Pho Nam

So, as quickly as my trip to Montreal began, it had to end and I began packing my car full of more junk to bring to Ontario. I first made sure that my dog was to stay in the house and not run outside as he often likes to do. He doesn’t run away, but enjoys exploring the area unsupervised. He always (save one time) makes his way back home though. I began piling boxes into my car along with some a bookshelf and a bunch of books to pile into that bookshelf, mostly design manuals etc. Brought my printer with no ink, and some fish for the uncle. My family has this thing with fish. They go fishing, catch too many, and then give them away. As I was packing my trunk, I come back to the front of my car only to find this:

My damn puppy sitting in my front seat just to make me sad. I could have sworn he wasn’t there when I passed before, but there he was, just sitting there, waiting to take a 6 hour drive with me to a new home. BAWWWWW. Goddamnit. So I had to pick him up and bring him inside and leave him standing at the window of the front porch to watch me leave.

Anyway, before I leave, my parents take me to this pho place that just opened up, Pho Nam. They had begun advertising in the Vietnamese newspaper before the restaurant even opened so along with that method getting their name out their, they also had people talking about it, and most people heard about the place through word of mouth. I guess it’s not that hard because Vietnamese people love to talk. So much. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the store front so I can’t show you what it looks like. It’s not even on Google Maps.

The restaurant is located on the corner of Shelley and Cremazie, which is right beside the 40 (on the south side) and Saint Michel, next to Bogey’s Billiards. Now, I’ve eaten at many a Vietnamese restaurants in my day just because that’s what my family eats when we go out, pho or dim sum, my entire life. Though I’m not a picky eater, I know the difference between good pho and bad. I judge a Vietnamese restaurant on two menu items, because that’s what I eat:

“Pho” (Beef noodle soup, soupe tonkinoise), and “bun thit nuong” (vermicelli, grilled beef, vegetables).

I usually get “pho chin”, which is pho with cooked beef, but this time had “pho tai sach bo vien.” Don’t let the long name fool you, it’s just listing what’s inside the pho. “Tai” is thinly sliced raw beef that gets put into the noodles before the boiling broth is poured in so that the hot broth cooks it as it’s going out to your table. “Sach” is beef tripe, which I believe is either stomach lining or intestinal lining; sounds gross but is actually very delicious. “Bo vien” means quite simply, beef balls.

I don’t usually expect presentation to be very important at a Vietnamese restaurant, but they seem to have done well with it on this bowl, not that there’s much you can do to it, exactly. But, I received this bowl, put in the lime, mixed it up a bit, and then added some sriracha hot sauce and hoisin sauce. Many pho puritans (ahem, my mother.. and basically the Vietnamese from my parents’ generation) insist that hoisin sauce just makes your pho taste like dessert because it’s too sweet, but no, I like it. It’s a dark sauce that’s very similar to oyster sauce.

Anyway, to put it simply, Pho Nam’s pho is damn delicious. Easily one of the best I’ve eaten at a restaurant that I can remember. (Home cooked will always remain the best though.) The broth was balanced, not too salty, nor was their too much MSG or oil. The pho noodles were the perfect size, small. I always loved smaller noodles compared to their larger counterparts with both pho noodles and vermicelli noodles.

Not bad for photos from my phone, eh?

Mothafuckin’ bun thit nuong. I love this shit so much. “Bun” = Vermicelli or rice noodles, “thit” = meat, “nuong” = grilled. It’s always served with vegetables and “nuoc mam,” fish sauce that’s mixed with some garlic, sugar, and sometimes hot peppers.It’s hard to mess up this dish, but when it goes bad, it goes really bad. There were some things missing in this dish, but I’ll get to that later.

The meat was the right thickness, so that it wasn’t so thin that there’s no flavour, but not so thick that it’s hard to eat with all the other ingredients. It was a little sweet but it was evened out with the slightly smokey flavour of the grill. This dish is super simple and super refreshing to eat. My only gripe about this particular one is that they put too many mint leaves, which I don’t particularly like, and they opted out of putting in pickled daikon radish with the pickled carrots. Pickled daikon radish adds another level to the slightly sour pickled carrots and most of the time, they are served together.

Aside from that, it was delicious, and as always, despite it looking like barely a meal, it fills you up pretty quickly. Oh, and a quick note with this, if you’re allergic to peanuts, make sure you specify that they do not add peanuts in because they will if you don’t, and then you will die. Or get very sick, as you well know. Actually, it’s not like the peanuts are hidden, you’ll just end up sending it back, and then no one will be happy.

Another thing that’s lacking is their selection of smoothies that all viet restaurants seem to have. The avocado shakes, mango shakes, etc are pretty much staple, but I assume that it’s because they’re new, they haven’t implemented these menu items yet, and after they do, the bubble tea will surely come soon after. For drinks, they have other simple drinks like soda, iced coffee, tea, and the traditional “Che Ba Mau,” 3 colour rainbow drink, or however you call it in English.

tl;dr: I would recommend Pho Nam to my friends and family.