has yet to happen after eating at any of the pho places on CDN).

      The search for good pho near Guy/Atwater continues.

    2. I'm not an expert but I since I've tasted the Pho at Pho Bac no 1 in Verdun, I don't eat it anywhere else. It's on Wellington on the north side, between 2nd and 3rd aves. The broth is delicious and it's served with basil leaves, lime, hot pepper ans bean sprouts on the side.

      1. Pho Tay Ho
        6414 rue Saint-Denis
        Montréal, QC H2S 2R7
        (514) 273-5627

        This is the absolute best.
        Everything about it from the broth....oh that magnificent broth which you can smell the delicious aroma of marrow, to the garnishes, to the meat, tendon, tripe quality to the freshness of the basil, sprouts, limes, chilies, ouff! :)
        It is stellar.

        Happy eating, Oana

        7 Replies
        1. re: oana

          Pho Tay Ho is a lovely restaurant in general. Even if you get their lunch special, you get some of their wonderful pho broth.

          I'm happy to live a short walk from it and Nhu Y, in opposite directions! (though I don't think the latter is so much a pho place).

          1. re: lagatta

            I'll 3rd that for Pho Tay Ho.
            As for Pho Lien, they're one of my new faves since Pho Bang down the hill packed up.
            My current favourite is Hoa Hoang on Victoria. Their pho ga (chicken) is the cure for what ails ya, and their pho bo is one of the few that I find can stand on its own without hoisin or chili (though who can resist anyway?)

            One sad recent disappointment, though I may just be behind the curve, is that Crystal de Saigon in Chinatown is now called Crystal #1, and it's lousy. We went in recently, without even noticing the sign, because we hadn't been for a while, and it was always good. We asked the waiter for basil (ya know, a plate of basil, sprouts, fresh chili, lime...), and he waved emphatically, "no basil, no basil, no basil". The broth was like dishwater. We asked for hoisin, and he signed and rolled his eyes and brought a thimblefull. We went through the same thing to get some sri racha. Such a shame.

            Pho Bang NY a week later was delicious as ever.
            Pho 2000 on Ste. Catherine E has been consistently good since the 1980s and still is.

          2. re: oana

            Pho Tay Ho has been one of our go-to places for about a year, but we went there last nite and noticed a perceptible decline. I hope it was just an off night, but the broth tasted one-dimensional (for lack of a better word) and they skimped on the rare beef - there were only 2 pieces. They also served lemon with the soup instead of lime. Hubby's rice was overcooked and his pork chops were almost 50% fat. Lastly, the salad rolls were different - there were not as many herbs inside, and the rolls were packed much more loosely than usual (skimpy). It was surreal, like we mistakenly went to a different restaurant by accident!

            Sorry to share a bad experience about this place, hopefully it was just an isolated thing and not evidence of a steady decline. Next time you guys go, please report back - I hope they will turn things back around!

            1. re: oana

              In my opinion, Pho Tay Ho is about the Bun Cha more than the pho. The bun cha there is really phenomenal. The service is pretty lackluster though.

              1. re: mainsqueeze

                Yes, their speciality it their Bun Cha. I can't remember ever ordering pho at Pho Tay Ho. Also had some problems with their service.

              2. re: oana

                I'm far from an expert but on my 1st visit I did not find it that great... I had rare beef and a few pieces of flank... Not sure if this is normal but my beef had tons of fat on it. I don't eat fat, and I never had this in my limited experience eating such food. I prefer Pho Lien on Cote Des Neiges (much better broth), or even Hoa Hoang on Victoria. Never had "Fat" issues at either of these places.

                1. re: J1836

                  flank steak should have one of the lowest fat contents of any beef cut.

              3. Here is a link to reports on Pho Nguyen:


                The pho is really hitting the spot in this weather. I strongly encourage all Hounds to try a new pho place! It really helps you to figure out what you really love about pho. And you never know when you'll find a new gem. And I think a little discussion and debate of the different types of pho might be informative.

                Has anyone been to a place that offers more interesting herbs than just the usual basil and coriander? And has anyone tried any of the places out on Jarry near Kim Phat?

                1 Reply
                1. re: moh

                  moh I second your call for "get out there and try new places"!

                2. Other than Pho Nguyen and Chez Nga, does anyone know of any decent pho places in the guy-concordia area?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mainsqueeze

                    Did you try Ba-Le near Concordia (2148 Mackay) ? I have a night class at Concordia last year and some of my class mate told me that Pho at Ba-Le is very good. I went to pickup some sandwiches and took some time to have bowl of Pho there at the end of the semester. It is true that their Pho is very tasty. You can smell a lot of flavours in the broth. I think that it is one of best Pho in town.

