Pholicious 100-Ha Cafe

Ah, autumn. The chill in the air, the changing colours, and, what’s this? The mall isn’t packed and no more kids everywhere? That’s right, it’s back to school time! This September we decided to go to Ha Cafe to celebrate the return of the school year, and the return of the Back-to-Pho quiz!

Seeing as how so many of our members now have advanced degrees, I considered making this year’s test graduate-level, but then again, you have to walk bePHO you can run, so it’s only Pho 201.. But even though half of the questions were from last year’s Pho quiz, there was still a noticeable lack of passing grades. But what do you think this is, SFU? No bell curve here! There’s always summer school..

Pho 201: Studies in Pho

But back to the pho! Ha Cafe is  located on Kingsway, diagonally from Crystal Mall in the Old Orchard strip mall, between a 5-pin bowling alley and a BCLC store. Although it was converted from a diner a couple of years ago, it still has links to its past with western-style soups and sandwiches on the menu, Blue Jays games on the TV, and a decidedly family-run feel.

Ignore the totally-random-people-taking-pictures

Just ignore the totally-random-people-taking-pictures!

Service was relatively quick, although tea refills became nonexistent as we progressed. We also noted the lack of the typical plate of bean sprouts, Thai basil, limes, etc… Such a mystery… (or is it? Cue mysterious music).


Chewy, but not crispy. If only they were cookies.

We started things off with an order of spring rolls. The skins were a bit on the chewier side although they didn’t quite have the crunch that we prefer. The filling was dense with a slight lack of seasoning, but otherwise unnotable.


Spicy Beef Noodle and Soup

For the pho, the noodles were on the soft side, and came with a somewhat lackluster broth that, although on the sweeter side, lacked depth and had an above-average amount of MSG. Portions were healthy, although the the meat was on the fattier side, and beef balls were not up to standards. We were also surprised to finally find the bean sprouts hidden in the bowl underneath the noodles, causing Killerpho to remark that she liked choosing the volume of bean sprouts but instead she was forced to eat a giant clump at the end. What a catastroPHOy!


Special Beef Noodle and Soup

Here’s our review of the pho!

One size: $8.25-8.50
Beef: healthy portion. Fattier, beef balls were sub-par.
Noodles: soft.
Broth: on the sweeter side, but lacked depth.
MSG amount: above average.
Presentation: 2 out of 4.

Overall: 6.3 out of 10

Ha Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What does McDonald’s, bubble tea, and pho joints have in common? That is, other than being places where I spent way too much time as a teen? They have stamp cards! Well, at least they do at Cafe Mai Mai which is where we went on the completely un-significant date of July 4th. Although we didn’t celebrate private healthcare and cultural melting pots, we did have special guests Pho-armacist and SleepyPho!

Cafe … err, Pho(?) Mai Mai

Cafe Mai Mai is located in south Granville near 70th Ave, and happens to be the old location of an interesting Japanese-Italian fusion cafe, evidenced by photoshopped photos of Vancouver, ads for chai tea lattes (not available for order) and…uh stock pictures in photo frames?

Vancouver PHOtography

But we aren’t put off by the decor. We’ve been to dives where the decor was much… Dirtier. So this place was quite nice and clean by comparison. Cafe Mai Mai also makes all food and dessert in-house, which led us to have pretty high expectations as Mr. Red Cafe also made everything in-house and we enjoyed the pho there quite a bit.

Stamp cards!


Service was friendly, and generally quite good although they did forget Sleepypho’s order. But this was a minor complaint. Once we got our bowls of pho we dug right in.

Pho dac biet


The portions were healthy, and came nicely presented. The (meat) balls were tasty and the beef was generally tender, although we noticed that those that got their bowls later found their “medium rare” meat to have become overcooked. The noodles were also overcooked, leaving them with a softish, limp texture. Now, Cafe Mai Mai advertises that they didn’t use MSG in their broth and it showed. It came hot, with a good beefiness to it, and although it was darker in colour, it had a light taste which our members said, could be improved with… Well, to be honest, some MSG.

Pho tai bo vien


The sides came with the usual suspects, but the chili peppers were noticeably missing. The spring rolls were nicely crisped but lacked much texture internally. The mango smoothie was also a bit disappointing with weak mango flavour and a watery consistency.

Vegetable spring rolls


Cafe Mai Mai has a pretty good premise: food made in-house, no msg, and a loyalty program. While the sides were a little bit of a miss, the pho was solid with good quality beef.
Here’s our review of the pho!

Sm: $7.95 Lg: $8.95
Beef: healthy portion. Tender, good quality.
Noodles: soft, bit overcooked.
Broth: beefy but a bit light.
MSG amount: none.
Presentation: 3 out of 4.

