Friday evening my wife and I headed over to just beyond edge of Ottawa's Chinatown to investigate a well reviewed Pho Place by Ottawa magazine's Anne DesBrisay.
Anne, a longtime local restaurant reviewer, formally of the Ottawa Citizen, tends to make excellent recommendations on where to eat and where to avoid. On the Ottawa magazine's website she chooses weekly lunch spots throughout the Ottawa area. Usually she lunches with different people to find out her accompaniment's recommendations and see if they are true. For Hu Tieu Mi Gia (121 Preston Street, Ottawa), Anne was accompanied by some Carleton University students who had recommended breakfast.
With Anne's recommendation in hand noting it was a Vietnamese Noodle House, we visited for an a couple of bowls of Pho and maybe something to nibble on. We arrived at 4:30 P.M. after taking OC Transpo's Route 85 from downtown that lets you off almost right in front of the restaurant across the street from the City of Ottawa's historic Plant Recreation Centre. Upon entering the restaurant, we had two wait about a minute for someone to click in that there were customers. We looked around to find no other customers were there. But knowing this place was only open since May 2012, perhaps it wasn't that busy for Friday dinners or perhaps the Carlton students who rave about this place were not around or had other adventures to be on. Eventually we were heard breathing in the front of the restaurant, welcomed and indicated we could sit anywhere we wanted. We chose a table near the front window and had a seat.
We were soon brought a pot of tea and two tea cups. I poured the tea to find it room temperature. My wife later on opened the pot to find it only half full. These two discoveries left us to believe the pot had been reused from a previous table and not cleaned and refilled. The only time it was refilled was when we were half way through our meal. Normally at other Asian places the tea pot is filled with hot tea before it is brought to the table. We normally drink most of the contents in the tea pot during a regular meal at an Asian meal. So a room temperature tea pot is not too appealing.
After finished perusing the menus we waited for the server to return. While looking at the menu I noted there was no option for Pho with beef balls, rare beef in beef broth without the beef tendon ingredient. This was strange as I have yet to find a restaurant specializing in Vietnamese food without this option. So for a "Vietnamese Noodle House", I found this odd.
The Order: 1 Rare Beef Pho, and 1 Rare Beef, Beef Ball and Beef Tendon Pho and 1 Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich.
We continued to sip our room temperature tea that tasted mediocre.
The Chicken sandwich arrived first, which is what we had expected to enjoy as a appetizer. The sandwich was not cut in half leaving us to complete this task with a regular table knife. No option of having it cut in half before serving was presented. The sandwich itself was the best Vietnamese sandwich I had including at the nearby Co Cham. The chicken was freshly cooked and augmented the traditional Vietnamese vegetable toppings.
The Pho came about 10 minutes later which was pretty average for a traditional Pho restaurant.
The Pho overall was subpar. The beef broth was oily. Oil spots could be found floating on the surface of the Pho. The rare beef was also not as good as other Pho restaurants in the nearby Ottawa Chinatown.
Added to the above, in my wife's bowl of Pho, a small piece of plastic was found. The plastic appeared to be a cut off from a wrapper from the food. Not sure how a piece of plastic ended up in the broth and not in the trash.
Overall, this restaurant wasn't even mediocre. We are not sure if Anne DeBrisay had a lucky meal or we had a not so lucky meal. With so many other Vietnamese restaurants in Ottawa, especially in the nearby Chinatown, we probably will not return to Hu Tieu Mi Gia.
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