***Updated September 4th 2019***
One of my all-time favorite dishes is pho, especially during the cold winter months (but let’s be real, I also eat it in the blazing heat of our Montreal summers). Over the years, I’ve eaten at many many many different Vietnamese restaurants in Montreal, trying to find MY favorite pho. The broth and spices used to season it vary from one restaurant to another, depending on the recipe used and the cooks. UPDATE: the broth also varies depending on if the restaurant is specialized in Northern Vietnamese cuisine, versus Southern Vietnamese cuisine. Apparently, I’m more of a fan of Southern pho, as I prefer mine a tad sweet and salty.
So, what is pho? It is a Vietnamese soup, containing noodles, herbs, spices and either chicken or beef (the broth of the soup is also typically chicken or beef based). According to Wikipedia, the origins of pho date to the early 20th century in Northern Vietnam and was exported worldwide by refugees of the Vietnam War. There are different variations of pho by region and city, on the spices and herbs used to make the broth.
To begin, I’d like to give a big shout out to Pho Nam Do, which used to be located on the North-West corner of St-Denis and Jean-Talon. I remember as a kid, my parents would take my sister and I there when we felt like eating Vietnamese food; it was hands down my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Montreal. Everything they served was delicious: the pho, the grilled meat dishes, the spring rolls, the imperial rolls, even the limeade! Sadly, they closed down a few years ago, but will forever have a 10/10 rating from me. So since then, I have been trying to find a replacement…
I was made aware in 2017 that Pho Nam Do is now Nam Do, just a corner away from its old location on St-Denis. I guess my tastebuds aren’t that great if I wasn’t able to recognize this said best Vietnamese place! Lol. I will definitely have to re-visit Nam Do and will update y’all when I do so 🙂
I’ve decided to change the way I rank pho in Montreal, dividing things up into 4 categories – Must try, Worth it if you’re in the area, Okay, Avoid – instead of attributing a score on 10 (cause let’s be real, what’s the difference between a 9 and an 8.5 lol). Also, please note that some places I went to years ago, so quality may have changed since then!
Turquoise Blog’s MTL Pho Hunt – October 2018 (newest reviews in bold) :
WORTH IT IF YOU’RE IN THE AREA:
- Pho 911 (Plateau)
- Pho Bac 97 (Chinatown)
- Pho Ong Rau (Villeray)
- Pho Rachel (Plateau)
- Restaurant Le Bambou Vert (Longueuil)
- Restaurant Oriental Ngan Dinh (Côte-des-neiges)
- Restaurant Sen Vàng (Côte-des-neiges)
- Dong Quê (Rosemont)
- Nam Do (La Petite-Patrie)
- Pho Cali (Chinatown)
- Pho Lien (Côte-des-neiges)
- Restaurant Mylys (Villeray)
- La Merveille du Vietnam (Rosemont)
- Pho Mont-Royal (Plateau)
- Zone d’Asie (Rosemont)
- Pho Bang New York (Chinatown)
- Restaurant Pho Ngon (Villeray)
- Pho Tay Ho (La Petite-Patrie)
- Restaurant Vietnamien Au 14 Prince Arthur Ouest (Plateau)
Dakao (La Petite-Patrie)
Dakao is a small Vietnamese restaurant located in the basement of a building on the South-West corner of Jean-Talon and St-Denis (in “little Vietnam”). According to my boyfriend whose tastebuds are more refined than mine, their pho broth is made with real beef stock, versus some other restaurants, who use a vegetable base for their stock. I, however, have not made this distinction. I’m not even sure I could if I had both bowls of pho in front of me. In any case, Dakao’s pho is excellent. It combines the perfect balance of flavors and spices that my tastebuds have been searching for ever since PND closed.
Restaurant Hà (Plateau)
One spot I love not only for the pho but their dishes and ambiance, is Hà. I used to live a five minutes walk away and the first time I tried their pho I thought to myself “wow this is it, I’ve found my favorite Montréal pho spot”. Unfortunately, the portion is small and the price is high ($14 for about a medium sized portion). That’s why I’ve never been able to consider Hà as my favorite pho spot, but more as a treat once in a while. What’s even more unfortunate is the last time I went in December 2016, the pho tasted different! And not good different. The broth wasn’t the same as it usually was and was definitely missing something. I’m willing to give it another try but not anytime soon. I have found other pho spots in Montréal which are better and more affordable.
