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Good pho west of Main -- Mintleaf Cafe

grayelf | Mar 5, 201005:04 PM

I don't want to get too excited as I've only been once but this month-old Vietnamese cafe looks promising. Located at 2026 Stephens (just south of 4th; 604-738-8330), it is small but nicely appointed and very clean. The proprietors come by their trade honestly -- dad runs Saigon Venture on Burrard, which I have not tried. We went about 7:30 on a Tuesday and it was pretty empty but we were greeted with a smile and everything was made fresh (except the pho broth of course).

The menu is quite small and doesn't actually include our favourite pho tai but they were happy to provide it. At $7.50, it was a bit pricier than our usual haunts but the quality was very good of all ingredients and it is only 3.5 blocks from home. The SO ordered this dish and pronounced it one of the best phos he has tried (I tasted the broth and thought it was very good also). The noodles were firm, the beef was fresh and the bowl size was between medium and large. With a salad roll, he was stuffed.

And speaking of salad rolls, we split an order of the grilled minced pork hash rolls (2 for $4.25). When they arrived, our server advised they only had enough pork left for one and so she had subbed the grilled chicken for the other. Good call -- both were excellent, with lots of lemongrass flavour in the chicken and porky goodness in the hash, which as I have mentioned before is my favourite Vietnamese meaty item. The rolls were a touch smaller than you might get east of Main but the quality and freshness more than made up for that, IMO. For my main dish, I had the curry chicken with vermicelli soup. Loads of tender, tasty chicken (deboned thigh, I think), super thin al dente noodles and a creamy yellow broth. Only quibble -- we both felt the broth was too sweet, which we mentioned to the server who thanked us graciously for the feedback (which was otherwise entirely positive).

We will be back for more, and soon. They also have a selection of banh mi at $3.75, some specialty "subs", various other rolls, rice dishes and (yay!) Vietnamese coffee. Oh yeah, I tried the Vietnamese lemonade made fresh and it was great at $2.50, though I'd likely ask for a bit less sweetener next time. I'm thrilled that we have this place so close by and if the Benkei Ramen comes to pass on West Broadway, I will be in Asian noodle heaven without having to drive!

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