                    1. re: braveman

                      I haven't tried it yet, though I do like their beef bahn mi. Will try the pho soon and report back. Thanks.

                  2. My biggest complaint with pho is when they have (a lot of) msg. I cannot stand it. Others seem to not even notice it. Lucky them.

                    So far the worse culprits for this have been Cristal #1 and My Can.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mainsqueeze

                      hi mainsqueeze
                      I'm really curious to know how you know there's MSG in the broth?
                      When I eat Mono Sodium Glutamate, my gums get ripped up and also my toes and fingers get stiff. I have never had that happen with pho, so I am curious.

                      1. re: bopuc

                        I don't really have any bad reactions to it but I don't like the taste of it. I find I detect the taste of it in broths and soups more than other dishes.

                      2. re: mainsqueeze

                        Any that don't use MSG(or very little of it) for pho broth?

                      3. I've been looking for some pho satay (a red colored, thick, and spicy version that apparently comes from the north of the country) for a while now and have tried a lot of people's recommendations. The best I have found so far is the special weekend soup at Pho Lam. Also, their fried and riled items are top notch. It's on Parc, just above Mont Royal and I prefer it to Pho Nguyen, which also features a spicy pho. It's just a shame that it's only available on weekends.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: The Chemist

                          Pho Saigon VIP (1850 St Catherine W) has Pho Sate in their menu (33a).

                          1. re: emerilcantcook

                            I mentioned this to him/her in the Pho Sate thread, that The Chemist started.

                        2. How does Pho Lam on Park compare to Pho Lien?

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: hungryann

                            I only really order every specific things so I can't comment on a complete comparison. I didn't know that Pho Lien has a spicy pho though... if they do, I can certainly compare that! =D

                            1. re: The Chemist

                              IMO, Pho Lien's spicy Bun bo Hue is nothing special. I usually order their pho soups(my favourite Vietnamese pho soup establishment I've tried so far).

                              1. re: BLM

                                Pho saté (*not* satay, which is the peanut stuff) and Bun Bo Hue are not the same thing, though similar.

                                Bun Bo Hue is, literally, Rice Noodle and Beef in Hue style broth (spicy pork-based I think). The meat used is different: beef brisket (I think) and pork (Vietnamese friend in LA says Bun Bo Hue needs to have a pig's foot in it to be totally authentic but heh, I'm happy without).

                                The bun bo hue at Pho Lam was *awesome* for the first few months they were open (drew me away from Pho Lien it was so good) and then drop markedly in quality. Part of the reason may have been--and this is how it will connect back to satay etc-- that they stopped making their own saté and switched to the jar stuff (at least that's what they started offering as I was used to asking for some extra saté in a little dish).

                                The Bun Bo Hué at Phi Lien was a weekly staple of mine until it started going crazy unstable quality-wise: one day awesome, the next day, red oily dishwater. argh!

                                Then I tried Pho Nguyen (yes yes I am a fan) and when I asked for saté they brought me a little dish of something very obviously homemade by the old lady in th eback (the mother I think). Made my day!

                                As for Pho Saté--which is regular Pho with saté added and which you can make yourself by ordering your favoriote Pho and asking for saté (always a test of the staff and the joint's commitment to quality ;) -- the only place i ever saw it on the menu--and granted I have *not* been to so many of Montreal's Pho joints--was at the place kitty-corner from the Bell building on Jean-Talon just west of St-Hubert.

                                Apologies for the insane grammar/sentence structure in this post: it is multidimensional and links together many things: saté-bunbohue-pholien-pholam-phonguyen)


                                1. re: bopuc

                                  I'm still having a hard time getting my head around the name "bun bo Hue", because in Vietnam, bun bo is not a soup. It's warm rice noodles in a bowl with slices of beef or pork, pork cracklings (yum), onions, sprouts, and some garnishes. No broth, save for a bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
                                  I'll have to look into this some more. I find it very curious.

                                  1. re: bomobob

                                    There's no such thing as Bun bo hue soup in Vietnam(not talking about bun bo)?

                                    1. re: BLM

                                      Oh, there sure is, but most of the bun bo we ate was in Hanoi. We never had it while in Hue, so it's quite likely that it's a regional variation...more of a soup.

                                      1. re: bomobob

                                        Can you get other types of Vietnamese spicy soups in Vietnam(besides possibly Bun bo hue & Pho sate)?

                                        1. re: BLM

                                          You're going to make me cry. There was a soup way down south in the Mekong Delta, describes on the pseudo-English menu as "a sort of soup", which probably meant "assorted soup". It was a variation on tom yum, found in Vietnam and Cambodia, sometimes just called Cambodian hot and sour soup. It was THE single best soup experience ever. We were there 3 days, and it's all we ate at that place. Like really complex tom yum, but with tomato and pineapple and lots of lime. A soup symphony.

