Pho Hoi An is a Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant located on Sargent Avenue. It’s one of a few restaurants in a little strip mall, and is right next door to the Village Diner. This is a restaurant that I’ve been to many years ago, but haven’t been to recently.
If you remember late last month there were several days where the weather alternated between light drizzle and heavy downpour. One of those evenings was September 22nd. The date sticks out in my mind because it was the night of a Bomber game and I was walking home looking for a place where I might get out of the rain and catch a little bit of the game.
As I walked down Sargent, I decided to take a look in the strip mall on the corner of Young, and as I walked down I noticed there was a TV on, nd decided to pop in to Pho Hoi An. They had on RDS, the French feed of TSN, with the volume off. This seemed perfect, as I could watch the game and be assured that even if the the volume got turned up, I wouldn’t have to listen to the usual TSN crew.
The place was about a third full. So I had a choice of tables. I was able to pick one that gave me a good view of the television, and not so close that I had to crane my neck to watch. The tables are largely set out to seat four with a couple of larger ones as well. The decor is generally on the darker side, but not unpleasantly so.
One thing I liked about the table I was at was that the restaurant has caddies that contain chopsticks and soup spoons. I find at a lot of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants I only get chopsticks if I specifically ask for them, otherwise it’s flatware. By contrast, Korean and Japanese restaurants seem to go to chopsticks as the default choice of table ware.
I was in the mood for a full meal when I stopped in, and so I ordered the BBQ Pork salad rolls along with the special rice noodle soup with beef in Hue style (menu description).
The Salad Rolls were well stuffed, and full of a good mixture of meat and vegetables. The pork was tender with a good BBQ flavour to it. The dipping sauce on the other hand was a little on the bland side. Not one that you would want to make sure you ate as much of as possible. On the whole though a pleasant dish.
The soup though was excellent. The meat was fork tender, falling apart at the slightest touch. On top of that there was plenty of meat in the dish, so that I was still spoon some out at the very end of my bowlful. The other really good quality of the soup is that it is actually spicy. It’s not burning hot, and there is hot sauce available if you want that level, but it is spicy, and it lingers pleasantly for quite a while after the meal is done.
I was able to enjoy my meal at a leisurely pace, and although the game wasn’t over by the time I left, I did get to see most of the Bombers win over the RedBlacks, and without having to listen to the Rod Black.
Back for Bún:
My second visit I was also in the mood for a good feeding. This time around I chose the Deluxe Vermicelli (Bún), and decided I would try the calamari from the appetizer section. One thing I would like to be different in terms of service at Pho Hoi An, would be for the dishes to come a little more spaced apart. I received my calamari, and had only just made a start on it when my vermicelli arrived.
The calamari was reasonably good. The coating was crispy, along with a good amount of squid in each piece. The squid itself was chewy without being too chewy. Unlike the spicy soup, the spicy dipping sauce had very little spice to it, and was in fact quite bland.
However, much as the soup made my previous dinner quite good overall, the vermicelli did the same for this meal. Again the meat is incredibly tender, and the grilled pork has a rich, saucy goodness to it. The spring rolls are well filled and meaty, there is a good mix of vegetables, and dressing offers a nice, vinegary pop to the dish.
Going for the Sizzle…and the Substance
A variety of activities has kept me away from posting over the last couple of weeks, but they haven’t stopped me from getting hungry. So, a few days ago, I decided I would stop in one more time at Pho Hoi An. This time I chose one of the sizzling dishes off of the menu. This was also my only dish, as I wasn’t in the mood for a huge pile of food.
My dish was the sizzling curry beef. This dish really did come to the table sizzling. The heat was such that the dish stayed warm to the taste thought my whole meal. As with the other meat dishes, the beef was very tender. The vegetables were just past tender crisp, but not soft. The curry was certainly on the mild side, but still had good flavour to it. My one mistake here was not to ask for a bowl, so I received a plate to pile on my rice and then top with the beef.
Despite the cutlery and a little bit of a timing issue, service here is quite good. The staff is friendly and efficient. Each time I visited my water was kept full throughout the course of my meal, and my food arrived without too much delay. I’m definitely going to be stopping in again in the future if for no other reason than the spicy beef soup (menu item number 15). They also serve a very pleasant Vietnamese Coffee to go along with the food you order.