Hanoi Pho, billed as a “Homestyle Vietnamese Restaurant” is on East Hastings, 2 blocks East of Main Street – an admittedly sketchy part of town. But it’s worth the trek to the area to sample their consistently delicious fare. We were greeted happily by the proprietor, who immediately brought over hot tea, and smiled warmly at every patron who came during our visit. While the décor is hardly contemporary, it is a spotless establishment which for me is an immediate good sign that they will take serious care with the food they serve and have great pride of ownership. There are a couple Vietnamese spots I frequent and I have to admit, I stick to a few staples that are on every menu including the rare beef noodle soup topped here with ample green onion, shards of sliced red onion, and bright green cilantro – the thinly sliced beef cooks in the hot soup as you eat. The clean and flavourful broth is enhanced with bean sprouts, lemon, basil, and hot sauce to taste – or, you can ask for their spicy version and it will arrive laced with a chili-flavoured oil, giving it a much richer, fiery taste.
The real star of the show for me here is the grilled chicken bánh mì – the best sandwich in Vancouver as far as I’m concerned. It is the perfect marriage of French ingredients like mayonnaise and an airy single-serving, sub-sized, elongated roll with a thin, flakey crust and Vietnamese cuisine favourites like cilantro, pickled carrots and cucumbers. These ingredients all compliment the ample serving of tender chicken, flavoured with a sweet and gently spicy sauce. Having sampled several similar bánh mì at various Vietnamese eateries around town, I can attest that this version does not skimp on its tasty fillings – the ratio of meat to bread is very generous. It’s one of the best examples of fusion going – and at $5 a sandwich, it’s a complete steal. (EL)