WORTH IT IF YOU’RE IN THE AREA:
Pho 911 (Plateau)
Speaking of these said other better and more affordable places, we have Pho 911 to start us off. Pho 911 is a relatively new restaurant (it opened late summer 2018) in the Eastern part of the Plateau and serves up not just delicious pho, but amazing grilled Vietnamese meats, nems (some of the only in the city) and other South East Asian delicacies like pad Thaï. But, getting back to the pho, I loved everything about Pho 911’s pho. The broth was rich but not overly fatty and a touch sweet and salty; just how I like it. Prices were very good too and guess what? Pho 911 is a bring your own wine restaurant!
Pho Bac 97 (Chinatown)
Another pho-bulous discovery I made this summer, was Pho Bac 97 in Chinatown. I used to only go to Pho Cali and then one day, decided I’d try a new spot. I was not only very pleasantly surprised with Pho Bac’s pho but also their grilled meats. Their pho was absolutely on point; rich, sweet and salty. They also put a lot of green onions and coriander, which I love.
Pho Ong Rau (Villeray)
This is the latest pho spot I’ve tried and Montreal and I loved it. Ok, I only ordered the mini pho soup which came as a entrée to the grilled meats dish, but it was very very good (and so was the grilled meats dish). The broth was rich and flavourful and the noodles and meat were delicious. The broth was a bit salty though, but I like my food salty. Will definitely have to come back and order a large pho. **UPDATE: I did indeed go back, twice, and enjoyed a large bowl of pho both times 🙂
Pho Rachel (Plateau)
Ok, I might be a little biased here, because I live 4 minutes away from Pho Rachel. Since eating here in July 2017, Pho Rachel has become my new go-to pho place, because its so close to my house (I go at least once a month). However, if the food wasn’t any good, then I wouldn’t be going back again and again, right? At Pho Rachel, they’ve really “dumbed down” the pho menu for you, offering just 5 or 6 different soups. For example, if you want beef pho, they only serve and prepare it one way, with flank and raw beef (**UPDATE: they no longer serve the beef balls). Although I do like a sweeter broth, Pho Rachel makes a very good pho, full of delicious flavours, herbs and spices.
Restaurant Le Bambou Vert (Longueuil)
Another lovely discovery I made this summer was Le Bambou Vert, in Longueuil. Now that I live in Longueuil, I also need to find all the good spots on this side of the river! When I went to pick up my order (I got takeout) I asked if they had the best pho in Longueuil. The owner replied that according to her customers, yes, as no one had ever complained and people kept coming back. Well, I think she may have been right, as her pho was very good. The broth was just as I liked, rich in flavour, a bit sweet and a bit salty. However, some points were loss due to the small portion and the fact that takeout pho never seems to be the same as eating it in house.Also, bonus points, Le Bambou Vert is a bring your own wine restaurant!
Restaurant Oriental Ngan Dinh (Côte-des-neiges)
Tried Restaurant Oriental Ngan Dinh out on a cold and rainy April day, after finishing class early at HEC (this also happened to be the closest spot to the HEC Decelles building). I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste of the broth, as it had this little sweet touch, which I love in my pho broths. The portion was a bit on the small side for a “large” portion, but overall, I loved the soup and was happy to discover this new spot.
Restaurant Sen Vàng (Côte-des-neiges)
I wanted to go for pho with my sister on a Monday and guess what, a bunch of Vietnamese restaurants are closed on Mondays. So we had very limited choices and wanted it to be on Côte-des-neiges, so finally, we settled on Restaurant Sen Vàng. I was very pleasantly surprised by their pho, as it also had that sweet taste in the broth that I love. However, portions once again were a bit on the small side (I ordered the large, which was the biggest format). I also learned something new that day, which is that there is an herb called culantro (no, not cilantro) and it is supposedly better than the Thai basil leaves that are typically served with pho. Maybe it’s a question of what you’re used to, but I definitely prefer Thai basil. In any case, it was a bit of a educative meal 🙂 *UPDATE: we came back summer 2018 and the pho was still as good 🙂
Dong Quê (Rosemont)
I’ve already reviewed Dong Quê for their combination meals, but then I went back just for the pho, as I thought it was delicious in their entrée portion. I was a bit disappointed with the full pho bowl from this place, as I remembered it being very good in the entrée format but it wasn’t the same in the meal format; perhaps it was not the same broth? In any case, it was still good, but not the best.
