Le Pho Vietnamese Cuisine and Grill
36-55 Castleridge Boulevard NE
Ok, so if you haven’t noticed, i like Pho. A lot. Im generally willing to try any Pho place twice, occasionally only once if it was terrible, even if it looks like it’ll be an unmitigated disaster. I’ve had some bad experiences at some of my more favored places – so i want to give it a second try just in case i caught a great place on a bad day. Le Pho is a place i have to try again.
Le Pho is located deep in the heart of Little India – Castleridge Mall. A bit out of place amongst all the East Indian eateries, it caught my eye when i was on my way to Bombay Sweet House. In looking up their exact address, i realized there were 3 different Le Pho’s, with slightly different names. I’m not sure if they are all affiliated, but according to Urban Spoon, this one is affiliated with the one in the SE. Not quite Pho Hoa, but it’s described as a “chain” nonetheless.
For what it’s worth, the decor at Le Pho was clean, and dated. In my experiences, it’s hard to judge a Vietnamese restaurant based on its decor. Nice and clean doesnt necessarily mean that the food is good (Quynh in Sunridge is a perfect example of this… what terrible food). Dirty doesn’t mean it’s bad – i’ve seen cockroaches run around some Pho shops in Chinatown, and proceeded to have a really good bowl. However, i’ve developed a 6th sense just by looking at the clientele, what they are eating, and how happy and intent they look. I have to say, Le Pho wasn’t all that promising.
We ordered three standard tasting dishes, goi cuon (salad rolls), a bowl of pho sate, and a bowl of bun thit nuong.
The salad rolls were excellent. The shrimp was fresh, there was fresh basil rolled inside (which i greatly prefer for texture, color, and flavour balance), and the noodles and greens were very crisp. The major issue was the skins, which were a bit tough and rubbery. But with a decent sauce, well balanced flavours of hoisin, chili, and fish sauce, these were a good start,
The Bun was actually quite disappointing. Generally speaking, i find the quality of the Bun Thit Nuong ($8.95) in Calgary to be pretty good. In conversation with a friend today, they mentioned that they felt the primary differences came down to the sauce for the meat, and the quality of the spring rolls. This was a bowl on the smaller size, with loads of ingredients. The problem was the flavours all kind of blended together, resulting in a slightly bland flavour. Good texture though.
The Pho Sate($8.00) was also quite disappointing as well. The broth was over MSG’d, leaving a very slightly chemically, overly salty taste. It lacked beef flavour, and the sate - well, i’ll let the photo speak for itself…it was bland and lacked any sort of peanut or chili character. The beef was actually quite good though – added rare, and sliced thin enough to stay quite tender. The noodles, however, were too firm and still all completely tangled. Overall, quite disappointing and unsatisfying.
Seeing as this was my first visit, I don’t wish to be overly critical. I have noticed i’ve been quite critical of many Pho restaurants in the past, and while i hold them to high standards for quality, there is the need to try and be as fair as possible. However, if it were for anything other than research, I would probably not return. Generally speaking, these outliers of Vietnamese restaurants (those outside the principle stretch of Pho restaurants between 16th Ave N and 17th Ave S), are usually much cheaper, though still quite hit or miss on quality. With Le Pho, we have average prices, and below average food. That’s not a winning combination.