                                          From the far north down to about Danang (rougly halfway), spicing is really quite mild, in general. Once you get aroung Saigon, it really cranks up, and when you go into the delta, where the Thai and Cambodian influences are strongest, then you get into teary-eyed-and-unable-to-breathe territory.

                                  2. re: bopuc

                                    In some pho joints in the western provinces the menu spells it 'Satay Pho'. I suppose for phonetic reasons...

                                    I stopped going to Pho Lam now completely as the quality of the Pho saté has sunk so drastically... Last time we ordered, it tasted nothing like it's past glory. We informed the waitstaff, who was uninterested in our concerns over the food (which went well beyond the pho). I'm not usually a person to complain at a restaurant, but this was so disappointing. Won't go back.

                                    I go to Pho Lien now, but thier regular pho is better than thier Pho saté. So, the search continues. Whenever I return to the wasteland, I visit my old pho joint every day. I try to convince to owner to move east, but he doens't lisiten.

                                    If you're ever in Winnipeg: Thanh Huong on Sargent and Younge street. It will decimate your senses and ruin you for pho saté.

                                  3. re: BLM

                                    I agree Pho Lien is my favorite of all the Pho restaurants in Montreal. I have tried several of them on Cote de neige and this is the best

                              2. My favourite Pho place has always been Pho Bac, on Victoria between Eduard Montpetit and St Kevin. Maybe it 's because it was the 1st place I ever had Pho and so that defined how it should be in my mind. They definitely do the best Ca Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk served over ice cubes) that I've had anyway - but again it may be the "1st is best" syndrome. They also do a spicy Pho, though I haven't had it in a while.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: pyropaul99

                                  I think they closed down cause I looked for it the other day and it was gone =(

                                  please someone tell me I am wrong and that they are still there!

                                2. We had a great meal at Pho Cali the other day. I had my standard #11 (rare beef pho) and my friend had #1 (rare beef, well done flank, tripe, meatballs, soft tendon). The broth was not especially spicy (cloves, etc), but wonderfully meaty, which I love. Both bowls had generous portions of meat and chopped green onion. The accompanying basil and bean sprouts were crisp and fresh, and the wedges of lime were large and juicy. Cali is definitely my favourite apart from Pho Lien.

                                  1011 St Laurent

                                  1. My favorite pho is from Pho 198 on Cote-des-Neiges right next to the new Premiere Moisson bakery. I always have the rare beef pho and it is always succulent. I have tried other places but I always come back to that one. It is served with lime wedges, basil and bean sprouts, and comes in two sizes for 7 or 8$ IIRC. Also, their imperial rolls are simply to die for. They are at the top of my list for best imperial rolls in the city!

                                    1. Pho Lien is my favourite as well. Others just don't stack up to their broth. Pho Lien's other dish that's a must have is the Bot Chien or rice pancake with or without egg. It's gelanitous rice paste, fried, cut into slices and topped with a fried egg. It is served with a light soy sauce and pickled turnip and carrot. Oh how I want it!!!

                                      1. The opposite of a recommendation:
                                        The pseudo-vietnamese-thai-whatever place on the NW corner of Ste-Catherine and St-Mathieu--don't remember the name--is to be avoided at all costs. Just awful.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: bopuc

                                          bopuc, I agree about that place. It was just mediocre and forgettable.

                                          1. re: ChowMatter

                                            What's name of the establishment?

                                            1. re: BLM

                                              I believe it was something generic like "Pho Thai Viet". I remember passing by it last week, but didn't even give it a second glance. It has modern white furniture. Hope that someone else in the area can be more specific for you.

                                              1. re: ChowMatter

                                                Ok I know which one you refer. Ate there once, & was unimpressed(but only tried one dish).

                                        2. Like Moh, I am also obssessed with Pho and in particular the Pho at Pho Lien (#12 for me with rare beef, tendon and tripe). I completely that it is one of the most perfect foods and I think I could eat it every day.

                                          For Bun Bo Hue, however, I prefer the broth at Cali and Cali serves it every day whereas Pho Lien only serves it on weekends.

                                          I would give an honourable mention to the pho at My Canh on St-Laurent in Chinatown. The broth is a tad on the sweet side but very flavourful.

                                          On the recommendation of people on this board and others, I gave Pho Rang Dong a shot and was thoroughly disappointed. I also tried Pho Tay Ho over the weekend. While the presentation of the plates is beautiful and the ingredients are all fresh and plentiful, the broth was completely lacking in flavour and depth. Not even close to Pho Lien.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: CookEatSleep

                                            I can give a happy second to My Canh in chinatown. The first place I started exploring pho; and am still an amateur in broth selection I believe. Anyhoo, I find it quite delicious. Other tips on spots in or around chinatown anyone?