Nam Do (La Petite-Patrie)
Tried Nam Do on St-Denis and Jean-Talon one night when Dakao was closed. The pho was good, but there was a little something missing in their pho broth.
Pho Cali (Chinatown)
One day, when PBNY was too packed, I decided to try Pho Cali just next door and I was pleasantly surprised. For a while, Pho Cali became my spot, especially since I worked only two metro stations away and was often at the Palais des congrès for work. I definitely think their broth is better than PBNY’s and would choose their pho anyday. However, I can’t praise their grilled meat meals, as I think they lack in flavor. But the pho is definitely a good choice.
Pho Lien (Côte-des-neiges)
Tried out Pho Lien on Côte-des-neiges, as the reviews online were pretty high. Although Alex really liked it, I wasn’t a huge fan of the broth. I prefer a sweeter broth. So to me, the pho was good, but there was a little something missing in their pho broth.
Restaurant Mylys (Villeray)
Got some mixed feelings about Restaurant Mylys in general, because of the poor service we got and the rip-off lunch menu deal they have but I’ll just stick to the pho. The raw beef pho I ate was good, but there was nothing more to it. The more and more I ate my soup, the less tasty the broth became.
La Merveille du Vietnam (Rosemont)
La Merveille du Vietnam is one of many Asian restaurants I’ve ordered from on Just Eat, when I have pho cravings and don’t want to leave the comforts of my house. Their pho is pretty good for a place you get delivery Asian food from (unfortunately no photo).
Pho Mont-Royal (Plateau)
The same goes for Pho Mont-Royal. According to my Just Eat account, I’ve ordered three times from this place over the years, huh. As with the other Asian restaurants on Just Eat, their pho is pretty good for a place you get delivery Asian food from (unfortunately no photo).
Zone d’Asie (Rosemont)
There is also Zone d’Asie on Jean-Talon and De Lorimier, which I also order from on Just Eat. Their pho is pretty good for a place you get delivery Asian food from (unfortunately no photo).
Pho Bang New York (Chinatown)
One of my first Montreal pho attempts after Pho Nam Do closed was with Pho Bang New York. I had read some good reviews on Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) as well as on MTLBlog. Plus, it was only a 15 mins bus ride from where I used to live. I went a few times, but never loved their pho. I always thought the broth was missing some key flavors.
Restaurant Pho Ngon (Villeray)
This year, I also checked out Pho Ngon, which my boyfriend and I had driven by many times on the highway and had always wanted to check out. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t like the pho. Overall it was good, but I found that the broth lacked in flavour, sugar and salt. However, Alex quite enjoyed it so it just goes to show that people have different preferences in flavours and whatnot.
Pho Tay Ho (La Petite-Patrie)
Tried Pho Tay Ho on various recommendations Alex had received and I left super disappointed. We came for lunch on a Sunday with two of the kids and the restaurant was packed full. We ended up ordering a few dishes, as we were 4: beef pho, chicken and beef pho (with chicken broth) and a grilled chicken dish. The beef pho was one of the worst I’ve ever eaten; the broth really lacked in flavour, there were barely any noodles and there was too much beef. Alex’s chicken and beef soup was even worst, it tasted like flavoured water. Although the grilled chicken dish was huge and well presented, the grilled chicken lacked in flavour and was dry. The imperial rolls, however, were delicious. I definitely do not recommend Pho Tay Ho and will not return.
I have also eaten at le Restaurant Vietnamien Au 14 Prince Arthur Ouest, (corner Prince Arthur Ouest and St-Laurent) but the pho was not good; even I can make better pho. I’ve only been once and would not recommend it for pho.
I realize there are many other pho restaurants to try in Montreal, I just unfortunately have not had the opportunity to try them out yet. Got a place to recommend? Leave me a comment 🙂 On my list of pho places to try out : Sama Fusion, Nam Quan, Pho Mymy, Nguyen Phi, My Canh.
*All photos and opinions are my own