I was at Corsetti Meat Packers today, picking up 3 whole beef briskets (I'm attempting to perfect my Montreal Smoked Meat recipe), and was craving some pho for lunch. Well, I saw this little place in a very sketchy looking strip mall, just east of Runnymede on the north side of St. Clair, called Phoga Bahn Cuon. I decide to check it out. The place is tiny, but looks promising from the get go - it's clean, has only 6 or 7 tables, each of which is well-stocked with the requisite sriracha, hoisin, fish sauce, soy, and sambal oelek, along with the usual chopstick/soup spoon/sauce dish rack. There were also two younger vietnamese ladies happily and hungrily tucking into massive plates of banh cuon. Wow, those look, I thought (the banh cuon, of course - get your mind out of the gutter!). So far so good. But, I'm definitely craving pho. I sit down and peruse the menu. The entire first page is nothing but banh cuon. I'm guessing this is their specialty. However, I simply can't deny myself the pho I was craving, and order a small bowl of their house special. Inspired by the banh cuon, I order one to go ($6.50, the most expensive one I believe, is listed with vietnamese sausage, squid cake, and shrimp cake). My pho comes, and it is very good. The broth is perhaps a little too salty, and could use a little more spice, but it is definitely full of unctuous milky pork bone umami, resembling more a tonkatsu ramen broth than a typical pho broth. There is a very large quantity of meat in the bowl - perfect rare beef, loads of thinly sliced cooked beef (eye of round, not brisket, I think, which I found unusual), a nice piece of tendon, and some rather thickly cut tripe. This particular bowl of pho was very good, and I was satisfied when I finished and got up to pay my bill (4.99 for the pho, btw). The staff were very nice and inquired as to whether or not I enjoyed my meal. I happily replied in the affirmative, paid, grabbed my banh cuon, and headed for home. I had a few other errands to run before I got home, so it was probably about an hour before I put my key in the lock and dropped my groceries on the floor. The smell of the banh cuon in my car had been driving me nuts, and I just had to try it. All I can say is: WOW. This is perfect banh cuon - delicate but not falling apart rice flour wrappers draped around sauteéd minced pork. To accompany: pickled daikon, pickled carrots, bean sprouts, chopped scotch bonnet peppers, basil (not the whole stalk, but individual leaves ripped from the stems, for ease of use), vietnamese sausage slices, one piece of "squid cake", fish sauce-based dipping sauce, and a perfect little "shrimp muffin". It was all delicious. My only regret was that I hadn't eaten it when it was fresh. If it is this good an hour after it was cooked, then I can only imagine how good it will be when it just comes out of the kitchen. I will be returning soon.
Phoga Banh Cuon
1772 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6N1J3, CA