"Jimmy, the owner, always seems to recognize his regulars and brings out special bites for them. Jimmy has been running the restaurant for the last 17 years. I must have been there every couple of days since the restaurant opened. My favourite dish there is Bun Bo Hue. The pork & chicken broth is lighter than traditional beef broth and it’s heavily spiked with lemongrass & ginger. The noodles have just enough bite to them and an earthy, rich, toasty, caramel-like lemongrass sauté tops it off. It’s served piping hot and packed with umami, with just enough salt to keep the palate satisfied for the whole meal."
"My Chau does a very straight forward pho; the broth is clear and delicious. The noodles are on point. I tend to shy away from rare beef pho in general. Here, I always get the Pho Ga Do (Fried Chicken Pho). The chicken is always crispy and pairs perfectly with their dipping sauces and hot bowl of well made Pho. I always, always, add some of their delicious Sate Sauce(Chilli/Lemongras/Shallots). For the seasoned pho eater looking for something more adventurous, I highly recommend their Roast Duck Pho. It’s off the menu. So you have to ask nicely. And don’t forget their house made sate sauce. Its really good. This family-run restaurant is a gem. Note: it closes early, 6 p.m."
"I love pho, I used to go almost every week trying different places and recently tried the one at Pho Win and it was delicious. It’s a new place, a mom and pop that’s spotlessly clean and I was really pleasantly surprised by it. I had a lemongrass scented chicken pho, which had a beautiful rich and refreshing broth; you could taste fresh herbs. Often pho places have a one-size-fits-all broth for all their soups but this one was clearly just made from chicken broth. The chicken was boneless and in the soup, not on the side–you could tell that it has been marinated and it was fragrant with lemongrass and ginger. Nice thin noodles too, a really great soup!"
"The service and the soup is so good at Golden Garden. I’ve never forgotten the first time I ate there last November on a cold and rainy typical Vancouver day. It’s family-run and you can always expect warm, friendly service no matter what. Also, the food is always delicious. I usually get the Rare Beef Noodle Soup or the Buddha Bowl Vermicelli with extra veggies. I like to use Sambal instead of Siracha to add that extra kick of flavour and spice. The availability of red chilli paste is a necessity for me and it’s nice to have a familiar space to go to. Especially during the construction period for Juniper—it’s cool that one of my first Vancouver dining experiences is right next door to my new workplace!"
"My sister-in-law is Vietnamese and when she’s in town, we always pay a visit to Le Petit Saigon because we both feel it’s the best place in town to get authentic Pho. The service is great and it has an authentic Vietnamese atmosphere. I get the Rare Beef Noodle Soup and always order Spring Rolls and Vietnamese coffee for the table. They give the perfect-sized portions and their beef is of good quality. I like to add LOTS of Thai basil leaves and bean sprouts. I also like to add spice by loading my bowl up with Sambal and fresh chilli peppers."
"I always order the #1 house special, which includes rare beef, beef shank, beef balls, and tendon. It’s a family-owned small neighbourhood spot with a homey feel. I think that the broth is really authentic; you can really taste the beef flavours in it, which at some places is not always the case– it’s too light here, the star anise comes through and the broth is a nice clear colour, not too cloudy or too dark."
"My go-to pho is BaoQi Eateri’s spicy beef noodle soup. It has a mildly spicy garlic lemongrass broth with beef shanks, beef brisket, rare beef and garlic pepper pork sausages, accompanied by rice vermicelli, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and basil. Their serene and intimate atmosphere coupled with delicious, warming-from-the-inside-out pho is a perfect match, especially on these cool, grey days."
"My top choice for Vietnamese noodles in Vancouver is a place called Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen on Victoria Drive. They specialize in spicy seafood soups with “bún” noodles, which are a thick type of rice noodle used in a lot of Vietnamese dishes (mostly found in Central and South Vietnam, whereas pho noodles come from the North). I go there for the Special Crab Noodle Soup, or “Bun Rieu”. They garnish it with Chinese celery and perilla, an aromatic herb and member of the mint family that's used in a lot of Asian cooking. The broth is very fragrant and light, but richly colourful as well. If you visit, I recommend ordering the cuttlefish cakes too!"
"It’s the best pho in Vancouver—it is killer. It’s not for your average person—every time we go there, we are the only non-Asians. The broth is rich and aromatic; it’s the real thing. You need to go there and see it. Have the house special, and while you’re there, have the betel leaf-wrapped beef, amazing. The ambience sucks, you are really just there for the food."
"I always order the #4—House Special, which is a combination of everything: rare beef slices, beef brisket, beef meatballs, and tripe. The beef broth is what makes it so good because it is sweet and rich, unlike other places that try to rush the broth-making process. I don’t add anything to it—apart from hot sauce and maybe a dash of hoisin. In terms of ambience, it is definitely a hole in the wall, but so worth a visit."
Where to go for pho? The chefs know...
VanCity is tough in the wintertime. We all know what’s coming: months of cold grey days with nothing but rain and gloom. Sunshine and blues skies will seem like a distant memory, and your only true companion? A pair of rubber boots. Winter is the time to take comfort in the small things in life, and what could be more comforting than a delicious bowl of pho? Fragrant with herbs, spiced just how you like it, each spoonful of rich broth is a small soul-warming victory against the cold and the grey.
We asked 10 of the city’s most fervent pho fans where to get the best bowl, in no particular order, here are their recommendations.
Nikki Bayley is an award-winning travel writer, guide book author and spirits and cocktail journalist whose work appears in National Geographic Traveller, The Globe and Mail and the Difford’s Guide. A cheese fan, hula hooper and all-round word nerd, she writes regularly for BCLiving about food, drink, spas and everything else that makes life worth living.