Location: 2572 Birchmount Road, Scarborough
Bun Rieu — a Vietnamese crab noodle soup — is one of those dishes that’s everything at once. It’s alternately sweet, salty, savoury, meaty, fishy, and sour. It’s quite rich, but vibrant enough that it never feels overly heavy.
The version at Bong Lua isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s quite tasty. The broth lacks the rich complexity of the best versions of this dish, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
There’s a great interplay between the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and the fishy funk from the crab. That’s not the mention the chewy rice noodles, which suit the dish perfectly. It’s a solid bowl of soup.
Location: 1248 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
I’ve always liked Vietnamese food, but I feel like I’ve spent the majority of my life seriously underrating it. I’ve recently discovered that Vietnamese cuisine can be downright magical, with a vibrancy and depth of flavour that’s irresistible.
And there’s so much more to it than the obvious choices like pho and banh mi (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those dishes).
Case in point: the bun rieu at I Love Pho 2, a zingy noodle soup made with a tomato- and crab-based broth that’s absolutely crammed with stuff: sliced beef, sliced pork, ground pork, tomato, blood cake, fried tofu, fried onions, fresh herbs, and a whole plate’s worth of crunchy veggies, not to mention the heaping portion of soft, chewy rice noodles.
It’s amazingly good. There’s a really delightful variety of flavours and textures — sometimes, the meat in a soup like this can taste off or be a little tough, but everything here was great.
It’s the broth, however, that makes this dish so special. It has a really rich seafood/crab flavour, with a nice zinginess from the tomato and a mild sweetness that rounds things out. It was incredibly satisfying.
It was also an amazing value — I got the medium size, which cost about ten bucks and came with an almost comically oversized bowl that was filled to the brim and absolutely crammed with noodles and various meats.
Location: 259 Queen Street West, Toronto
The pho at Pho Vistro was fine. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, and I didn’t dislike eating it.
But it made no real impression on me; my biggest takeaway is that it was food and I ate it. It wasn’t memorable in any particular way.
They have a few different varieties of pho on the menu; I ordered the restaurant’s namesake dish, which features beef and chicken.
The broth had a nice, clean chicken flavour, but almost none of the distinctive spicing you expect from a good bowl of pho. They have a couple of bottles of sauce on the table that add a nice dose of spice and zestiness; these are absolutely essential. On its own, the soup is seriously bland.
The slices of chicken and beef are okay, but they all had a vaguely leftovery flavour, and they’re all a bit tough.
The broad rice noodles are what you’d expect. They’re good.
It all adds up to a very inoffensive meal that I can’t imagine anyone getting too excited over.
Location: 3401 Dufferin Street, North York (inside Yorkdale Mall)
Mii is a small fast food chain specializing in quick Vietnamese eats. As far as I know it’s only in mall food courts, which kinda makes you think it’s not going to be very good.
(Also, the name seems like a lawsuit from Nintendo waiting to happen. It’s a bit puzzling.)
Well, I just tried their classic banh mi, and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. It’s certainly not the best banh mi I’ve ever had, but it gets pretty much everything right, and very little wrong.
Basically: it’s not the bastardization you’d expect from the food court in Yorkdale. It’s legit.
It’s seven bucks, so it’s somewhat pricey by banh mi standards, but it’s a hefty sandwich; considering the location, you really can’t expect it to be much cheaper.
Everything is as it should be: a nice slathering of butter, a healthy amount of chunky pate, a variety of cold cuts, and a good proportion of veggies and cilantro. There was some kind of dark sauce that was a little bit too sweet for my taste, but aside from that, it was a tasty sammich.
The baguette was quite good, too; maybe a little bit too crunchy on its exterior, but otherwise soft and fresh.