Pho, the national noodle soup of Vietnam, has set its roots deep throughout Ottawa. Over the past decade, the number of pho restaurants have bloomed to more than 50-some, slowly morphing Ottawa into a pho borough!
I recently went downtown and had asked my foodie colleague for a recommendation for the best pho place. He replied “pho ga la 2”. I googled for the address – no such store ?. I asked for a clarification, but he was probably busy at work and did not get back right away. Now, there were plenty of pho bo gas and pho bo ga las that came with the search. It was confusing at first because based on the names, it felt like I was distinguishing among groups of quintuplets from the same family. Turned out, pho bo ga directly translated to soup beef chicken, so it was just a generic term. Well, I was starving, so I went with what I thought was the closest to what my friend suggested – Pho Bo Ga 2 on 843 Somerset St West. Neighbouring it was another Pho Bo Ga 2, owned by the same person. I guess it didn’t matter which one you go into, only the interior decor might differ. I went to the one on the right because its signature set of steep stairs reminded me that my friends and I would ALWAYS go to this pho restaurant every time we ventured down to Chinatown back in my high-school years (and never bothered to remember the name?).
Pho Bo Ga 2 had all the necessities of a pho restaurant. On the side of the tables, there were sriracha sauce and hoisin sauce, more chopsticks in case you dropped yours, big spoons for enjoying the broth, saucers for the dipping sauce, and paper napkins. The store looked a bit seedy. Nothing egregious; just a bit of dust and dirt on the windows and edges, a sticky-looking feel on the walls and dated furnishings. But hey, I always say “the seedier the restaurant, the more authentic or delicious the food would be” (not always true, but true for enough times that it is still a saying in my book). The store proudly displayed its share of Consumer Choice Awards on the entry window. Seeing that they received an award for every year since 2011, it reaffirmed my decision?. (My boyfriend joked that the awards “were probably handed out like candy”, LOL.)
I ordered a small rare beef + tripe + brisket + tendon rice noodle soup and my boyfriend ordered a medium stir fried beef with sate sauce + shrimp + BBQ pork in rice noodle soup. The waitress was polite and the kitchen service was speedy. The portion sizes were huuuge, as my small pho could have easily been a medium at another restaurant.
The broth came piping hot, steaming with a balanced aroma of spices and umaminess. My first sip of the broth was clean and pure, yet rich in beef taste with a hint of sweetness. I never sauce my pho right at the start because I want to savour the unadulterated pure meaty craftsmanship of the broth. However, I DO squeeze both sauces into the little dish like so…and dip the meat cuts into them. The yin yang blend of the sriracha and hoisin sauce goes well with any of the meat cuts. I also submerged a handful of bean sprouts while the broth was still hot so they will be somewhat cooked after a couple minutes. Lastly, I squeezed in some lime juice for a pinch of acidity.The brisket chunks were huge and sooo tender. They had the perfect amount of fattiness for that added flavour. These were really the best brisket toppings that I have ever had for pho! The thinly sliced tripe and silky tendon were supplementary to my whole experience. The rice noodles were toothsome and easily separable with chopsticks. Despite my lack of stomach space to empty my bowl of noodles soup, I did manage to fish out all the meat cuts✌(can’t leave any expensive bits behind). My boyfriend’s pho had stacks of BBQ pork chunks and shrimp, both were delicious. His soup base was different but delectable nonetheless. Altogether, I was very pleased with my pho? (my boyfriend had oodles of fun battling in the nearby Pokémon gym while he enjoyed his pho, win-win!).
- This restaurant opens from 10 am till 5 am, ideal for those who want a late night snack.
- They are CASH ONLY, therefore make sure you come prepared (although they do have an ATM machine in the restaurant in case you forget).