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Best Banh Cuon I've had in Toronto.

redearth Apr 7, 2009 02:51 PM

I was at Corsetti Meat Packers today, picking up 3 whole beef briskets (I'm attempting to perfect my Montreal Smoked Meat recipe), and was craving some pho for lunch. Well, I saw this little place in a very sketchy looking strip mall, just east of Runnymede on the north side of St. Clair, called Phoga Bahn Cuon. I decide to check it out. The place is tiny, but looks promising from the get go - it's clean, has only 6 or 7 tables, each of which is well-stocked with the requisite sriracha, hoisin, fish sauce, soy, and sambal oelek, along with the usual chopstick/soup spoon/sauce dish rack. There were also two younger vietnamese ladies happily and hungrily tucking into massive plates of banh cuon. Wow, those look, I thought (the banh cuon, of course - get your mind out of the gutter!). So far so good. But, I'm definitely craving pho. I sit down and peruse the menu. The entire first page is nothing but banh cuon. I'm guessing this is their specialty. However, I simply can't deny myself the pho I was craving, and order a small bowl of their house special. Inspired by the banh cuon, I order one to go ($6.50, the most expensive one I believe, is listed with vietnamese sausage, squid cake, and shrimp cake). My pho comes, and it is very good. The broth is perhaps a little too salty, and could use a little more spice, but it is definitely full of unctuous milky pork bone umami, resembling more a tonkatsu ramen broth than a typical pho broth. There is a very large quantity of meat in the bowl - perfect rare beef, loads of thinly sliced cooked beef (eye of round, not brisket, I think, which I found unusual), a nice piece of tendon, and some rather thickly cut tripe. This particular bowl of pho was very good, and I was satisfied when I finished and got up to pay my bill (4.99 for the pho, btw). The staff were very nice and inquired as to whether or not I enjoyed my meal. I happily replied in the affirmative, paid, grabbed my banh cuon, and headed for home. I had a few other errands to run before I got home, so it was probably about an hour before I put my key in the lock and dropped my groceries on the floor. The smell of the banh cuon in my car had been driving me nuts, and I just had to try it. All I can say is: WOW. This is perfect banh cuon - delicate but not falling apart rice flour wrappers draped around sauteéd minced pork. To accompany: pickled daikon, pickled carrots, bean sprouts, chopped scotch bonnet peppers, basil (not the whole stalk, but individual leaves ripped from the stems, for ease of use), vietnamese sausage slices, one piece of "squid cake", fish sauce-based dipping sauce, and a perfect little "shrimp muffin". It was all delicious. My only regret was that I hadn't eaten it when it was fresh. If it is this good an hour after it was cooked, then I can only imagine how good it will be when it just comes out of the kitchen. I will be returning soon.

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Phoga Banh Cuon
1772 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6N1J3, CA

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  1. pinstripeprincess RE: redearth Apr 8, 2009 07:19 AM

    i'm so glad you found this place!

    by far the best bahn cuon in the city but i could never remember the name of the actual restaurant and if it was the one with the yellow awning or the one beside the one with the yellow awning! the bahn cuon is excellent but on a recent visit i was in the mood for my duck noodle soup and that was quite awful. stick with the bahn cuon! everyone there is ordering it.

    6 Replies
    1. re: pinstripeprincess
      m
      magic RE: pinstripeprincess Apr 8, 2009 07:56 AM

      Sounds awesome. I'm going. In spirit I'm already there.

      1. re: magic
        redearth RE: magic Apr 8, 2009 08:01 AM

        Actually, looks like I got it completely wrong - the place I went to is not the one I listed above, which is on St. Clair east of Old Weston Road. The one I went to is in a sketchy strip mall on the north side of St. Clair, east of Runnymede. I can't find it online anywhere, but it's just to the east of Bigger Restaurant, a Caribbean resto in the same strip mall. There are definitely neon signs in the window that say Banh Cuon and Pho, but for the life of me, I don't know the name of the place... I will gather more info soon!

        http://maps.google.com/maps?near=2428...

