Mi Mi Restaurant
Address: 668 Gerrard Street East
Date & time of visit: August 21, 2013 + 6:00pm
Price (based on deluxe pho): Small – $5.95; Medium – $6.95; Large – $8.95
Broth: 5.5 | Beef: 6.5 | Noodle: 6.5 | Condiment: 7.5 | Service/atmosphere: 8 | Overall: 6.8
Broth: 8 | Beef: 7 | Noodle: 7.5 | Condiment: 7 | Service/atmosphere: 7 | Overall: 7.3
Overall Rating: 7.05
Quality per dollar (based on large pho): 1.08
Write-up from Jason:
If there is a theme from this summer, from 100 Dates of Summer, and from the phodown more broadly, it’s change. I’m no stranger to change: in the year prior to moving to law school I lived in five different places, from Santa Rosa to Vancouver doing every job from cleaning out cold-soak tanks at a winery to working the ring toss at Universal Studios Hollywood. But this summer’s changes go deeper than geography and occupation, to figuring out the kind of person I want to be.
Because at some point, you really have to nail that down.
As the summer ends and these issues come to a head, I found myself returning to a familiar concept – The Phodown – with a friend I haven’t downed with since Pho Tien Tanh. Wednesday of last week, just prior to a revelatory weekend in New York and two weeks prior to moving (yet again) across the world, Sarah and I shared a pho at Mi Mi Restaurant in Toronto’s Chinatown East.
Despite a rabidly loyal following, Mi Mi might have an identity crisis of its own. It is known for its chicken pho (pho ga) and its do-it-yourself platters that feature various grilled meats, herbs, noodles and rice paper wrappers to bring it all together. Still, beef pho (pho bo) is listed prior to all of these items on the menu, suggesting it is also a specialty. But would this diversity of cuisine ultimately water down the finished product?
After all, at some point you really have to nail all that down.
We resisted the temptation of a world-class pho ga and stuck to the phodown’s mandate, ordering pho bo. I ordered my usual (rare beef and tendon), while Sarah went with something new for her: brisket.
Sarah and I differed markedly in our evaluations. I felt Mi Mi’s jack of all trade venture led to a poor showing with regard to pho bo. I found the broth, while well spiced, to be overly salty and lacking the depth one gets from long-cooked broth. The beef was fresh but sparse and the noodles were oddly thick and a shade premature of al dente. I was more impressed with the condiments featuring extremely fresh bean sprouts and basil. Still, the 7.5 condiment score reflects a lack of peppers and other herbs.
Service, while slow with respect to the grilled items, saw our pho brought out quite promptly. The putative owner was extremely friendly and attentive. Moreover, Sarah was impressed with the fact that the owner trusted her to run to an ATM to get some cash. There was also a fish tank with some pretty wicked fish.
As I mentioned above, Sarah and I did not agree at all on this place. She was enamored with the broth’s aroma and enjoyed the thicker than average noodles. She also liked the brisket, which while fatty was quite tender.
Sarah and I also tried one of the aforementioned DIY platters, a grilled pork one, quite enjoying it. For a $13 appetizer for a group to share, you really couldn’t do much better. It’s a concept that lends itself to experimenting with different combinations, fucking up the wrappers, and just a good time.
Pho, like all phenomenological experience, is subjective. It is truly no surprise that Sarah and I came to different conclusions about the merit of Mi Mi’s pho bo. Preferences are an ever-shifting tapestry reflecting our biology, family values, friends, loves, and really just the music playing in the background at any given time on any given day.
All I really want is to nail it all down for a moment.