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Good Pho in Vancouver? Does it exsist?

  • k

Hi Chowhounders,

I am new in town, moved from Edmonton where I have been spoiled by Pho Tau Bay (a pho place so popular, someone registered a domain to decipher its current open/closed status www.istaubayopen.com).

I have tried and tried and tried to find a Pho place that is similar in quality and price without avail. They have a full bodied broth (spiced/peppery) with tender noodles but the real game changer is their home made chili oil. It is so tasty, the chili flakes are soft so the texture is nice, spicy, a little garlicky and a little salty. There is very little MSG in their broth and the place is family run.

The places I have tried in Vancouver have been unreasonably priced or plastic noodles or overwhelmingly salty/msg or just lacking in flavor all together.

Have any of you sampled Tau Bay and could recommend a place for me to try? Or if you havent sampled, do you think you know a place that fits the bill?

Thanks!

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  1. Try My Chau on Kingsway. Which restaurants have you tried?

    2 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      Went with some friend to Pho Hong on Kingsway near Imperial (East Burnaby, close to New West) on the weekend and it was quite awesome. Great broth, good cuts decent chili oil but don't know about homemade.

      1. re: Jzone

        I was at Pho Hong a couple of days ago too, and it was very tasty. I liked their chili oil. Since it's a chain, their broth may not be homemade.

    2. I have had Pho in New York, Toronto, LA, San Francisco and Seattle. I think that there is plenty of good Pho in Vancouver. Le Do is one of my favorites as well as My Chau and Song Huong.

      1. I've had very good pho at Thuan An (Kingsway, about 3 blocks east of Fraser):

        http://www.shermansfoodadventures.com...

        Small place, can be hard to miss. Good thing now they painted their exterior a visible merlot color.

          1. re: LotusRapper

            Hey LotusRapper,

            I did find that but I didnt agree with his ratings lol so I kind of gave up :(

          2. I'm kinda curious what you think Pho should cost? Most Pho places in Vancouver are in the $6-$7 range.

            I jokingly think there's collusion between all Vietnamese restaurants to keep Pho prices at that 6-7, similar to Thai restaurants whose prices are similar whether located in Yaletown or North Burnaby.

            11 Replies
            1. re: moyenchow

              That is exactly what I think it should cost, a few of the places I have gone to were $8-10! I have tried a few downtown and on broadway but havent found anything particularly good.

              Viet Sub Vietnamese Cuisine - noodles were like plastic, broth was basically just salt
              Ha Long Bay - meh, it was fine but not good
              Pho Hanoi - meh again
              Red Pagoda (Commercial) - I think so far they were best, but this might have been the pricier one
              Pho Tan's Vietnamese (Kerrisdale) - pretty good, the noodles were a bit hard and kind of a hike to get there
              Pho Linh Vietnamese - this was pretty good but they put WAAAY to much noodles in, they ended up soaking up all the broth before I could finish haha, will have to try again
              Pho Goodness / Pho Express (Westend) - just meh again

              There was also this good awful place on broadway that i cant remember the name of.

              Sounds like Kingsway is the place to explore?

              Thank you all for your recommendations, I will report back :)

              1. re: kati3

                "There was also this good awful place on broadway that i cant remember the name of."

                Could it be Thai Son (about 2 blocks east of Kingsway/Main ? They're one of my faves.

                Or Pho Linh, a block west of Thai Son ? I've heard good things about them but have not eaten there.

                  1. re: fmed

                    Ooops maybe I mis-understood her meaning of "good awful". Kim Penh Xe Lua is definitely ...... AWFUL !

                  2. re: LotusRapper

                    It was actually a taste of Vietnam - just passed it today driving down broadway.

                  3. re: kati3

                    I think I see your problem and why you are paying more, the good Pho and Vietnamese restaurants are in East Vancouver in particular Kingsway between Victoria & Fraser, not in Downtown or West part of Vancouver.

                    B/c of cheaper rents, most places in East Vancouver charge in the $6-7 range,

                    Just a note on Song Huong (my go to), they are Renovating their Restaurant until the end of September. Le Do is close by a 2 minute drive North on Nanaimo, next to the Red Wagon at Garden Drive & Hastings.

                    Happy Eating!

                    1. re: kati3

                      Ah - you haven't heard the Vancouver pho rule of thumb: "Don't eat pho west of Main."

                      1. re: kati3

                        You've managed to try a whole bunch of awful places -- congratulations!!!

                        1. re: brokentelephone

                          Pho Linh is okay but I like their la lot dishes better than their pho.

                      2. re: moyenchow

                        A Pho Collusion eh ?

                        Maybe Apple Inc. should look into this one ;-)

                      3. Have you tried Au Petit Cafe on Main and 33rd? They're more well-known for their Banh Mi, but their pho is excellent as well.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: CelesteH

                          Finally tried this one - was super salty last week when we tried it and left a funny/bad taste in mouth. We accidentally went in about 15 mins to closing and they didn't seem super happy about it. I am thinking we probably didn't have the best example of their food.

