Restaurant: Banh Mi Bar/Pho Bar
Location: 189 Augusta Avenue, Toronto, ON M5T 2L4
Price Range: $
I will be honest, I’m extremely picky with Vietnamese food and I barely (to almost never) gone out to Vietnamese restaurants in Toronto. So when people ask me “where is the best pho place in Toronto?”, I actually really don’t know where.. The only time I would eat at a Viet restaurant is where there are dishes that is hard to get or make at home, and Banh Mi Bar was one of them!
Though they had an extensive menu with different toppings for pho and Banh Mi, what piqued my interest was their Northern style specialty dishes. Most of these were what I grown up with and I have not seen other Toronto restaurants that offer them yet!
The restaurant was empty and quiet on a Friday night. They used cinnamon as decors which might seem strange for some people, but given that it is the core spice of pho (I’m serious), it made sense to use it I suppose lol.
Traditionally this soup is made with whole blue crabs and it’s not possible to find the fresh ones in Canada. This is also one of those rare Vietnamese dish that is extremely time consuming to make from scratch, so I was quite intrigued when I saw it on Banh Mi Bar’s menu. Unfortunately when the hot noodle soup arrived at our table, I couldn’t smell the pungent shrimp paste that is normally found in the broth. Both C and I can tell that they used canned crab meat and there was also a mixture of pork in the soup, which is completely fine. However such ingredient was not mentioned on the menu, so for people who don’t eat meat this can be quite unexpected. Since there was no shrimp paste, the broth was bland and honestly it tasted like a tomato soup… Overall I was faily disappointed and C agreed that my noodle soup tasted way much better.
Initially I wanted to order the Vermicelli soup with chicken, shrimp, egg (Bun Thang) since it’s one of my all time favorite noodle soup, however the dish was unavailable on that day so I’m planning to try it on my next visit.
The duck & bamboo noodle soup at Banh Mi Bar reminded me of my mom’s bun mang vit, and that says a lot! The broth was flavorful and fragrant with the juicy duck meat and bamboo shoots. If I remember correctly fresh bamboo is not required for this dish, and my mom usually use the dried ones as they are much easier to store. The bamboo was soft while still had some crunch when you bite into it. The duck meat was tender and not too fatty, but -1 for them to not serve a ginger fish sauce for dipping!
I must mention, I don’t really expect good customer service from Asian restaurants like these, but our server for that night was terrible. She didn’t bother to fill up our water and when asked, she even forgot. C asked for hot water but the server said they only serve hot tea, not hot water. How do you make HOT tea without HOT water then?! Other than the Bun Rieu Cua and bad customer service, I was satisfied with my dish and I would definitely return in the near future to try other dishes.