Pho Century Fine Vietnamese Cuisine
Billed as a “Place for Noodle Lovers”, this second location of Pho Century recently popped up at the intersection of Kingsway and Sperling, basically directly across the way from the National Nikkei Heritage Centre where the beloved Hi Genki is located. I’ve never visited their first outlet (which is also on Kingsway – at Willingdon), so have no point of reference to compare, but this just opened spot sure took me a bit by surprise. While carved out inside a shabbier looking building that I think housed some kind of ESL/math school run by Chinese until recent times, they had really spruced up the tiny interior with a clean and fresh modern look. Parking is brutal – limited to a few spots right in front – and street parking nearby is hampered by the ongoing construction of a tall condominium building right across the street, with all the trucks and machinery needing to get through.
As you can see from the signage, there is a grand opening going on, with special dine-in pricing of 10% off, which is slated to end January 15th. So perhaps by the time you read this post, it could be over. Nevertheless, the price point for their main dishes are reasonable – case in point, the small pho is $6, and the large bowl is $7. Congees, and barbequed (insert any meat here) with rice dishes also fall in the $7~$8 range. There were also some Viet Subs (chicken, meat ball, minced pork, Vietnamese ham) available priced $3.95 and up; apparently they are only here at this second location. Combo plates with rice or vermicelli run in the $7 to $11 zone; this “touch of everything” caught my attention for my lunch.
Things seemed to be running smoothly and the opening seems to have garnered its share of attention as when the two of us walked in, several spots were occupied – a mix of young Asian youths and some blue collar construction workers (perhaps from across the street?). Seating was done promptly, as was the delivery of the menus and some hot tea. While there was a bit of a language barrier in ordering – had inquired if they had the wonderful crispy green onion cake that I’ve had lately at other Vietnamese restaurants – but what came out was a cup of fried green onions (she must have interpreted our conversation as me wanting some extra garnish or topping for the soup noodles, oh well!).
Combo E – comprised of one salad roll, one spring roll and two chicken skewers. Price was $9.95. Laid on top of vermicelli – she didn’t ask if I wanted rice which in hindsight I should have. Each item tasted like I assume it should and have had in other places. The salad roll was filled with more vermicelli though so it seemed like it lacked some substance to it – even the shrimp inside was sliced thinly and I didn’t really feel the texture of the meat as I bit through. The chicken had a nice smoky char on them – there is a combo that features four of them – which is nice for those days when you feel like having one item and enough of them to really fill you up.
What you see pictured above is #14, listed under the “Chef’s Menu” part of the choices. A “Special Seafood in Noodle Soup” ($7.45). I only sampled a bit of this but the broth wasn’t insanely hot which was good for eating without burning the inside of your mouth and it was a delicate, clean flavor. No MSG residue whatsoever. Squid, prawns and mini scallops were the main toppings here, with the noodles cooked well through.
My initial visit here in the early days suggests to me that its off to a good start. I would certainly come back if I’m in the area. Which is kind of isolated when it comes to Vietnamese food. Of note, the “Veggie Vermicelli Soup” comprised of tofu, bean sprouts, tomato, mushrooms in a veggie broth for some reason has me really curious. Perhaps because its as they say, “exclusive at Pho Century only”, and its dubbed “Special”.