                                            1. re: danji

                                              We were in Pho Thanh Long on Ste. Catherine E. for the first time in a while last week, and the broth has definitely gone downhill. It needed a lot of help.

                                          2. A new Pho place opened recently in the Guy-Concordia area, on Ste-Catherine West, just east of St. Marc (where La Nacion used to be). It's called Pho Saigon VIP. Anyone have a chance to try it yet?

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: mainsqueeze

                                              Funny enough, I was drinking pretty much all afternoon just a tad east on the other side of the street, watching the parade. The wife says "hey look at that place...Saigon...is it new?"
                                              We stopped in the doorway just to look at the menu. My wine soaked mind registered a nice sounding spicy soup. Thats as much as I'll be responsible for, however...

                                              1. re: porker

                                                Opened maybe 2-3 weeks ago. Haven't tried their food yet.

                                              2. re: mainsqueeze

                                                Went to Pho Saigon VIP this week for lunch. They place looks nice - they've painted the inside yellow and green, added some pendant lighting, and put some decorative silk orchids around the place. It looks way better than it did before when it was Café Nord Sud, whose fluorescent lighting was very unappealing.

                                                We ordered the Goi Cuon Tom Thit (summer roll with shrimp and porc) to start. The greens inside were fresh and crisp. The sauce served with them was (I think) just hoisin sauce with some chopped peanut and pickled carrot.

                                                I ordered a rare beef pho (extra tendon, please), and my friend had the #4 (rare beef, well-done flank, brisket, soft tendon, and tripe). We both noted that the broth was very sweet. It was darker, thicker and clovier than most phos I've tried. Overall quite tasty, however a little overwhelming. Neither of us were able to finish the soup, despite nearly always polishing off a large bowl at Pho Lien or Pho Cali.

                                                A table next to ours ordered the Banh Xeo, which looked really appetizing. I think I'll try that next time. I'm also interested in trying the rice pancakes fried with egg (bot chien). They also have some Chinese dishes on the menu. The waiter told me their chef is chinese.

                                                I'm pleased to have found a decent Vietnamese resto in that area because Pho Nguyen just wasn't cutting it for me.

                                                1. re: mainsqueeze

                                                  I tried Pho Saigon VIP for lunch today and ordered Bun Bo Hue. I concur that their broth is a tad too sweet. It is also short on lemongrass which I assume is the proper note for this dish, but it the broth still is comforting and tasty (and reasonably spicy, but I prefer it spicier). Much much better than Pho Nguyen, I agree. The beef slices in the soup were tender, the pieces of pork loaf were pretty good and the accompanying herbs were exceptionally fresh. Another bonus. My real beef was the soup came with a lemon wedge, which I found odd. Is it too hard to find lime in the hood? And oh, they didn't give chopsticks to the whitey for takeout, and didn't even bother to ask. I need a forehead tattoo that says "please give me chopsticks!".

                                                2. re: mainsqueeze

                                                  Tried to go to Pho Saigon VIP today but could not stay because the place smells strongly of incense. Other patrons didn't seem to mind but that stuff really gives me a headache and find it rather unappetizing.

                                                3. We were visiting Montreal last week from California. Ended up at Pho Cali because we needed a break from pate, bread and cheese.

                                                  It was good, better than I expected. I had rare beef and tendon. My only complaint was that I only got two tiny slivers of tendon.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: whatsforlunch

                                                    oh wow.. which area of cali are you from? All my friends from the OC LOATHE the pho in montreal, and i really can't blame them.

                                                    1. re: mak2k

                                                      NorCal. So my standards might be different than your friends.

                                                      From El Monte to San Jose and back to The City, I've eaten a lot of pho. Honestly, if I don't get crazy thirsty after eating a bowl of pho, that's already a plus. If I get unbruised basil, dry bean sprouts, and a wedge of lime, not lemon, I'm happier. And if the soup taste like a fragant, heady mix of roasted star anise, cinnamon, and onions, I'm in heaven.

                                                      But I seriously haven't had an experience like that in a long time. Most places don't make their soup from scratch. They add commerical pho paste or use canned broth.

                                                      My favorite places are the ones that only make pho and nothing else, not even an imperial roll. At least in SF, that's hard to come by. With that said, Pho Cali (in Montreal's Chinatown) tasted clean -- like they tried to make it homemade.

                                                      1. re: whatsforlunch

                                                        I like Cali's broth the best. It tastes very meaty and not too sweet.

