Pho & Bun: Edmonton’s Fab Pho

The debate of where to go for the best pho in Edmonton is a hot and steamy one. But my twenty year quest to find a Vietnamese noodle house—one that could hold a candle to my beloved but long-defunct Vientiane on 107th Avenue—has finally come to an end. I found the finest pho—not in Chinatown, but in Forest Heights, across from the First Filipino Alliance Church—at a place called Pho & Bun. Hallelujah!

When I first walked in, I couldn’t help but react to the wall colour, a neon-pumpkin orange and the same colour of walls in the past two houses I’ve bought. I take this as a sign that the Pho & Bun and I are meant for each other.

The second thing I notice is how clean the place is. I am seated and given a menu by Tina Hoang, who owns the restaurant with her husband Andy. I peruse the menu but know that I will order what I’ve been ordering at pho houses for twenty years: beef sate noodle soup, and salad rolls.

The salad rolls include cucumbers, good sized shrimp and mint (so many don’t, and I’m not sure why because a little piece of mint adds so much flavour). All in all, a very good roll.

But the soup. Oh, the soup. As soon as it arrives, a whole bunch of aromatic goodness wafts up from the clear beefy broth. Star anise, a hint of cinnamon, wow. Each spoonful delivers layers and layers of flavour. I finish that soup right down to the last noodle. Not because I am still hungry, but because it tastes so good!

In fact, I am so impressed that I return the next day with my daughter. At 17 she is a pho pro, having accompanied me on my noodle quest for most of her life. She’s got the pho cred and the palate required to be a good judge.

Along with an order of meat-filled spring rolls, I opt for #14: beef & pork spicy pho while Erin orders #21: medium rare beef pho. It takes a lot to sway me from ordering the sate soup, but I am curious to see if other soups are as good as what I had the day before.
While we wait, Tina’s husband, Andy, patiently answers my questions. He and Tina came to Canada when they were 19 years old and worked for a man who owned three Subway stores. They stayed with him for 17 years and helped him open and run 17 more stores. It became clear to the Hoangs that serving up fresh food and keeping the restaurant and equipment spotless were key factors in running a successful business.
At the Pho & Bun, chicken broth is made from whole chickens, not from a box of carcass bones that have been sitting who knows where for who knows how long. Tina and Andy shop for meat and produce every day and pay a higher price for the best beef bones which they simmer for 10 hours, adding nothing but salt and sugar to the broth. The flavour that comes from the bones is amazing. It is only after the broth has simmered that they add chilies, herbs and spices (ordered monthly from Vietnam) for the required dishes.

Our soups arrive. The first thing my daughter comments on is the aroma of the broth. The second thing she says is “this is definitely the best pho I’ve ever had.” She finishes the whole bowl—a first for her. I know the feeling, kid… I know. My pho scores as high as the sate I had the day before—fragrant broth, tender beef and pork, just the right spice. I’m already looking forward to coming back on the weekend with the whole family.
The pride that the Hoangs have in their restaurant is evident and makes itself known in the flavour and the quality of the food, two reasons why 80% of the patrons are return customers. A bowl of soup costs $8.50; perhaps a little higher than what you might pay in other pho places, but take it from me—a pho fanatic who has searched 20 years for a noodle house that is worth returning to—this pho is a beautiful find!

Pho & Bun on Urbanspoon

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