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Oct 9, 2009 03:50 AM

Vietnamese Food - Where Do You Go?

Hello everyone! I just moved to Toronto from Waterloo, and holy heck is it a big city or what! Downtown can be very overwhelming for a newcomer!

Anyways, I was wondering where in downtown some of you go for Vietnamese. In Waterloo, there's one place I've been to a few times and really liked a lot of the dishes on the menu.

Can someone please recommend a few restaurants and their specialties?


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    1. re: redearth

      Those threads seem to concentrate on Pho. This thread has some validity if we ignore phos.

      (To a Vietnamese person - how should pho be pluralised, if at all? After all, pho is a pho-enetic interpretation.)

      1. re: Paulustrious

        True that. In my limited experience of restaurants that do not solely focus on Pho, my vote would be for Pho Phuong.

        Pho Phuong
        1603 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6K1T9, CA

        1. re: redearth

          It shows the differences in tastes.
          I would have said Pho Phuong as well, for anything but Pho.
          Their Pho isn't bad, but not better than most very average Pho places
          It is the only Vietnamese that I am aware of that goes one step up for the rest of the menu.
          Although I have been to Vietnam only once, I wish there was a Restaurant in Toronto to compare even slightly to the finer eating establishments there.
          The French influenced fine dining is quite comparable to the best in Thailand.

          1. re: erly

            How so a difference in tastes? I was recommending it based on everything it offers besides its pho. To quote you, I mentioned Pho Phuong because it "goes one step up for the rest of the menu."

            1. re: redearth

              Sorry Redearth, I misread you.
              A funny story.
              We were invited to a Vietnamese Dinner Party at a Banquet Hall on Dixie Rd. this week.
              We were so excited, and thought, at last a good, if not great Vietnamese meal.
              It ended up being a Buffet, the quality of which I would not even want to elaborate on.
              Such a disappointment.

            2. re: erly

              pho phuong has unfortunately been disappointing for me the last few visits but i've yet to find an appropriate replacement. the duck in my pork blood duck noodle soup dish was looking worse for wear and ridiculously dried out. the greens just don't seem as fresh anymore. they've swapped the menu around a bit and the beef salad i enjoyed so much is the same price but completely sans the starfruit whereas before a whole one must've been in the dish. i'm hoping to one day do something like the whole fish that i saw served to one vietnamese family but it seems i'll have to get friendlier with the servers to get it! (which their attitude doesn't seem likely to allow)

              i'm currently enjoying anh dao in chinatown but have yet to fully explore their menu. they do a great job with their bun... truly truly amazing and i think it's because they use a lot of lemongrass JUST right. unfortunately there's no "house special" with all the types of meat and i have to get selective. good amount of herb too and no skimping though i've had a better chicken salad at home. their bahn xeo looks pretty good though and so i'll have to get that next time but i fear most of their seafood is likely coming from frozen so that's what's stopping me from getting the fish in claypot.

              otherwise i find most of the other places are better for specialization... bahn cuon, pho, etc. i still want to try kim bo but haven't made it there yet. obviously all my thoughts are "downtown" focused.

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                I find a sameness everywhere,
                and we have been to more than a dozen of the recommended restaurants in the GTA.
                Can't even say it resembles Viet. street food.
                Have not been to pho phuong since the Spring.
                Too bad.
                That means that we are back to zero for a tiny glimpse of what refined Vietnamese should be.
                I think that I will stick to app's and Pho.

                  1. re: erly

                    i don't think i've ever had anything i would say resembles what refined viet could be. i've had the opportunity to eat dishes from family recipes and know that what the restaurants are putting out are still so far from what they could be as well. c'est la!

                    my frequent pho phuong dining companion is convinced that i've just received the brunt of the bad experiences and should still give them the benefit of the doubt. i think the proper use of good fresh herbs is a start and anh dao is currently fulfilling that a bit more for me.

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      Anh Dao was the first place I tried bun and I really have never found another place that measures up. Some places don't seem to use any fresh herbs at all which is always totally disappointing.

            3. re: Paulustrious

              Has anyone tried C'est bon, on Yonge?

              1. re: lamaranthe

                C'est Bon is Chinese, not Vietnamese. It is good for what is it -- home style Chinese cooking, with some "Canadian-Chinese" menu options. Definitely some misses on the, but I've been happy with most of the items I've tried.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Thanks! Very helpful. What dishes would you recommend? Is the Crispy Duck any good?

                  1. re: lamaranthe

                    Sorry, I haven't tried the crispy duck. The mushu pork is very good -- make sure you order extra pancakes. The dry sauteed green beans suffer from delivery time in the container, but are still tasty. My husband loves the General Tsao, though I couldn't tell you whether it's good compared to other places. But it's real white meat in a sticky, spicy-sweet sauce. If you like Cantonese-style chow mein, they do a respectable job of it. I also like the mapo tofu, though it needs a bit of spicing up.

                    Do NOT order the kung pao chicken. Ick. Not authentic at all.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      I agree with Jo on the Kung Pao, and my one and only visit convinced me never to go back. I went there because I read something about them serving an authentic cantonese-style sweet & sour pork (wrong). Sadly every single dish my group had was beyond poor, really not very good. I will not return to C'est Bon, ever. :-)

                      Not sure about your geographical preferences, but in Scarborough, theres always Pho Vietnam on Kennedy between Ellesmere and Lawrence which is pretty decent and a little nicer decor-wise than a lot of Vietnamese places,

                      1. re: TorontoTips

                        I ordered Pad Thai at Pho Vietnam (a dish I've seen on several Vietnamese menus) and it took ages to arrive at my table, but oh man, it was the best Pad Thai I've ever eaten. They must have made it fresh to order. The best way I can describe why it stood above others I've eaten was that the flavouring was very layered. Each bite produced subtle and stronger taste sensations in a perfect balance. I will definitely go back to try it again, although I fear it may have been one of those serendipitous occasions that will never be matched.