                                                  2. Another Pho that deserves to be mentionned is Pho Dakao on Jean-Talon corner St-Denis. My dad, vietnamese, born in Vietnam, said they make the best rice noodle in Montreal and i agree with him.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Stradale

                                                      Are there many Vietnamese restos in Montreal, that make their own rice noodle for pho?

                                                      1. re: BLM

                                                        Any good pho places close to McGill? It strikes me as a natural student food, filling and cheap.

                                                        1. re: VivreManger

                                                          The best choice downtown is the fast-foodish Caravelle restaurant in the Place Ville Marie food court. They also have a location in the 2001 University dead mall.

                                                          You can walk to St-Laurent and the chinatown ones are better but if it has to be really fast ....

                                                    2. Been going to Pho Cali in Chinatown for many years to eat chicken tonkinoise, and have always enjoyed it there (though they've stopped automatically putting thai bird peppers with the garnishes, but no biggie). Will likely keep going there. I like that they grill the chicken in a little something sweet, instead of just getting plain, ungrilled chicken. Haven't tried too many other pho places, though. As said earlier, Cali puts bean sprouts, basil, lime. Recently went to Pho Lam for chicken tonkinoise, and found it interesting, with carrots and broccoli, and no bean sprouts, basil, lime. Once it was served to me, I remember thinking that it was a nice change to put those extra vegetables in. Once I was eating it, though, I found that, for my tastebuds, the carrot flavour didn't quite go with the rest of the flavours. I'll very likely be going back to Pho Lam again, but probably will try something else on the menu. If anyone knows their menu well (there's a lot on it!) I'd be thrilled to get suggestions for what they do best.

                                                      1. I loathe green coriander and often they put it in pho as a default. Are there any places that don't use it at all, or is it integral to the dish? (I went once to the one in the EV bldg at concordia and they looked at me funny when I asked for it without coriander, so that is the reason for my question).

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: williej

                                                          If you mean Cultures, I wouldn't use that place as a reference. Pho almost always comes with coriander, but since all pho places make their soups to order it is highly customizable so there's no reason why you couldn't order yours coriander-free.

                                                        2. went and visited Pho Saigon VIP on st catherines a couple days ago for their $6.99 lunch special. owned by chinese/cantonese, no vietnamese people in sight. ordered a well done and rare beef pho which came with an shiny imperial roll. the meat was average, but there was literally nothing in the broth, maybe a sprinkling of sliced onions and green onions. the broth itself was bland and forgettable. lots of noodles though and a good amount of meat. probably won't go there again and will try chez nga next time.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: sharkbait88

                                                            Let us know, what you think of Chez Nga if you do go there sometime soon. I tried their pho for first time several months ago.

                                                            1. re: BLM

                                                              will do. but a forewarning, i have pretty high standards for pho, as i grew up in the Los Angeles So/Cal area and have had pho from san diego all the way up to san fransisco. hopefully chez nga can satisfy my frequent pho cravings as i'm in montreal for the school year!

                                                              1. re: sharkbait88

                                                                if you want Pho that is 80% like Little Saigon, head to Dakao on Jean-Talon near St-Denis. It's a sub street level place.

                                                              2. re: BLM

                                                                I think I'll try Chez Nga next. It's easy to get to from where I live. I'll post my review after I try it out.

                                                                1. re: fabulouslybroke

                                                                  Just to let you know, I wasn't impressed with Chez Nga pho on my first & only visit there so far. But I will give them another try very very soon(I want to give restos at least 2 tries, if recommended on this board).

                                                            2. I wasn't sold on Pho Lien.. at least, not yet.

                                                              I have to try the other Pho restaurants to really see if it is the best.

                                                              The spring rolls tasted like they came frozen out of a box (mushy inside, like baby food) and was not home made.

                                                              But I am picky, as I make my own spring rolls at home, so I expect much better when I go to a restaurant and fork out $3 for 2 little, thin rolls.

                                                              The pho had an very light broth (a little too light for me), that I wasn't used to, and the beef was overcooked so much that it broke into dry little chunks at the bottom of the bowl.

                                                              Am going to give Chez Nga, Pho Saigon or Ba-Le a try next. It was too long to get to Pho Lien from where I live.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                                1. re: fabulouslybroke

                                                                  Went to Pho Lien this evening. I agree with your comments on their spring rolls. It doesn't seem to be home-made(didn't notice before, although I've only ordered it once previously). The pho I had there tonight, the raw beef wasn't overcooked.

                                                                  1. re: fabulouslybroke

                                                                    Yeah, I don't know what all the fuss is about with Pho Lien, I think it's terrible. Pho Tay Ho is much better as is Pho Bac 97 and even across St. Laurent at Pho Cali though last time I was there the service was unbelievably bad. It seems like saying Pho Lien has the best pho is like saying La Belle Province has the best poutine.