Overall: 7.4 out of 10

Click to add a blog post for Cafe Mai-Mai on Zomato

Back in 2005, our president-pho-life Bummiepho started a little club to go around trying the best resPHOrants in Vancouver. Over the next 10 years, she followed this PHOlosophy and visited over 95 restaurants, organized PHOlympics, had PHO-marathons, and even survived a website move (yes, it used to be on Xanga). And now, she’s pursuing her dream of a full-time PHOod PHOtographer in France, so we got the crew together for one last pho with Jo!
Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad

To commemorate her last pholicious meet, she picked Mr Red Cafe on Hastings near Nanaimo since it had authentic North Vietnamese cuisine and she missed out the last time we were there. Showing up with 14 people made it a bit tight, but the staff responded gallantly setting us up in the front of the restaurant next to their large array of green plants.
President-for-life getting to work.

President-pho-life getting to work.

While we waited for our PHOod, we quizzed our club members on club trivia. How much do YOU know about Pholicious?
1. What year did Pholicious start? 2005
2. Where was the first meeting (area, or restaurant name)? Pho 66 on Hastings @ Boundary
3. Highest rated place? In the 00’s it was a tie: Pho Hong/Bao Chao (9) in the 10’s: Pho Tam (8.5)
4. Lowest rated place? Gold Train Express (3) or Pho Express Ankor (4)
5. Farthest pho restaurant we reviewed (from Downtown Vancouver)? Pho Tam (33.4km)
6. What will Jo order today? Bun Bo Hue!
We also challenged everyone to take a PHOto of their pho “in the style of Jo” aka instagram-star. And here are some of the results!

evileyepho’s sriracha-J pho

Asymmetrical  mrsbeansprout

mrsbeansprout: square framed, like instagram

killerpho's mickeypho

killerpho’s mickeypho


beansproutpho: “messy pho”

Of course, since this was the last pholicious meetup for our prez for some time, we rated Mr Red Cafe one more time.

The pandan tea was quite nice, with a almost toasted-barley taste to it. While the amount of beef slices were less than other pho joints, the quality of the beef and the soup base made up for it. The garnishes were also noticeably different, which led to a less sweet/more acidic pho, but the clarity of flavour was notable. A fine place to send-off our PHOtastic president!

Here’s our review of the pho!

One Size: $8-$11.50
Beef: Few pieces, but the stewed beef in #15 was extra delicious.
Noodles: thicker noodles in the Bun Bo Hue, standard thin noodles in the pho dac biet. Soft, but not mushy.
Broth: Good depth, with a bit of a sour note in the pho dac biet, could have been hotter.
MSG: medium
Presentation:  2 out of 4

Overall:  7.5 out of 10

Click to add a blog post for Mr. Red Cafe on Zomato

When we first heard about a new Hanoi-style pho restaurant, we thought: “big deal.” After all, we’ve had northern-style pho before, and usually we haven’t been as impressed (see Hanoi Pho or Lam Hoa Quan) with the ingredients or the execution (maybe it’s the Communism). But then when we heard that this new place was serving up a hearty selection of Hanoi-style sticky rice, Banh Mi, as well as pho, all of which were made from scratch by a husband and wife combo, we thought, “wow, this sounds like a big deal!” So off we went to check out the aptly-named Mr. Red Café.

Littlest PHOllower is now a Teenaged Ninja PHOllower!

Plus, a bonus Teenaged Mutant Ninja PHOllower!

Located on East Hastings Street one block west of Nanaimo, the exterior has the stereotypical window writing advertising the food offerings and the restaurant name on top – all in bright red of course. The interior is arranged café-style, which one member described as “semi-modern,” with tables arranged in a horseshoe shape around a protruding island, with (you guessed it) red accents throughout. With a plePHOra of (real) green plants and (fake) red flowers around, it gave it a very live jungle-y feeling.

Plants plants everywhere!

Plants plants everywhere!

Service was quite prompt and friendly when we first arrived around 11:30AM, giving us menus and Pandan Jasmine Tea (although we could really only taste the barley-esque notes) as soon as we arrived, but as the restaurant filled up, service slowed to a crawl, to the point where our group was quite hungry before we started getting our orders – and even then, only half of our table was served their PHOod while the rest waited about 10 mins before their orders arrived.

Stir Fried Beef Rolls

Stir Fried Beef Rolls

Despite the wait, we were pleasantly impressed with the quality of the pho. While the broth wasn’t quite as piping hot as we would prefer, it was nevertheless tasty with a strong beefy flavor, with lots of depth and a spice/herbal mixture that gave it an extra mysterious quality. The Bun Bo Hue broth also had a very light red color (surprising) compared to other Bun Bo Hues, but the flavor (and spice level) was just right, allowing the broth’s beefiness to come through without being overpowered.

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue

While there was a good variety of meats in both the Pho Bo Dac Biet and the Bun Bo Hue, there were very few of each, and beef tendons were strangely missing from the ingredient list. The portion size of the noodles was also smaller than average, which was unfortunate as they were just the right amount of done-ness without being overly soft.

Pho Bo Dac Biet

Pho Bo Dac Biet

While the presentation of pho isn’t typically well-done in most pho joints, you could tell that there was some effort here in arranging the meat so that it was more than the usual haphazard pile of meats. Even the sides came in a neat basket with giant soup spoons. But, as it seems to be a theme, the variety and portion sizes provided of the sides was also on the smaller side, especially seeing as how it was meant for three orders.



