As the weather gets colder and wetter and I get farther behind on my restaurant reviews, it seemed like a good idea to do a combo post of one of my favorite cold-weather meals; pho.
First up is Le Do on Hastings Street, officially named Le Do Vietnamese Restaurant, but affectionately called Pho Le Do by me because it sounds better. My standby is the pho tai bo vien – beef noodle soup with beef balls (pictured above) but I’ve had the full meal deal on occasion – pho dac biet – with rare beef, well done beef flank, tendon, tripe, beef balls and noodles and both are hearty, filling and flavourful. The meat is fresh and the broth fragrant and clear. Lime, chilis, raw bean sprouts and fresh basil are brought to accompany it with the usual assortment of sauces at the table. It’s $5.95 for a small bowl and $6.50 for a large of any beef variation.
For something a little different and still warming, the Mi (nuoc hoac kho) is interesting. It’s a dry noodle dish with soup on the side and comes with a shrimp cracker - by which I mean an actual shrimp cooked into a paper thin cracker – and prawns, squid, pork and egg noodle.
The spring rolls ($5.25 for 3) are also worth getting.
Le Do is open 10 AM – 9 PM seven days a week, so you are almost always able to duck in for a bowl of noodles, although one night when I went late they were out of rare beef which was kind of devastating.
Another good choice for unadorned pho is Au Petit Cafe on Main Street. Again, I most often have the rare beef flank with beef balls and vermicelli noodles. Of course the usual accoutrements of bean sprouts, lime, onions, cilantro and sauces add to the flavour and make for a tasty soup , but I did think that the broth could be a little less bland and oily.
The spring rolls are as good as I’ve had anywhere in the city, managing the balance between greasiness and meaty pork flavour without any effort.
For a bit of a more adventurous bowl, Song Huong Vietnamese Restaurant (one of 2 locations on Nanaimo Street) offers their bun bo hue ($5.50), house special pho which is a variation on the original in that along with the beef flank and noodles, there is also a blood cake, pork shank, beef balls, and tripe in a spicy soup broth. Shredded daikon is added as a garnish on top.
I love the spiciness of this dish (eventhough I tend to still add hot sauce to it) and the radish adds a nice touch of flavour as well. There are a lot of things on the menu here that you don’t see at regular pho joints, so it’s well worth checking out and if you need something less edgy for comfort food, they do the traditional beef flank and noodles really well too. The spring rolls are a little greasy for my liking, but my dining companions didn’t have any complaints.
Finally, Thai Son probably gets the award for Best Pho Closest to Vancouver, not to mention, a nod in Vancouver Mag’s top 101 things you must eat in this city. Which would explain why it’s always busy.
The pho is as comforting as a hug. Fragrant broth, fresh, thinly sliced beef, subtle flavouring of onion, basil, lime and crunchy bean sprouts. The Vancouver Magazine recommends the pho dac biet, which means you also get tripe and tendon in the mix (pictured above), but I can vouch for the beef noodle soup with beef balls as well. All the same, I wouldn’t say it’s the best in the best in the city. There are too many good spots that hold their own or offer their own specialties. Luckily, there are any number of cold, wet days in a Vancouver winter, which should allow ample time for sampling them all.
Le Do Vietnamese Restaurant
2292 East Hastings Street, Vancouver
Au Petit Cafe
4851 Main Street, Vancouver
2406 Nanaimo Street, Vancouver
373 E. Broadway, Vancouver