                                                                    Belle Province
                                                                    20 Rue Brunet, Mont-Saint-Hilaire, QC J3G4S6, CA

                                                                    1. re: fabulouslybroke

                                                                      I also don't like the non-pho stuff at Pho Lien. It is not expected however to get good spring rolls at "specialized" Pho restaurants as they will outsource that. If you go to a more traditional vietnamese restaurants you'll get better spring rolls but their Pho will be average.

                                                                    2. My favourite pho restaurant is Restaurant Nguyen Phi at 6260 Ch De La Cote-Des-Neiges (across Kent Park).

                                                                      #11 is their house special pho with all types of meat. The vermicelli dishes are delicious, and the chicken pho has a clean delicious chicken-soupy broth. I like this place because the broth is clean tasting and not so oily.

                                                                      The prices are cheaper than Pho Lien and Pho Bang New York; and their portions are much bigger- more noodles and meat. Also I find their broth most balanced - not too meaty tasting, not too clove/cinnamon-ny- lots of spring onions, white onion and coriander.

                                                                      Pho Hoa, close by is also good, cheap, and more beefy/oily tasting. They have great combo deals.

                                                                      New York Cafe
                                                                      666 Rue Sherbrooke, Lachine, QC H8S1G9, CA

                                                                      Restaurant Nguyen Phi
                                                                      6260 Ch De La Cote-Des-Neiges, Montreal, QC H3S2A3, CA

                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                      1. re: yumyum123

                                                                        Thanks for the recommendation for Nguyen Phi! We tried it the other day and we really enjoyed it.

                                                                        We started out with the green papaya and dried beef salad which really was the best I've tried in town. It was so fragrant and refreshing. The vinaigrette didn't taste too much of fish sauce, which I've found to be the case at other restaurants, and beef was cut differently than I'd seen before. The salad was topped with a generous portion chopped basil which I found really complimented the other ingredients.

                                                                        I tried the #12 (rare beef) soup and my companion had the #11 mentioned above. I personally love meaty tasting broth and this broth tasted adequately so. You're right that it is not overly clovey, as well. I did detect some MSG but it was not overpowering. The portion of noodles in my bowl was very generous as was my portion rare beef. My dinner partner, however, did mention later that he found the portion of meat in his to be quite stingy - there was a single meatball, a diminutive helping of tripe, and no tendon at all.

                                                                        The best part of the meal for me was the 3-couleurs (che ba mau). The mung bean paste seemed to be infused with some kind of tropical fruit or syrup that really added a beautiful note to the dessert. I've ordered this in many pho restaurants across Montreal and I have never tasted anything like it. It was super tasty and I can't wait to have it again.

                                                                        Thanks again for the recco. We will probably be going back there. They seem to be doing brisque business and I'm not surprised.

                                                                        One last thing: I'm not really sure what you mean by "clean tasting" broth. Can you please elaborate?

                                                                        1. re: mainsqueeze

                                                                          Went to Pho Saigon VIP in the Concordia area a few days ago with two friends. We had the lunch special which included an imperial roll and good sized bowl of pho for only $7. The pho was pretty good, nice and hot with all of the usual ingredients included. My friends both tried the one with beef and I had the chicken pho. We also tried the deep fried ice cream, very interesting as the ice cream was inside a dough like material. That was only $4.

                                                                          Good deal as the total bill was under $30 for 3 people.

                                                                          1. re: jonny8

                                                                            PHO Saigon VIP great Pho very tasty. Wilson the owner is always there to greet and serve. Food is fresh, great atmosphere and very relaxing. We make a weekly trip from Laval to enjoy the meal .

                                                                            1. re: Van Nissen

                                                                              I love Pho Saigon VIP but not for the pho which is good but not great. The service is always top-of-the-notch (sic) and that's why I go back when I'm in the area and need my pho fix. The best thing about Pho Saigon VIP as far as I'm concerned is that they play Canadiens games on the flat-screen. Where else can you watch the game while eating pho? Two of my great loves combined! If you're coming from Laval there are other places with much better soup. I've never tried their other dishes, though and they might be fantastic. I did see someone eating banh xeo minh that looked really good.

                                                                              1. re: Tiny Iota

                                                                                What places are you aware of up in Laval that are decent?

                                                                                1. re: Van Nissen

                                                                                  I have no idea as I'm never there. There must be some good stuff somewhere. If there isn't a thread already someone should start one.

                                                                          2. re: mainsqueeze

                                                                            Mainsqueeze, glad you like Nguyen Phi! It's my regular joint for pho fixes.

                                                                            I also really like their 3 couleurs too! One of the best in the city, in my opinion.

