Since moving to Ottawa my wife and I have been on a quest to find a good place for heartwarming pho. Since leaving Toronto and our old Pho standby of Pho Xe Lua, we have been to a couple of Vietnamese restaurants looking for the national dish of Pho. We have come away somewhat dissapointed, nothing could hold a flame to the good beef broth and decent thick noodles of Pho Xe Lua. That is until today.
The main problem with Ottawa's Chinatown is the plethora of Pho places. Where do you go that is good and where to avoid? We were looking for a place with guarenteed good Pho before branching out to try others. So we turned to one of Ottawa's experts on food and of course the authority on books in Ottawa.
We took out the book Capital Dining from the Ottawa library from the former Ottawa Citizen Food Critic, Anne DesBrisay. She had mentioned the Pho Thu Do's Pho (781 Somerset Street West, Ottawa) as "...pretty darn terriffic" (Page 133). So this seemed promising.
We ventured down to Chinatown shortly after noon to find it bustling with people coming and going on a cold day. We visited the old victorian storefront, went up the short front steps and inside to find the small restaurant packed. But there was one table for two in the front.
The waiter quickley wiped the table down, retrieved some menues an order note pad and tea. We perused the menus for a little while noticing the long listings of Pho dishes. We were impressed there were more Pho choices than even Pho Xe Lua has in Toronto. It was hard to choose, but we eventually and signalled for the waiter to come over and pick up the order note pad with our orders written on it.
The Order: 1 #14 Pho Tai Bo Vien (Medium Rare Beef with Beef Meat Balls in Rice Noodle Soup) and 1 #15 Pho Tai Gan Sach Bo Vien (Medium Rare Beef with Beef Tendon, Stewed Beef Tripe, and Beef Meat Balls in Rice Noodle Soup) and tea.
Within five minutes our order arrived to our table. Service was excellent at this restaurant with three servers working the floor at all times welcoming guests, fetching things from the kitchen and cleaning whenever needed.
The Pho Tai Bo Vien was excellent. The beef broth was slightly different from Pho Xe Lua's broth but still tasty enough. The broth was not watery like at other places where restaurants might be watering it down to save on costs. The beef was prepared well and tasted excellent. The piece de resistance though is the quality and quantity of noodles. The noodles were thinner than Pho Xe Lua's but buried in that bowl was chop stick upon chop stick loads of noodles. It is a wonder if there was more beef broth by volume or noodles. Nonetheless the noodles were well prepared (i.e. not overly or under cooked). The meatballs though were cut in half as opposed to Pho Xe Lua's whole meatballs.
My wife enjoyed the Pho Tai Gan Sach Bo Vien. I'm not one for Tripe or anything not North Americanized in terms of beef. Thus, I skip this type and go with what I know. I've tried it once before and didn't really care for it. It is a personal decision really and not against any restaurant's preparation. However, my wife said this type of Pho was good.
The bill came pretty quickly as well when requested. Service, again is quick and on the mark when requested.
Overall, Pho Thu Do may become our new Go to Pho place. We will probably poke around at a couple of others in the area. But right now this one tops our lists in terms of price and quality of Pho served.
X Marks The Spot
2 hours ago