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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"

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

<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/1826492/restaurant/East-Village/Mr-Red-Cafe-Vancouver”><img style=”border: none; width: 200px; height: 146px;” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/1826492/biglink.gif&#8221; alt=”Mr. Red Cafe on Urbanspoon” /></a>

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.

Baskets!

Baskets!

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.

96ThyPho-1724

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!

Pho-ology 101

Did you know that Pho came from Vietnam? Of course you did! But can you answer the other questions that our pholicious members had to on our Back To School Pho Quiz?

  1. In which country did PHO originate? (You better know this one…)
    A. Bonus point: What region did it originate from? (pick one)
    North  /  Central  /  South
  2. How do you pronounce PHO? (pick one)
    F’UH /  PUH-HO  /  F’OW  /  FO  /  FOO
  3. What is NOT in traditional PHO? (pick one)
    Noodles /  Broth  /  Spices  /  Beef   /  Chicken  /  Pork
  4. What type of noodles is in PHO? (pick one)
    Rice /  Wheat  /  Tapioca  /  Buckwheat
  5. What does the word PHO mean?
    A. Bonus point: where did the word originate from?
  6. Where did PHO broth originate from?
  7. What are the two traditional types of meat used in PHO broth?
  8. What garnishes are NOT part of Saigon PHO? (pick one)
    Sweet Basil /  Onions  /  Chili  /  Cilantro  /  Bean Sprouts
  9. Which spice is NOT in PHO broth? (pick one)
    Saigon Cinnamon /  Star Anise  /  Ginger  /  Black Cardamom  /  Clove  /  Thai  Basil
  10. Compare between northern (Hanoi) and southern (Saigon) PHO, which one has:
    A. Thicker noodles?
    B. Sweeter broth?
    C. More herbs?
  11. Bonus point: What region does Bun Bo Hue come from? (pick one)
    North /  Central  /  South
Pho-ology 101
Pho-ology 101

Here’s how our pholicious members did:

  1. Killer Pho
  2. Phonatic
  3. Pho Dac Biet & Evileye Pho (tie)
  4. Phosicist
  5. Count Pho

Here’s the answer key!

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

Pholicious 94-Pho Ngan

It’s September, and that means: BACK TO SCHOOL PHO! Well all right, not every student is back in school just yet, but no teacher’s strike is going to stop us from eating pho. In fact, we’re going to a place that even has student specials!

phongan-sandwich

Pho combos and specials

It’s been a while since most of us were in school (although some of us never left). But even if we didn’t have student budgets anymore, we still had student sensibilities. Pho-od combos? Yes please! The student+senior combo came with a small bowl of pho, with a spring roll, while the Pho Combo came with a regular bowl of pho, your choice of appetizers, and a drink. It bears mentioning though, that the description for the student special on the menus themselves weren’t accurate, and even the price was different (bleh).

Following the back-to-school theme, we even had a pho pop quiz!

Pho-ology 101

Pho-ology 101

Despite the school-themed festivities, we were there for one reason: pho! Pho Ngan is situated on Fraser street just south of 41st, across the street from John Oliver Secondary School. The interior was cozy, with paintings of Vietnamese farm life on the walls. Despite it being a hot and sunny day, ventilation was quite good, with big windows letting in a fair amount of natural light.

photo 3 (1)

Interior! Quiet at first..

Service was pretty good when we first arrived, with tea and menus being distributed quickly, but as the restaurant filled up, service suffered as it seemed that there was only one server. We eventually got our orders, although there were a few mix-ups, but the pho arrived first, then appetizers, then finally our drink orders. While tea was never refilled, there was a self-serve water cooler available – which our members liked quite a bit.

Regular pho, and student-sized pho.

Regular pho, and student-sized pho.

The portion sizes were larger than average, but the ratio of meat was inconsistent, with lots of brisket, and very little tripe or tendon. The quality of the beef was okay, although one member remarked that the brisket tended to be on the tougher side, although the tendon was soft. The noodles, though generous in size, were a bit over done and as a result, clumped together at the bottom of the bowl. The broth wasn’t quite as hot as we’d like it, lacked depth, and was over-seasoned, which may have been due to the higher than average amount of MSG. It’s also notable that we found slices of ginger floating in some of our bowls, which was missed by their strainer.

Sides.. for 4.

Garnishes came with the typical beansprouts, Thai basil leaves, and limes, which, although serviceable, was a bit lacklustre and on the small side for some of our members. 

The spring rolls had a crispy skin, had a good ratio of filling to skin, and was tasty over all, but it was a bit over-fried. The lemongrass chicken skewer was notably moist and tender, with good flavour.

Surprisingly, our iced coffee and tea orders came back in to-go cups already made, instead of the traditional Vietnamese drip brewers, which was disappointing. The coffee was strong, but also seemed to be on the sweet side with some off-taste with the condensed milk.

Pre-packaged vietnamese coffee

Pre-packaged vietnamese coffee

Here’s our review of the pho!

Regular: $7.00; Combo (+appetizer & drink): $9.99; Student Combo (+spring roll): $5.50
Beef: healthy portion, though inconsistent in quantity
Noodles: overcooked, clumpy
Broth: lacked depth, over-seasoned, medium-to-high MSG level
Presentation:  2 out of 4

Overall:  5 out of 10

Pho Ngan on Urbanspoon

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