                                                                            What I mean by 'clean tasting' broth - is not in lack of flavour per se, but rather in the amount of oiliness you get when you spoon it. I find their broth less oily than other vietnamese restos. I think the oil comes out from the meat that they boil for hours on end. They do a good job in taking out a lot of the oil that surfaces to the top.

                                                                              1. re: hungryann

                                                                                I think it's call che ba mau in Vietnamese (someone please correct me if I am wrong) - also sometimes called a Rainbow. It's a drink/dessert/snack - a layer of mung bean paste, a layer of red bean, a layer of green jelly, topped off with coconut milk and ice.

                                                                            1. re: mainsqueeze

                                                                              Dropped by Nguyen Phi for the first time last weekend. The place was packed at 4 in the afternoon and, after polishing off a "large" (i.e. medium) bowl of #11, which the waiter described as "all dressed" (!), I could understand why. My first sip of the broth brought a smile to my face: good enough on its own that a few drops of lime juice was the only adulteration required. The meat was of high quality, though as your dining partner noted, the portion of tripe was tiny. Oddly, the last few spoonfuls of broth were a little clovier than I like, which had me thinking that Pho Lien still took the crown -- but I've not been there in a while and wattacetti's report below is distressing. In any case, Nguyen Phi is a winner and easy to combine with a visit to the Kim Phat store on the corner of CDN and Goyer.

                                                                          3. Try also: Ong Ca Can, 79 St. Catherine St. East. This is one of Montreal's oldest Vietnamese restaurants, recently renovated and clean. I remember going there as far back as the early 1980s. Very good pho and Vietnamese food. Low on (or no) MSG - you don't get that nasty thirsty feeling after eating there. Try also the excellent soupe tonkinoise.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Jasper1

                                                                              Went be Ong Ca Can today and it didn't seem to have Pho on its menu, it was also closed though so maybe I just didn't catch it from the window.

                                                                            2. My personal opinion from what I've tasted in Montreal..... Pho Tay Ho on St.Denis just south of Beaubien is heads above the rest of the pack..... their Chicken Pho and rare beef salad are amazing..... as is their beef.... but my favorite dish is their version of Bun Cha (BBQ pork belly in broth with noodles on the side).....

                                                                              1. So after craving it for awhile, finally had the Bun Bo Hue at Pho Lien and was disappointed: not spicy, skimpy on meat and noodles. *sigh*
                                                                                Any other recs so I can satisfy the craving?

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: chilipepper

                                                                                  Bun Viet in the Plaza St-Hubert would fit the bill. Ridiculously spicy and flavorful.. the pugnant smell of mam reeks the restaurant, that's always a good sign

                                                                                  Bun Viet
                                                                                  7058 Rue Saint-Hubert, Montreal, QC H2S2M9, CA

                                                                                  1. re: mak2k

                                                                                    Try Pho Thanh Long at 103 St Cats. Had their special with everything in it, and the whole place had everything a good pho place needs, complete with tea, fresh garnishes, and wonderful not too sweet broth. try it!

                                                                                    Restaurant Thanh-Long Pho Vietnamien
                                                                                    103 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Montreal, QC H2X1K5, CA

                                                                                    1. re: mak2k

                                                                                      Tried the Bun bo Hué at My Canh 1086 St-Laurent
                                                                                      Good bowl, if you are white, you have to ask for the pork hock, and pork blood cubes.
                                                                                      Still, a good bowl.

                                                                                    2. re: chilipepper

                                                                                      I had the Bun Bo Hue this past week at Pho Bac and found it spicy and flavourful....

                                                                                    3. Pho Cali did a bit of renovation work about six weeks ago and it looks great. They covered the dated palm tree mural with a layer of neutral tan paint, replaced the worn tables and chairs, changed the cash register bar from the side to the back of the room, and set up a long table along the front window so that single diners have a nice view of the street while they eat. We went by for lunch recently and noted that the atmosphere has improved, and the quality of the food was as good as ever, if not better. The three colours I had was delectable.

                                                                                      1. Is there something that has changed at Pho Lien in the last couple of months?

                                                                                        I hadn't been since last year and went for a quick dinner yesterday which was essentially a not-so-pleasant surprise:

                                                                                        1. broth has changed; very heavy-handed on the cloves, missing some of the aromatic nuances in the broth and lacked depth

                                                                                        2. portions have changed (less meat, less noodle, only green onions); don't think prices change and I can understand having to cut back on elements to maintain a price point, especially when your portions are set by the size of your bowls.

                                                                                        3. sriracha has changed. No longer Huy Fong Rooster brand, this one is more yellow-orange in color and definitely sweeter.

