So we found ourselves near Pho Lien on a Tuesday for lunch. Unfortunately, Pho Lien is closed on Tuesdays, so we were out of luck. A friend of ours mentioned a place on Victoria that does bun bo hue (spicy Vietnamese noodle soup) even on weekdays, so we decided to check it out.
Pho Rang Dong is a small shop across from the Cote St. Catherine metro station. The place is not very fancy. There are metal table tops, and some corrugated metal art on the walls and acting as light fixtures. They have a tv in one corner, and today they were broadcasting a ubiquitous, cheesy and oddly entertaining Asian variety show. So we were serenaded by Asian pop music as we enjoyed our pho. The customers consisted of a large number of older Asian males and younger Asian students who ordered the largest bowls of pho I had ever seen. There was a steady stream of customers, but it was not as busy as Pho Lien usually is.
We did not see a formal menu, but there were cards at each table with 3 choices of pho and a list of beverages. "Regular" pho was offered, as well as bun bo hue and pho with rice noodles and beef balls. Each were offered as small, medium and large. As I mentioned, the large serving is ridiculously huge!
Hubbie ordered the regular pho. This came with sliced rare beef, but the meat was not very rare. The soup comes with a topping of onions, green onions etc, as well as bean sprouts, lemon and chile peppers. Disappointingly, there were no herbs like basil or coriander offered. I tasted his broth, and it was good, but not quite as rich as the broth at Pho Lien. Medium bowl: about $7
I had the bun bo hue. The broth had a thin layer of chile-tinged oil, and was fragrant. My first sip was underwhelming, but as I continued eating, the flavour of the broth continued to build and become richer and more satisfying. A spritz of lemon improved the depth of the broth considerably. The meat consisted of slices of brisket and a hunk of pork with a hefty layer of pork fat and skin. The noodles are the round spaghetti style noodles. I quite enjoyed my soup, but if you are a chile head, you will need to add a lot of chile sauce to make it spicy enough. I found the level of spice to be fairly mild. But the broth is tasty. Small bowl (plenty if you ask me!): about $7.75 (tax included).
We finished with coffee served with condensed milk, and it was excellent.
Overall, our experience was positive. I wouldn't go to this place instead of Pho Lien, which remains my very favorite pho place. But I will go again if I happen to be in the neighbourhood and Pho Lien is closed! It is a reasonable alternative.
Restaurant Pho Rang Dong
5690 Victoria (corner of Cote St. Catherine, right across from the metro)