A Solid Sandwich at Banh Mi Saigon

Banh Mi SaigonLocation: 1133 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Website: None

It’s hard to go wrong with a good banh mi; it’s cheap, filling, and delicious.  And yes, Banh Mi Saigon serves a good one.

Banh Mi Saigon

The menu’s pretty basic — they have seven different types of banh mi, and they all cost $3.50.  I went with the assorted, which comes with the usual medley of Vietnamese cold cuts, pate, and pickled veg.

Nothing about it particularly jumped out at me, but for $3.50 for a hefty sandwich, it’s hard to complain too much.

Banh Mi Saigon

I will complain a little bit, though.  In particular, there’s so little pate that I couldn’t even taste it, the cold cuts were ho-hum, and the bread pretty much wrecked the roof of my mouth (though it was otherwise fresh and tasty).

Still, it was a tasty sandwich; it just wasn’t anything too mind-blowing.

Delicious Banh Mi at Rose’s Vietnamese Sandwiches

Rose's Vietnamese SandwichesLocation: 601 Gerrard Street East, Toronto
Website: None

Like many banh mi joints, Rose’s Vietnamese Sandwiches is ridiculously cheap.  I had the standard cold cut banh mi, which is crammed with meat and pate, and costs a paltry three bucks.

This is simultaneously amazing — cheap, delicious food! — and crappy.  There’s an unfair expectation that a lot of Asian or Latin American cuisine should be served for rock-bottom prices, which makes it unnecessarily difficult for the people who run those restaurants to make a living.

Rose's Vietnamese Sandwiches

I’m not going to rehash what many other people have written on the subject, but it does kinda give you pause.

Setting that aside?  It’s a tasty sandwich.  The assorted meats banh mi is the classic — it’s got Vietnamese cold cuts, chunky pate, pickled veggies, and cilantro.

Rose's Vietnamese Sandwiches

It’s really tasty; there’s a lot of meat, but it’s perfectly balanced out by the sweet, vinegary pickled veggies, not to mention the abundant fresh cilantro.  It’s definitely a contender for  the best banh mi in the city, though I think there are a couple of things holding it back from greatness.

The biggest issue: I wish it had more pate.  It has a thin spread of pate that’s entirely overwhelmed by the sizable layer of cold cuts.  You miss out on the satisfying contrast between the meaty cold cuts and the creamy, minerally pate.

Rose's Vietnamese Sandwiches

The other issue is the bread.  It’s certainly not bad, but the exterior doesn’t quite have the light crispiness you’re looking for, and the whole thing is a bit dry.

Still, those are fairly minor complaints — it’s a solid banh mi, it’s just not quite up there with the best that I’ve had.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

Bong Lua Vietnamese RestaurantLocation: 2572 Birchmount Road, Scarborough
Website: None

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.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

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.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

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.

Amazing Noodle Soup at I Love Pho 2

I Love Pho 2Location: 1248 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Website: None

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).

I Love Pho 2

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.

I Love Pho 2

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.

I Love Pho 2

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.

Passable Noodle Soup at Pho Vistro

Pho VistroLocation: 259 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.phovistro.com/

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.

Pho Vistro

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.

Pho Vistro

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.

Pho Vistro

It all adds up to a very inoffensive meal that I can’t imagine anyone getting too excited over.