Although there are many restaurants within walking distance of my office, some which are quite good (Padmanadi, Basil Leaf and Pho Tau Bay included), when winter descends, I often wish for a closer alternative that is equally consistent. The day may have finally arrived!
Ellen’s Aunt and Uncle, Ken and Lisa Quach, took over Pho Huong & Mama Pizza (10531 107 Avenue, 780-422-6262), which reopened on September 30. Prior to this overhaul, I hadn’t set foot in the establishment – coworkers had warned me that it wasn’t exactly the most welcoming place.
Now, Pho Huong & Mama Pizza is a gem in the neighbourhood, reminding me very much of Absolutely Edibles on 118 Avenue. Ken, a carpenter by trade, redid the entire interior, installing the wood fixtures he built himself, and lining the walls with cozy but classy booths. I especially loved the photos of farmers with their fresh produce along the wall – a visual link to the ingredients that inspire the cuisine.
Interior (thanks to Suman who lent me her camera)
It has always been Lisa’s goal to open a restaurant. Having perfected her recipes after years of cooking (including that of fish sauce!), her dream has finally come true. Although Vietnamese cuisine is Lisa’s forte, because of the neighbourhood’s taste for pizza (they still get calls for delivery), they maintained the pizza side of the menu; hence the two names of the restaurant.
New bar and flat screens
A few of my coworkers had lunch with Ellen at Pho Huong & Mama Pizza on Tuesday. The patrons that were inside were already tucking into their dishes – and there was not one pizza in sight.
As Ellen knows, my personal “litmus test” for Vietnamese restaurants is an order of green onion cakes followed by an order of pho. The green onion cakes ($4.25) were golden and crispy, but weren’t quite salty enough for me (but then again, I prefer my green onion cakes very salty!).
Green onion cakes
The beef brisket pho ($8 for a large bowl) was absolutely a standout. The broth had great depth of flavour – meaty and substantial, fragrant but not overpowering. The brisket was served rare (just the way I like it), and cooked to shredded perfection in the hot soup. It was also a huge serving – I am rarely defeated by pho, but I was that day.
Pho with brisket
The rest of our table ordered a wide range of dishes, from grilled pork chop and grilled chicken on rice to the 5 colour vermicelli bowl to the seafood rice noodle soup. Everyone was very happy with their dishes, and Astrid wasn’t even able to finish her serving!
Grilled pork chop rice plate ($8.75)
Grilled chicken rice plate ($8.95)
5 colour vermicelli bowl ($10.50)
Seafood rice soup ($8.00 for small)
Businesses like Pho Huong & Mama Pizza are key pieces of the revitalization puzzle, they can become a draw to residents and visitors alike, invigorating the area in the process. I can only hope more enterprising people like Ken and Lisa choose to invest in Central McDougall – and in the process, we may get even more tasty restaurants in the neighbourhood.