        1. re: redearth
          pinstripeprincess RE: redearth Apr 8, 2009 08:09 AM

          see i think that's what's throwing me off.... pho ga would be chicken pho would it not? so from the sign i would have expected reasonably good duck noodles but no go. so a part of me suspects that it was not the right sign i was thinking of?

          either way... i like their selection of viet deli meats and think the pickled pork studded with peppercorns gelatenous-y deli meat is tops there!

          1. re: redearth
            aser RE: redearth Apr 8, 2009 04:47 PM

            Is there banh cuon better than que ling's? That's my measuring stick....

            1. re: aser
              redearth RE: aser Apr 8, 2009 05:11 PM

              I'm gonna have to say YES!! A resounding YES!! Far superior to Que Ling's!!! I'm gonna go back within the next coupla days, and I'll make sure to inform all hungry chowhounders of the pertinent details.

              1. re: aser
                g
                gtafoodie RE: aser Jun 16, 2011 10:32 AM

                I enjoy the banh cuon @ pho linh.

        2. redearth RE: redearth Apr 9, 2009 02:05 PM

          Okay, after mistakenly giving another restaurant credit for the excellent bánh cuon I had the other day, I went back to the restaurant responsible for the yumminess, and this time paid closer attention. The name of the restaurant is Bánh Cuon Thanh Trúc, and it is at 2422 St. Clair Ave. West. 416-572-0088 is their number, and their banh cuon was just as good today as it was the other day. It's a very small restaurant, as I mentioned before, with only six tables: 4 2-tops and 2 6-tops. I had a brief chat with the younger guy who took my order and who seems to manage the front of the house. They originally had a restaurant in Vancouver, and opened this one in Toronto about two years ago. The menu is quite short, certainly when compared to many vietnamese restaurants. The first 10 items on it are banh cuon (the dish I ordered both times was #4: Banh Cuon Cha Lua Cha Muc Banh Cong - Steamed Rice Rolls, Pork Sausage, Squid Sausage, Cup Cake), followed by three apps, 16 types of pho, 4 búns, 4 co'ms, or rice dishes, and 7 drinks. I highly recommend everything I've tried there so far, and I will definitely be back soon to try more!

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          Banh Cuon Thanh Truc
          2422 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6N, CA

          2 Replies
          1. re: redearth
            pinstripeprincess RE: redearth Apr 11, 2009 02:19 PM

            so... turns out we're talking about two different places. the one that i've been to is right beside your original link, pho ga bahn cuon.... it sounds like this place might actually be a new player to the strip.

            curious how the two compare to each other. at the one beside pho ga bahn cuon it sounds virtually identical to what you describe in that the menu is mostly bahn cuon dishes and that is all everyone is eating. care to do a taste comparison? i hardly get out there so i'm not sure when i'd get a chance to do it.

            1. re: pinstripeprincess
              redearth RE: pinstripeprincess Apr 11, 2009 02:20 PM

              It would be my pleasure!

          2. aser RE: redearth Apr 19, 2009 01:49 PM

            I went, and the banh cuon is indeed quite good, extremely cheap too. I had the shrimp and pork version for only $4.50. The rice roll skin is extremely delicate, will test your chopstick skills for sure. The nuoc cham (dipping sauce) is one of the best I've tasted in the city.

            Do not order the pho though, it is a waste of time. The broth lacked any subtlety, it was just weak overall on all accounts. Go here only for the banh cuon.

            FYI, they didn't charge me tax.

            1 Reply
            1. re: aser
              l
              LTL RE: aser Apr 20, 2009 10:59 AM

              I tried the same banh cuon with you on my first visit and enjoyed it very much. Best you can have besides homemade ;) Very thin delicate texture that doesn't have a strong flour taste. I also tried the pho and echo your comments - nothing special at all. Upside was the mints were very fresh. For dessert, I had the che chuoi (bananas in coconut milk) which was pretty good. I ordered another one to go, and would advise against it because it didn't taste very good after the journey home. I also had the fresh coconut juice with fresh young coconut slices which was as good as to be expected. Would have been better with more ice.

