Phodown 1: Pho Hung

Pho Hung
Address: 350 Spadina, Toronto
Pho Hung on the Web
Date & time of visit: August 2nd, 2012 + 8:30PM
Price (based on deluxe pho): Regular – $6.25; Large – $7.50; XL – $9

Pho Hung sign

Ratings:

Jason

Broth: 7.5 | Beef: 8 | Noodle: 8.5 | Condiment: 7.5 | Service/atmosphere: 6 | Overall: 7.5

Anne

Broth: 9 | Beef: 8 | Noodle: 8 | Condiment: 7 | Service/atmosphere: 6 | Overall: 7.6

Sean

Broth: 8| Beef: 7 | Noodle: 9 | Condiment: 7 | Service/atmosphere: 5 | Overall: 7.2

Sierra

Broth: 7 | Beef: 8 | Noodle: 7 | Condiment: 7 | Service/atmosphere: 6 | Overall: 7

Overall Rating: 7.325

Quality per dollar (based on large pho): .977

Write-up from Jason:

This week’s phodown features four downers, a rare extravagance for any pho competition.  But it only seems right for our inaugural Toronto ‘down.  It also seems fitting to begin at Pho Hung, a long-standing pho institution, a place that is always one of the first to come up when a newcomer asks for a pho recommendation in the GTA, and a sheer behemoth of a restaurant, prominently located on the Spadina strip.

Joining me this week are Sean and Anne, a couple with over a decade of pho experience between them and who, after a big bowl of the hot stuff, will admit their marriage was sparked by their shared love of Vietnamese food.  In addition, we have Sierra, who I shared my very first Toronto pho with just about a year ago.  Sadly, two individuals have had to retire from the phodown.  Dan now lives in Sonoma County and has started his own wine label, eschewing hot soup for cool-climate pinots.  Des now resides in Victoria BC, and is thus no damn use to me there.  Times, they are a changing.

To begin, the first thing you notice about Pho Hung is the sheer size of the place.  It’s two rooms, with a distinctive style for a pho restaurant.  Vines hanging about evoke feelings of a jungle hideaway.  Or rather, one that happens to have views facing the cacophony of Toronto’s Chinatown West.  Service, right off the bat, was a problem.  One does not do well to expect the world in terms of service at a pho restaurant, but it also shouldn’t take ten minutes to wave down a server.  We were all also dismayed at the lack of napkins at the table (but appreciated Sean tracking some down at a table up front).

Pho Hung Pho

I scored the broth at a strong 7.5, but I skewed low in this category.  For me it was solid, but nothing spectacular.  It was moderately rich and meaty with enough spicing to accentuate the meat, but not much more.  I took off points for saltiness (beyond what one expects in pho), and temperature – even after placing my meat under the noodles, it never fully cooked.  The beef was also quality, if a bit stringy, and Anne enjoyed her beef balls, noting they were not overly fatty (and you would be wrong to assume I didn’t enjoy writing that sentence).  The noodles were the highlight for myself and all but Sierra.  They separated easily and came at just about al dente (slightly past for me).  I was disappointed by the condiments.  While the thai basil was fresh, there was no sawtooth or peppers (some tables had them – not ours).

Pho Hung Condiments

Overall, this is a solid pho joint, but nothing special.  They clearly know what they are doing, hitting the hard marks on broth and noodle.  It just appears they’ve lost touch with the small touches: putting together a fresh and varied condiment plate, and providing any kind of competent service.  This is a good start to the phodown, but I think Toronto can do better.  Giddy up.

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