I've only really gotten into Pho in the past year or so, starting in Vancouver along the Vietnamese strips on Kingsway and Hastings where some excellent bowls of soup can be had. Following in the footsteps of pho review king Knightafter on the urbandiner forum (and now here!) I pretty much only order the pho dac biet (or whatever comes close to it), so all of my comments are based on that dish, which for the uninitiated is a beef based broth containing (ideally) both rare and well cooked beef, tripe, tendon and beef balls. I'm not huge on condiments, but I do add the sprouts, lime and basil to my pho.
I work downtown in Calgary during the summer and I get regular cravings for pho. So, I thought I would share some thoughts on the spots I've gone to for lunch during the past couple of months.
Today I had a quick bowl at Sunny, as recommended to me on CH. It's upstairs on 2nd Ave just east of Centre in Chinatown. The place is full of skylights so it is bright, something I'm not too used to in a restaurant! Sunny was nearly full, but I managed a table for myself in a corner. My regular PDB set me back $8. They have a large for an extra dollar or so. The regular was still big though. Lots of noodles and meat. The broth was excellent, it was very aromatic, hot and flavorful. The rare beef was truly rare, something I've found lacking in Calgary (it either doesn't come at all, or it's not really all that rare). The beef balls were cute little grape sized balls and very tasty. There was a lot of tendon in the bottom of the bowl, though some of it was not as gelatinous as I like it to be. Overall, it was an excellent lunch. So long as it's consistent, I'm pretty sure this is my new favorite for downtown pho.
My previous favorite was Pho Hoai in the Far East Shopping Centre just west of 1st St SE on 3rd Ave. The few times I've been there, the pho has been excellent with lots of meat and an aromatic broth. Sometimes the tea there isn't very hot and it can be hard to get service when it's busy, but the pho usually makes up for it. They have 3 sizes there. The extra large is the size of a huge serving bowl...
I went to Pho Pasteur just across from the Harry Hays Building on 1st St SE with my brother after seeing some recommendations on CH. The spring rolls were excellent, but my broth seemed a bit sour and there was no rare beef. Some people really like this place, so I'm curious as to what I should be ordering there, or if maybe I hit them on the wrong day.
On a quick lunch break, a colleague and I went to Thanh Truc on 7th Ave and 1st St SW. My pho was $10, a price point that I have never come across before for pho. If it was good pho, I would have been fine, however, it wasn't the best. Passable, but not anywhere near the Chinatown pho shops. The bun looked alright.
During a shopping trip in the south, I hit up Bagolac Saigon near Chinook Centre. The pho was quite good. Lots of meat and a decent broth. It did not come with basil or lime though. I just got a plate of bean sprouts. Other tables around me got basil so maybe they ran out when I ordered but it was still a bit disappointing. Regardless, if I were in the area I wouldn't hesitate to go back.
I know there was a thread on pho in Calgary, but I think it was at least a year or so old. Anyone else out there have favorites?