                                                                                        4. hoisin is genericized

                                                                                        5. the pho ga is radically different; very little chicken, mixed vegetables (broccoli, napa, carrots) and a broth that was more Chinese-influenced than anything

                                                                                        6. minor, but don't recognize the woman behind the counter and there was this one server I also didn't recognize who was essentially losing it (she could have helped things by say, writing things down)

                                                                                        Anyone else been recently and noticed a change? Or have these changes been there for quite some time and it's just me not having made a visit?

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: wattacetti

                                                                                          I was just there yesterday for lunch and i was impressed with the amount of tripe and tendon that they gave me in my large #1. However i felt the broth was lacking somehow as well. It was still good but i agree with the assessment that it was lacking depth. We also noticed the new sriracha bottles but i didn't use enough of it to notice a change in its taste.

                                                                                          1. re: wattacetti

                                                                                            I noticed much of the same, and for much longer than the past 2 months, more like 8, 9 months. For more than 10 years, Phở Liên was my phở place to go. Something changed recently, and now the phở there is not even average; íts bad. I don't even order phở there anymore when I go with friends, though I still like some of there other stuff (bún' bò Huế).

                                                                                            I still see the same woman behind the counter last time I was there.

                                                                                            Phở Tây Hồ is my current favorite, but I am looking for better. I also like Phở Dakao.

                                                                                          2. Does anybody knows if there is a good PHo place on NDG? Sometimes you need a good soup close to home.

                                                                                            I normally go to Pho LIen but the place is so packed on the weekends, that there is no point to go with a young child expecting to wait outside.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: mzalce

                                                                                              IMHO the best pho outside Chinatown (where my fav is Pho Bac) is found at:

                                                                                              Restaurant Nguyen Phi
                                                                                              6260, chemin de la cote-des-Neiges, Montréal, QC H3S 2A3
                                                                                              Telephone : 514-344-1863

                                                                                              My SO and I have been going there for years and always have the chicken pho and the rare beef pho. Not a question of our adventureness but rather a testament to the consistent excellence of these soups. We have enjoyed pho several times during two visits to Vietnam and many pho restos in Montreal compare favourably.

                                                                                              Restaurant Nguyen Phi
                                                                                              6260 Ch De La Cote-Des-Neiges, Montreal, QC H3S2A3, CA

                                                                                            2. Pho 198 on Côte-des-Neiges, between Jean-Brillant and Swail. I've tried the raw beef pho and the chicken pho, and both were excellent. You should also try their shitaki sautes, they're very good.

                                                                                              I would also like to find a good pho place in NDG...

                                                                                              Pho 198
                                                                                              5193 Ch De La Cote-Des-Neiges, Montreal, QC H3T1Y1, CA

                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: fallabarie

                                                                                                Pho Lien.
                                                                                                The pho is very good for. Service is quick, it is a CLEAN vietnamese restaurant. Try the Che 3 mau (red bean, green jello, yellow bean - coconut drink/dessert) very good!

                                                                                                1. re: Annaosoleil

                                                                                                  I've been a long-term lover of Pho Lien and I admit that I've had some subpar experiences there recently. However, I went on sat and although my spring roll wasn't great and the rice paper was kind of soggy... The broth was out of this world! Still the best place for Pho IMO. And I have yet to find a 3 coloured drink that can rival the one at Pho lien!

                                                                                                  1. re: CookEatSleep

                                                                                                    Which Pho Lien are you guys talking about? I tried the one on Cote Des Neiges several times and it was terrible. Salty, flavourless broth and chewy meat. Is there one that I don't know about that's amazing?

                                                                                                    1. re: Tiny Iota

                                                                                                      I went over a year ago, and I don't get what the big deal is either. I've had better Pho in Chinatown.

                                                                                                      1. re: Shattered

                                                                                                        Yeah, Pho Bac is good and so is Cali but I haven't been there in a while. My favourite is still Pho Tay Ho, especially right at opening.

                                                                                              2. Which of the pho Vietnamese restaurants in Montreal are using beef bones as a base for their soup(around a 48 hour process), besides Ba-Le restaurant(mentioned in today's Montreal Gazette review)? As opposed with chicken bones, a cheaper option that takes about 6 hours to produce.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: BLM

                                                                                                  No one use Chicken bones, it isn't beef pho if you do and won't produce that distinctive complex taste.

                                                                                                  The right question to ask is: which one use bone marrow to make their soup, which produce a complex and almost buttery aftertaste.

                                                                                                2. Decided to have pho since I was in Cote-des-Neiges and tried Nguyen Phi on a whim instead of Pho Lien or Pho Hoa. I ordered the raw beef, tripe and tendon and boy,talk about measly amounts for an XL compared to other restos. The broth was nice and clovey, the noodles toothsome and the meats thin and not chewy as at other places. *sigh*Oh well, better luck next time.