              On my second visit I tried the banh cuon that comes with pork sausage, squid sausage, and "cupcake" (banh cong or deep fried tapioca cakes). The pork sausage was average, squid sausage was a tad on the salty side, but the cupcake was perfection - hot, crispy and perfectly flavoured (neither too salty nor too subtle). In the future, I'll try to order the shrimp and pork banh cuon with a side of the cupake (if possible). The banh cuon was good again, but whereas it was piping hot the first time, it wasn't so the second time. In addition to the banh cuon, I shared the banh xeo (crepe type pancake) with my dining companion. The portion was HUGE! We could only polish off half and took the rest to go. Loaded with pork slices, bean sprouts and the freshest mints I've ever seen at any Viet restaurant, this item was definitely a winner. A word of caution, however - the batter is loaded with ground green beans so unless you're a fan, don't order this dish.

              Lastly, I do love the nuoc mam (fish sauce). Made a huge difference that they also offer freshly ground chilis with garlic for you to add to the sauce. That extra spicy zing was perfect with the banh cuon.

              The cheap prices offer great value for such tasty food and I would encourage everyone to try this place.

            2. BokChoi RE: redearth Apr 20, 2009 08:59 AM

              Thanks for the review redearth. Sounds amazing - now if I can only make an excuse to make my way over there....

              1. pinstripeprincess RE: redearth Apr 22, 2009 07:41 AM

                does anyone know the hours? i'm going to assume they're open during dinner time but i thought it would be best to check just in case. we're considering doing a bahn cuon taste-off between the place i'm aware of and the place redearth found but i'd like to make sure they're open before we go ahead and i've had no luck finding a phone number.... in fact the address leads to loads of links for barraida churrasqueira instead.

                2 Replies
                1. re: pinstripeprincess
                  redearth RE: pinstripeprincess Apr 22, 2009 07:53 AM

                  I've got their menu, but their hours of operation are not on it. However, their phone number is: 416 572 0088

                  1. re: redearth
                    pinstripeprincess RE: redearth Apr 22, 2009 08:08 AM

                    awesome thanks!

                2. p
                  peppermint pate RE: redearth Jun 16, 2011 08:56 AM

                  I had to run some errands in the west end yesterday and did a quick search of the board to find a good lunch option. Thanks to this thread, I popped in to this place and picked up a delicious banh cuon with pork and shrimp - SO GOOD. For next time, what's the "cupcake" that comes with some of the banh cuon dishes?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: peppermint pate
                    a
                    acd123 RE: peppermint pate Jun 16, 2011 09:46 AM

                    Thanks for bumping this thread. I missed it the first time. I'll stop in for some bahn cuon next time I'm on my way to Home Depot.

                    1. re: peppermint pate
                      1sweetpea RE: peppermint pate Jun 16, 2011 10:28 AM

                      That cupcake is usually quite dense, as a result of the deep frying (possibly after a preliminary bake in cupcake/muffin tins) and mung bean flour base. The ones I've had have a shell-and-head-on shrimp placed on top before frying. They also sometimes have a few whole mung beans incorporated into the batter, for texture. My jury is out on them in terms of like/dislike. The taste is fairly neutral. They are so heavy, though, unless freshly fried. The shrimp on top is crunchy and tasty. A Vietnamese shop owner once told me to either nuke or reheat a cold one in the toaster oven until hot, then cut into pieces and dip into the nuoc cham. My suggestion: share one. Cut into four pieces (fight over the lone shrimp). Your stomach will be happy you did, because you'll leave room for the banh cuon, pho, bun, banh xeo or whatever else you've ordered.

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