If one neighbourhood could particularly benefit from an “open house” event like Taste of Whyte or an organized food crawl, it would be the Avenue of Nations. Because of a transient population and a stigma of a high rate of crime, among other things, people often shy away from visiting the neighbourhoods of Central McDougall and Queen Mary Park (around 107 Avenue from 101 to 120 Streets). But by doing that, they are missing many great small businesses, many run by hard-working immigrant families.
However, I understand how the area can be intimidating to those who don’t often frequent it. So an event, which could include restaurants like Pho Huong and Mama Pizza, African Safari and Acajutla, would definitely help increase awareness of these gems, and perhaps help people realize that the neighbourhood is more than its reputation.
I was hoping to add relative newcomer Quan Pho (10117 107 Avenue) to this list. It opened up late last year, replacing a short-lived hot pot restaurant (and before that, Viet Huong Noodle House, which has since located to 98 Street). I have passed it many times on foot, and it always seemed to be populated with small groups – not a bad sign, especially in an area saturated with Vietnamese eateries.
My colleague Heather and I met some associates for lunch there on Friday afternoon, Quan Pho being new to all of us. The interior is clean and updated with comfortable leather chairs. Their three page menu was bright and easy to read, and featured a variety of vermicelli bowls, noodle soups and rice plates. I was happy to see the option of beef balls and brisket – my two favourite meats, rarely offered together ($6.50 for small, $7.50 for large).
Unfortunately, both Heather and I were quite disappointed with the food. She had ordered the bun with shrimp, grilled meatballs and a spring roll ($8.25). She commented that the meatballs in particular were more reminiscent of spam than the usual flavourful pork.
Vermicelli bowl with shrimp, meatballs and a spring roll
My large pho was actually quite small, in both size and meat quantity (and could be compared with the small at Pho Tau Bay). The meatballs were fine, but the brisket resembled well done flank more than anything else. And although there was a generous sprinkling of green onions, onions and cilantro, the broth itself was one-note, and not particularly fragrant or nuanced.
Pho with brisket and beef balls
Worst of all was the service – we received the impression that the server wanted to do anything but look us in the eye. When she first started delivering the dishes (which we ordered by number, as delineated on the menu), she wasn’t able to tell us which dish was associated with which number, and instead of double checking herself, handed us a menu. Later, when we requested the bill, she provided us with a hand written total of our entire meal, with no breakdown of individual dish cost.
My hope is that the server was having a bad day, or the kitchen was off that afternoon. But because it wasn’t a very positive experience, coupled with the fact that there are a number of establishments in the immediate area that offer better food and good service (Pho Huang/Mama Pizza and Pho Tau Bay come to mind), I’m not sure I’ll be back soon. A shame – for the neighbourhood and pho lovers in Edmonton.
10117 107 Avenue