Noodle King – Calgary, AB

Noodle King
119-2323 32 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB T2E 6Z3
(403) 250-9808
Open Weekdays 11am-10pm; Sat 5pm-10pm

Many restaurants come and go from our lives. There one minute, gone the next. It’s a hard reality, the restaurant business – most establishments don’t succeed. Quality and price aren’t the only things that matter; location, and a certain element of luck matter as well. With a high failure rate, very rarely do we see restaurants make a second go around – My Marvin’s, the institutional Calgary smoked meat shop has recently tried, to very mixed success. Noodle King, which closed and sold their 17th Avenue SW location, has reappeared as well, this time in the NE.

Noodle King is another in the long line of family owned Vietnamese operations in Calgary. When they opened up on 17th Avenue SW, they provided a wonderful alternative to the mediocre selection of Pho and Bun available on the Red Mile. With friendly service, large quantities, and great quality food, they quickly became a favorite of mine. And then one day, inexplicably, they were gone. When i caught wind from a friend that they had reopened in the Airways Centre off of 32nd Avenue NE, i enthusiastically ran over for lunch. I was greeted with warm hellos – acquaintances renewed over long stories and a plate of Cha Gio. It was as good as ever.

The defining dish at Noodle King is the Pho Sate. Its defining characteristic is definitely the rich, creamy broth; the traditional broth of garlic, chilies, peanuts, laced with coconut milk. This is not for the faint of heart. A *large* bowl of soup, chock full of slightly too firm noodles, slightly “cut too thick” beef, and fresh veg. Ringing in at $8.95, it is a meal in a bowl. The rich and heady broth is intoxicating, and worth every penny.

The rest of the Noodle King menu is a potpourri of SE Asian dishes and flavours. They have an eclectic variety of dishes, including Cambodian Soup, Bun Bo Hue, Wor Wonton, etc.. most of these dishes are not memorable. However, their Bun comes in a bowl of equally large size when compared to the Pho Sate. A great mix of ingredients, the meat lacks quality standards of the better Bun establishments in town. However, they make up in quantity what they lack in quality.

With busy lunch hours and an expanded space, Noodle King is proving that restaurants can make a come back. Based on the lunch crowds, their new NE Calgary location has clearly filled a void in an area seriously lacking a Vietnamese presence. While their success is well-deserved, the fact that most of their clientele are new customers, not old ones from their 17th Avenue SW location, only goes to show that the success of the second go around rarely has anything to do with the first. Thankfully, the good people at Noodle King have been successful at both locations, so I can continue to enjoy one of my favorite Pho Sate’s in town.

Noodle King on Urbanspoon

Pho Dau Bo – Calgary, AB

Pho Dau Bo
110-4909 17 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB T2A 0V5
(403) 272-5160
Open Sun-Thu, 10am – 8pm, Fri-Sat 10am – 9pm

September 2008 re-visit post here

Original post below:

There is something to be said for the familiar. While branching out, being “adventurous”, getting a wider view of the world are important things, sometimes we want…comfort. Soothing. Reassurance. Familiarty. Pho Sate is one of those things. I can’t explain it. While i love a multitude of different Vietnamese dishes, more often than not, i always order the Pho Sate. Especially when it’s good. With a limited number of meals left in my lifetime, i want to enjoy every single one. Some days, it is rewarding to unearth new places – recognizing the proprietors that do right by the customer, and serve good honest food. Somedays, it’s just another bowl of Pho Sate. Especially at Pho Dau Bo.

A small establishment on “International” Avenue in Calgary, 17 Street SE, Pho Dau Bo serves up a very limited menu of Vietnamese specialties. While not particularly cheap, and definitely not undiscovered, they nonetheless serve up a winning combination – good food, quickly. The establishment is often packed with patrons of all races – speaking both to the quality of the food, and to the cross-nationality appeal that Vietnamese cuisine has reached.

With such a limited menu, i wish i could report on an extensive number of dishes. Unfortunately, i can’t. When I go to Pho Dau Bo, i order the Pho Sate (large), pay my $9.00, and proceed to enjoy what i consider to be a top 3 Pho Sate in Calgary (depending on my mood).  Loaded with perfect firmness of noodles, tender, thinly sliced beef, scallions galore, and a rich, heady, spicy peanut flavour, this bowl is familiarity. The freshness of the garnishes – crisp sprouts, nice ngo gai, Thai basil, lime, and bird chili, are a testament to the quality, and to the turnover, even 30 minutes before closing on a Sunday night.

Thankfully, other dining companions occasionally order other dishes. Take the Bun Thit Nuong (Grilled Pork) – thinly sliced, wonderfully charred, smoky, caramelized slices of pork with fresh vegetables on a softened pile of vermicelli. Delicious. Tasty. Wonderfully executed. Meat lovers rejoice – this is meat! Yet, it is not Pho Sate.

Maybe someday i will be able to do better, and report on more dishes. Maybe one day, i will truly attempt to sample the dozens of other Vietnamese establishments on the same strip (3 others in the same strip mall complex alone!). Or maybe, someday, will find me at Pho Dau Bo, seated at the same table, with the same order of Pho Sate, and the same grin on my face. That will not be the worst of days.

Pho Dau Bo Vietnamese Beef Noodle House on Urbanspoon