                        1. re: CeeQueue

                          Funny you say that, because the Spring Rolls and the Pad Thai are the best items at Pho Vietnam, IMO.
                          But I'll admit that when I feel like soup I instead run up to Chai Wonton Noodle on Sheppard just west of Mc Cowan instead for their astounding HUGE shrimp wontons in soup with THE best mein noodles anywhere :-)

          2. Thanks for the tips!

            Interestingly, I googled pho phuong in Tornto and found a website that reviewed vermicelli at Pho Phuong. Just thought I'd share it:

            Are there specific dishes from specific restaurants that you recommend? I know there's lots of places and lots of different dishes. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about what and where to try...

            1 Reply
            1. re: food hunter

              p.s. that pho411 site does have a lot of information, but I'd like to get more personal recommendations.

            2. There's a restaurant on the corner of Broadview/Gerrard but I can't remember the name, perhaps others here will. Always been happy with their food.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Helen

                hanoi 3 seasons... which i do enjoy but is northern viet from my understanding and offers a completely different style than the grand majority if not all other viet restaurants in the city. i can't remember if i had it but their pho is quite distinctively different from what i remember seeing and that some of their best dishes to me involve a fair amount of dill which many other viet restaurants don't use.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  Hanoi 3 Seasons is a good place to go when you feel like something completely different, yet still Vietnamese. I love their Cha Ca La Vong (grilled grouper in the style of the Vong family) on bun noodles and fresh herbs. Both garlic chicken and ginger chicken are good. They offer many of their dishes with tofu instead of meat, if you desire. Their stir-fried garlic baby bok choy is sensational. Nothing they make is bad, but if you are craving traditional Vietnamese menu items, Hanoi 3 Seasons may not be for you. It is a bit more expensive, the decor is definitely a notch or two better than most pho joints and the service becomes chummy after you've been there once or twice. I like that the kitchen is open to the restaurant. It always smells great and you can peek over the counter to see what they're doing. I really enjoy the place, but if I feel like a big bowl of steaming pho, I'd probably head to one of the other places on Gerrard, as I'm always swayed by the other items on Hanoi 3 Seasons' menu.

                2. re: Helen

                  I enjoy Hanoi 3 Seasons, but was wondering if anyone else remembers the "Original Vietnam" restaurant which about 25 years ago was located on College just west of Spadina, and later moved to the Bloor/Christie area before it disappeared. This was my first taste of Vietnamese food so perhaps my memories of their food is flavoured with nostalgia. I remember ordering dishes and sharing them family style, as with Chinese food. Some interesting seafood combinations, delicious sauces, great Vietnamese coffee. But I don't remember any of the pho or bun type selections that are typical today. Only about 8 small tables? and the ornamental chickens sometimes under the back tables (but not in the kitchen because that would be un hygenic!) made for a "feel like you're visiting another country" experience. Any recommendations for a meal like this today? (OK so maybe without the mother hens clucking in the background.)

                  1. re: dory

                    I had vermicelli at Hanoi 3 Season the other day. It was good! thanks for the recommendation.

                    I just realize there are a dozen or so restaurants in the chinatown area that i could try, so i'll be exploring them for the next little while. pho411 came in handy!

                3. Kim Bo on Bathurst @ Dundas across from the hospital. That's where we go for non-pho Viet food. My SO's family is originally from Vietnam and they always go to Kim Bo for Bun Hoi (grilled meat and rice vermicelli wrapped in rice paper) and Bo 7 Mon (beef in 7 courses). For pho and rice (com) dishes, they like Pho Mi Asia on Wilson @ Keele, next to Value Village.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mmom

                    Can you get a Kim Bo slice there?

                  2. I still like Pho Vietnam, on Kennedy not far south of the 401 (just south of Ellesmere).
                    Decor is a little updated - very modern. Service just as perfunctory as every other vietnamese place I've tried. But prices no higher, and yet food quality a little notch above the others.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: FresserGuy

                      I agree, Pho Vietnam has consistently provided us with above average food, great service, a very clean environment. Going tomorrow.

                      1. re: spine64

                        Do they offer Pho to go or is their no such container?

                        1. re: Crispy skin

                          Are you talking about that restaurant specifically or pho in general? If you are asking generally then yes you can order pho to go probably any restaurant. They will pack everything separately and you can assemble and reheat at home.

                        2. re: spine64

                          Out of a need for comfort food and a desire to salvage the last of the good biking weather, I made my way over to Pho Vietnam today for a bowl of pho. Really nice, fragrant, clean broth (and I'm not feeling any MSG effects a couple of hours later), noodles just right (a little bit of bite left to them), tendon had just the right amount of resistance to it and they weren't stingy with it like some of the downtown places are.

                          Two minor problems: they didn't seem to have ngo gai/saw/culantro, which I happen to really like in my pho. And I don't think I was getting the whitey treatment - I didn't see it on any of the other garnish plates either. And my rare beef, while perfectly good-tasting, was sliced thicker than I like and yet still overcooked by the time I got it.

                          Their menu seemed more carefully edited than some Viet places, so I would be interested in going back to try some of the other things on it to see if they do them well. I do think I have at least found my new go-to place for pho in the area, though. And that's not just because they had the Colts game on the TV (although that doesn't hurt...).

                          1. re: Wahooty

                            No they don't have any saw there which is usually a deal breaker for me at other places but I enjoy their broth, fresh noodles and the beef is decent too.