While they did have higher than average prices, and smaller than average portions, the quality of the pho did stand out and it was clear that they took great care in their preparation. If only they could improve the speed of their service, it would be, ahem, RED-iculously good.

Here’s our review of the pho!

One Size: $8-$11.50
Beef: Good variety, but few pieces of each.
Noodles: al dente, with thicker noodles in the Bun Bo Hue
Broth: Strong beefy flavor
Presentation:  3 out of 4

Overall:  7.5 out of 10

Mr. Red Cafe on Urbanspoon

Pholicious 96-Thy

It’s November, and that means time for growing facial hair, Remembrance Day, and most importantly, Phovember! That’s right, this time we called out the crew to go to Thy Pho for the purpose of eating pho and admiring mustaches. That is, at least we tried to get the crew together, but our president Bummipho had to do a last-minute PHOto shoot, cutiepho was recovering from a rough night, and killerpho and phosicist actually showed up on the wrong day! But don’t be aPHOraid, we still managed to observe phovember with evileyepho and friend.

Thy, or is it Thy Pho?

Thy Pho is located at 5497 Victoria just two blocks north of E 41st Ave in Vancouver. The interior is a bit eclectic, with cafeteria-style tables bolted to the floor, and a variety of art and decorative instruments adorning the walls. There was even a couple of portraits of the owner, with one that looked somewhat reminiscent of The Kramer. But we’re not here for the art, we’re here for the pho!

The Vietnamese Kramer?

The Vietnamese Kramer?

The menu consists of Banh Mi, pho, and drinks, with appetizers (and spring rolls) noticeably absent. Service was average, with some slower moments despite it being a quiet Sunday afternoon, although our food orders came surprisingly fast.

Sadly, even though the pho came out quickly, the broth wasn’t quite as hot as we’d like it, and although it was clear and light, it lacked deep beef flavour. Portion size was a bit on the smaller size, with an unequal amount of beef slices to tripe/beef balls. The beef slices themselves were tender and were sliced just the right thickness so that there was some texture to the bite, but oddly enough, came in smaller pieces which gave them almost bite-sized appearance. The beef ball slices were also on the smaller size, as were the tendon, and the well-done flank was way overcooked and quite fatty. The presentation of the pho was a bit haphazard, which may also explain the unequal distribution of tripe and balls compared to beef slices.


Haphazard pho

Although none of us had grown a respectable movember beard, we did provide all members a handlebar mustache so they too could experience life as a manly stache-growing Ron Swanson to celebrate Phovember. Evileyepho was even gracious enough to complete a portrait of yours truly, which was then described as a “very good-looking Asian Stalin.” I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

Manly man, or Stalin-esque?

Manly man, or Stalin-esque?

Here’s our review of the pho!

Small: $7.50 Large: 8.50
Beef: portions on the smaller side.
Noodles: soft-ish
Broth: Light, not very beefy. Medium amount of MSG.
Presentation:  1 out of 4

Overall:  6 out of 10

Thy Pho on Urbanspoon

If you were to guess where the capital of pho in Vancouver would be, you’d probably guess somewhere along Kingsway, or perhaps East Vancouver. However, if you were to guess where the location of Pho Capital is, the correct answer is smack dab in the middle of Koreatown in Burquitlam. Located in a strip mall with (seriously) ample parking, Pho Capital took the place of a wine-making store, which is good for us, since we’re not here for wine, we’re here for the pho!

Seriously ample parking

Other than the large parking lot, the first thing we noticed upon entering was how clean the interior was. Service was quick and friendly, and the menu even had descriptive photos!

For the new and conPHOOsed

For the new and conPHOOsed

Our food orders came out super quick. So quick, in fact, that in some cases, the fried rolls were almost too hot to eat. But we soldiered through. The fried rolls skins were nice and crispy, although the filling was a bit on the bland side, the texture had a satisfying mixture of soft and crunch. Sides included the usual bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, lime wedges, and gigantic jalapeño slices. Seriously, these were huge. But these were merely side characters, on to the pho!

Gigantic jalePHOnos

Gigantic jalePHOnos

Pho come in small and large sizes, with a copious portions of beef. The tendon were tender, and one member described them as “delicious”, although the brisket was merely “okay, but not great”. The noodles were on the softer side, and the broth was light and clear, but had good depth of flavour.

Good meat to noodle ratios

Good meat to noodle ratios

Here’s our review of the pho!

Small: $7.40 Large: 8.40
Beef: copious amounts of beef, though some had different noodle-to-beef ratios
Noodles: soft
Broth: clear, light, flavorful. Medium amount of MSG.
Presentation:  2 out of 4

Overall:  7 out of 10

Pho Capital on Urbanspoon

In our last post, we showed you the back-to-school quiz our members took. And here is the answer key!

  1. Vietnam
    Bonus: North
  2. F’UH
  3. Pork
  4. Rice
  5. “Noodles”, or “Fire”
    Bonus: Chinese or French
  6. France
  7. Chicken & Beef
  8. Thai Basil
  9. Sweet Basil
  10. A. Hanoi, B. Saigon, C. Saigon
  11. Central

How did you do? Let us know in the comments!


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