                        2. Do you like Bo Kho? Phnom Penh has an amazing one which I get every time I go there (Mouth watering as I speak)

                          I also highly recommend Hai Phong and Green Lemongrass (also while you are over there you can try the banh mi at Tung Hing) for vietnamese though I usually get things other than pho at Green Lemongrass (lots of different things to order)

                          My Chau is also highly regarded for their chicken pho (I thought it was okay)

                          All restaurants listed above (with the exception of Phnom Penh) are within a few blocks of each other.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: quddous

                            Thank you for recommending the Bo Kho at Phnom Penh!! I would have missed it if I didn't remember reading your post, and it was easily the best thing I ate there (butter beef, chicken wings were good but not mind-blowing) - The broth was outstanding, tomato was not over-powering, rich but still 'clean', reminded me of my grandma's ox-tail soup I used to have all the time as a kid. And the beef and tendon were so nice and tender.

                            I went to Hai Phong and they were sold out of pho - lol.... The pho at Green Lemongrass was good, probably my favourite so far, but have not been had a chance to try too many places yet.

                            1. re: analogarsonist

                              The pho at Hai Phong is not my favourite of their vast menu because it has a fair amount of what I call "sweet" spices in it (star anise, cinnamon, etc). My SO on the other hand is quite a fan. Agree with your comments re PP -- I much prefer the chicken wings at Hai Phong as they don't have MSG and both times I've tried the butter beef it was stringy. Again, the beef "sashimi" at Hai Phong is much better IMO, with more interesting herbs.

                              I also find the pho broth at Green Lemon Grass a little weak for my tastes but if you like it then you will definitely find other places to love along Kingsway. Happy pho-ing!

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Ah ok, I'm not a big fan of pho that is heavy on the sweet spices either, so I'll look forward to the chicken wings and beef sashimi at Hai Phong... and I agree the pho broth at Green Lemon Grass was a bit on the weaker side, just have not come across anything better yet. I actually make pho pretty often at home, but it requires some effort, so I need to find my go-to place for a quick fix :)

                                1. re: analogarsonist

                                  And don't forget the Viet crepe at Hai Phong, or the avocado drink if they have it. Also the bo luc lac is the best I've found so far in Vancouver.

                                  One caution about Hai Phong: I've had the odd javex-y shrimp there, not off or anything, just an odd taste.

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Awesome, thanks! Will report back once I try these out...

                          2. +1 for Hai Phong for pho (and many other things on their menu)

                            Agree that Au Petit Cafe is great for banh mi and bo kho but would not recommend the pho, especially if you like a full bodied broth.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: twinkienic

                              +1. Au Petit's pho I've never liked. But ....... Bon Cafe across other side of 33 Ave (SW corner of intersection) does a very decent pho, and very good banh mi's IMHO.

                            2. Have been to Pho Tau Bay. Is isnt a full body broth that some on this board may prefer. More akin to Pho Ga at My Chau.
                              The list of places you listed doesnt sound like places local chowhouders tend to favor.
                              And as suggested the better pho's are east of main and defo outside of downtown and away from higher rent area.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: betterthanbourdain

                                Pho Tan's on W. 41 Ave in Kerrisdale is pretty ok and possibly an exception to that maxim. And they are related to the other two, on Main and on Kingsway (Bby).

                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                  Just don't order banh mi at the Kerrisdale one -- served with iceberg lettuce, erlack.

                              2. For a lighter broth we go to Pho Quon 23 and Fraser, family joint, cleaner cuts, lighter broth. For industrial strength Pho Van on 17 and Fraser lots of everything. Have only ordered house special large for years with one ring of red and one ring of brown, sprouts and basil, mix and go!!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cucinelle

                                  Took me a few seconds to realize you were talking about the sriracha and the hoisin sauce :P

                                2. Doesn't seem like there's a lot of consensus here...

                                  Does anyone consider themselves to be pho experts / connoisseurs? If so, I want to hear your favourite :)

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: analogarsonist

                                    I guess these pholicious guys are pretty serious :)

                                    https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?k...

                                    Sounds like I need to try Pho Hong and Pho Tam...

                                    although they gave Pho Thai Hoa (the only place I've tried so far) an 8, and I probably would have given that a 6 - broth tasted artificial and too sweet, and left with that "too much MSG" discomfort.

                                    1. re: analogarsonist

                                      And there's the rub -- our pho expertise such as it is will be based on personal preference and experience, not to mention nostalgia. My favourite and still champeen pho joint closed years ago and I still haven't found another as delicious, though the hunt sure is fun. Keep on trying and you'll find somewhere you like.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        Well, yeah, pho's no different from any other food debate where there's tons of subjectivity and influence from personal preferene and experience, I get that :)

                                        I'm just trying to figure out which are the first 5 or so places I should start with... If you ask people from Toronto, the vast majority would tell you to start with Golden Turtle and Tien Tanh

                                        Figured the best way to do that is to get the favourites from people who are pretty passionate about pho, and have gone for the 'hunt' around Vancouver. Or maybe from people from Vietnam or have been there and are familiar with the real thing...

