I solicited the group for Vietnamese Bun recommendations in another thread below. I tried as many of them as I could tolerate during my time in Toronto. I've now moved on, but I thought that I would add a couple final reviews and summarize my experiences in a new thread that consolidated my comments. Here it is...
The "reviews" are ordered by preference, with the better stuff first and the worse stuff last.
Mi Mi Restaurant (668 Gerrard Street E., east of Parliament)
Excellent. My favourite of those that I've tried. All ingredients are fresh and flavorful. Vermicelli are cooked less than anywhere else in the city. They are slightly "al dente", which means they have a bit more texture than elsewhere. Spring roll was good. Shrimp on sugar cane was sweet and incredibly juicy.
Ahn Dao (383 Spadina, south of College)
Very good. Pork is plentiful and flavorful. lots of veggies and greens. I could happily alternate between this and the Bun at Mi Mi. I've tried some other things on the menu and everything I've eaten here has been good. (Update: I eventually had a bad experience here. The spring roll was disgustingly -and maybe dangerously- undercooked and the pork was very fatty. This experience was depressing, but the rest of my 5 or 6 experiences here were very satisfying.)
Pho Mi Mien Tay (434 Dundas, east of Spadina)
Quite good. Very fresh, with lots of interesting green herbs. I'm not actually sure, but I think there was sorrel and some strange, serrated-leafed basil in there in addition to the usual mint and cilantro. Maybe it was some mint variation... I don't know. Pork was good, but it was thin and it seemed more fried than grilled (which is not that uncommon). Inexpensive and satisfying.
Pho Linh (1156 College, west of Bathurst)
Quite good, but not transcendent. Larger vermicelli; close to spaghetti in size. Spring rolls were the best I've ever had anywhere: Large and full of pork. Nice amount of grilled pork, but it was a bit fatty for my taste. Fresh-tasting and heavy on the mint. I'd go back just for the spring rolls.
Bun Saigon (252 Spadina, south of Dundas)
Good. Large. Satisfying. Everything about it was perfectly acceptable. Generous portion of thick pork. Small, very crisp, non-descript spring roll. Large-style vermicelli. I am sooooo curious about the menu item named "bowl of well-cooked pork blood," but I am too squeamish to order it.
Miss Saigon (394 Spadina, south of College).
Pretty good, but a little unusual. Extra large vermicelli (almost spaghetti-sized). The grilled pork was skewered and tasted vaguely of chinese 5-spice powder (like the bbq pork in chinatown). It tasted quite good. There was also some kimchee-like vegetable in the bowl. Not the usual pickled carrots, etc. Shrimp on sugar cane, on the other hand, was mostly flavorless and the sugar cane itself was tough and inedible. I think this was the most expensive one I've eaten. For the price, I expected better.
Peach Garden (42 Carlton, east of Yonge)
Good. The very thinly sliced pork was the most thoroughly grilled-tasting of any I've tried here. It was actually charred black in places, which is not the norm. Many restaurants seem to just fry the pork. Very tasty, but not as lean as I would have liked. There weren't a lot of veggies in the bowl and there were very few green herbs. Lots of grated carrot, though. Lots of carrot in the spring roll, also. It was pretty good. Square bowl!
Pho 88 (270 Spadina, south of Dundas).
Okay, but not great. The spring rolls were surprisingly good, but the pork seemed more like a thick bacon than simple grilled pork. (Why all the Bounty candy bars at the counter?)
Pho Kim Hung (?? Spadina, south of College)
Not great. Pork had a weird aftertaste and was kind of fatty. Spring roll was too greasy. I liked the large quantity of fried onions on top of the peanuts.
Sai Gon Palace (454 Spadina, south of College).
I initially thought this was the worst of the bunch, then I tried Xe Lua. Bland. Hardly any fresh, green stuff in it; seriously lacking in veggies and greens. Spring rolls were extra large, but not very flavorful and almost pasty inside. The pork was nice and lean. (Update: The first Bun I had from here almost put me off this exploration. The second was better. the pork is good, but the spring rolls are uninspired and there isn't much else in the bowl other than noodles).
Pho Xe Lua (?? Spadina, south of Dundas)
Tied for worst. I'm pretty tired of these things. Large noodles. This is the only place where the pork has included a piece of bone. I don't know if it was a mistake, but it sure was a surprise. Nothing memorable about this one other than the bone.
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