Pho No. 1
Neighbourhood: West End
Address: 81 Isabel Street
The gospel of comfort food is being preached throughout the city, and steaming bowls of soup make Pho No. 1 a restaurant to be praised. The young, families and suits from downtown frequent this busy corner spot, which draws patrons with wallet-friendly prices. During peak hours (noon and around 6 pm) a seat can be hard to find, as eager patrons await fragrant bowls of broth. A revolving door of mid-afternoon and evening noshers keeps cooks busy and seats filled.Between slurps, the happy buzz of chatter creates an ideal atmosphere for winding down after a long day. Service is efficient and food arrives lightning fast, with minimal talk and interaction with staff.
The menu, an overwhelming variety of soups, seafood and sizzling dishes, keeps diners undecidedly flipping pages. Rice vermicelli, congee and vegetarian items make up four-dozen choices.
A classic mirepoix of celery, carrots and onions is the basis for many dishes – accented with other vegetables and meats to birth more than 200 results.
Of this massive array of options, tom yum is dependably divine. Originating in Thailand and Laos, the soup’s flavour stems from a mix of lemongrass, kaffir lime, lemon juice, chilli-pepper sauce and fish sauce. Chicken and fish are common components of this hot and sour dish. The bright orange broth of Pho No. 1’s coconut version may seem threatening, but a sip of the creamy soup reveals it to be delicately sweet and salty, coconut milk neutralizing burn.
With reliable quality and disarming simplicity, a long-standing reputation for fresh food made fast is the secret to this mainstay’s longevity.