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          Agreed, grayelf. And pho differs from Hanoi to HCMC, so there are regional preferences too.

                                          I spent 4 weeks in Vietnam, which in no way makes me an expert, but I had a pho throughout the country (everyday...as much as I could...). In my view there's no such thing as "the real thing" beyond a flavourful stock with good body, a tender cut of meat, a fistful of fresh herbs, and well cooked noodles.

                                          I try not to overthink it from there.

                                          1. re: reiney

                                            You can say the exact same thing about any type of food - ramen, burgers, whatever - but that doesn't stop people from discussing their favourites

                                            And I know a lot of people have done that on this thread, but there's over 20 places mentioned here, and I was hoping to identify the 5 or so places to start with (I'm new to the city)... So, I was simply hoping to differentiate between the places suggested by pho enthusiasts vs. the places suggested by casual pho eaters

                                            1. re: analogarsonist

                                              Further to Reiney's point, I think you would just have to check out the ones you read about here and formulate your own opinion as to which 5 to start with. Having said that, IMHO you're safe to start on Kingsway between Fraser and Knight and do a pho crawl. Perhaps many of the top pho places in the whole Metro Vancouver are located along that stretch, while a few are scattered somewhere in East Vancouver along Nanaimo St, Victoria Dr, Hastings St, etc.

                                              1. re: analogarsonist

                                                From what I've seen, and maybe some other Van Hounds can weigh in, is that Vancouver has a TON of good to really good pho, but not much spectacular, amazing ridiculous pho of a lifetime kind of pho. As well from my experience, I haven't run across many "bad" pho places. They exist but don't seem to last long.

                                                There is quite a large Vietnamese community that emmigrated 30-ish years ago during the war scattered throughout the lower mainland and it seems there is quite a lot of good authentic pho around the GVRD.

                                                Not sure if that answers your question, but really you can go just about anywhere and it probably won't be bad, so just try them all and enjoy them all :-)

                                                1. re: Jzone

                                                  I find the pho ga at My Chau to be spectacular and possibly even a wee bit life changing. Haven't found a chicken pho that is a patch on it.

                                                  Agree re the beef versions though. I've rarely had one that wasn't at least serviceable in the many random Viet places I've wandered into but no pho-bo-of-a-lifetime (yet) in Vancouver. There was a place in Montreal, however, but that is fodder for another board...

                                                  Good luck to the OP in what is bound to be a fun and tasty quest.

                                      2. Being a YEG Tau Bay fan it is hard to find comparable in YEG. . For some reason well cooked at Tau Bay means rare and regular is usually well cooked. Tau Bay seems to do more with the raw sliced onions and cilantro than the YVR pho I tried last week at Pho Central & Pho Goodness on Davie and Pho Tan on Main. I liked all three for rare beef. The basil was fresh, limes and bean sprouts and peppers were green rather than the red Tau Bay. Tau Bay is really only Pho and they probably make the stock from scratch. If the chili oil is the game changer for you maybe Pho Tan on Main. Good luck.

                                        1. Pho Lan in Richmond on No.3 rd and Granville makes a kick ass spicy soup that had so much flavor. It's definitely one of the best tasting pho out there because of the spicy soup. Goes perfectly well with their al dente rice noodles.
                                          Go try it and lemme know if it compares!

                                          1. Le Do beside the Red Wagon on Hastings, also a family restaurant has their own tasty broth with a lighter tasting broth but still very flavourful, a good bowl and great grill all cooked fresh, made to order and with pride by the owner with his family, prepping, serving and making sure all is well.
                                            These folks work hard to have a clean place with good food. Never had a less than fine meal there, a real hidden gem

                                            1. Anyone been to Bao Chau? There seem to be some mixed reviews on yelp/US -- my mom is in for the weekend and she wants some vietnamese. I will probably stick to pho, but anyone had any bun dishes from here? How is the pho?

                                              As a side note I did try both Pho Linh and Le Do -- they were both an improvement to my previous endeavors. I am probably going to try My Chao next since many people on this board seem to like it.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: kati3

                                                Do a search, there's three other threads mentioning BC.

                                                BC has pretty good cha giao (fried spring rolls) but my own experience with the rolls tells me they're not as good as they used to be (also price has doubled to around $2 each). The place is dirty IMO, and their pho and bun are average. If you're sticking to that 'hood, you may as well walk a block east to Le Petit Saigon. Or go 4 blocks west over to Le Do just west of Nanaimo (beside Red Wagon diner).

                                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                                  +1 on Petit Saigon (at least for Pho), it's the better option in that immediate vicinity over Bao Chau. Haven't been to Le Do myself.

                                                2. re: kati3

                                                  So I finally made it to bau chau and actually found their pho to be really tasty (as always with many places in van, a little on the salty side). They also make their sate chili oil in my preferred method without the crunchy chili flakes. I found the place to have a little character but not any dirtier than many of the other viet restaurants in the city.

                                                  I also really quite like pho tam at the surrey central station but find their broth to be a littl weak sometimes.