Que Ling Restaurant
Address: 248 Boulton Avenue; Toronto, Ontario
Date & time of visit: June 20th 2015 + 3:00pm
Price (large): $5.75 CAD
Broth: 7 | Beef: 6 | Noodle: 8 | Condiment: 9 | Service/atmosphere: 9 | Overall: 7.8
Overall Rating: 7.8
Quality per dollar (based on large pho): 1.36
Write-up from Jason:
Solo Phodown! Solo! Phodown! Solo Phodown!
One of the only rules of a phodown is that one shall not phodown alone – a simple rule, easily broken. And like Mal Reynolds, I aim to misbehave.
You know what, that’s not 100% accurate. I’m not some handsome rogue pho-blogger but rather a guy who had a pho by himself and wants to ‘down it before it gets lost in the ether. A big damn hero I am not.
A couple of weeks ago while recovering from a gum graft surgery and thus restricted to foods of the softer sort, I found myself in one of my favorite parts of town – Toronto’s Chinatown East – and hankering for a bowl of the good stuff. And while I just called this area Chinatown East, there’s a significant number of Vietnamese joints around. Rose makes a hell of a banh mi and don’t forget Sarah Mac and I ‘downed Mi Mi a couple of years ago.
But on this day I had my sights trained on what I had always viewed as a more distinctive restaurant. Que Ling is situated just off Gerrard, on a side street but still visible from the main drag. The structure looks like it ought to house a car rental office and instead somehow holds about ten tables, a counter an a small cooking area. The other patrons were a Vietnamese family and a group of three young skateboarders. All were treated with an equal level of cheer and care.
The first thing I’d point out about Que Ling is that it’s the cheapest pho I’ve seen in Toronto. While large phos will often cost you around $7-8, Que Ling’s large rings in at $5.75. The downside is that real estate savings aren’t the only reason Que Ling can charge so little. This is a noodle-heavy, beef-light pho. The beef is perfectly fine, but the plain lack of quantity was the main reason I knocked Que Ling’s beef score down.
On the other hand, the condiment platter was just about spot on. There was no doubt about the freshness of the herbs and sprouts, a spicy thai bird pepper made an appearance, and there was even saw-tooth. Points were deducted, however, for there only being one saw tooth. Not cool. Let’s make saw-tooth a regular thing in Toronto phos and not a nominal addition. I’ve got a kickstarter in the early phases and am pleased with the progress so far.
The lack of beef was seemingly made up for by an abundance of noodles, which were well-executed, but you know, sometimes you get a bit tired of noodles.
I left the broth for last as it was the most challenging. Hoping that I had stumbled upon a hidden gem, and taking note of the exceptional atmosphere and condiment plate, I wanted to love the broth here. Sadly, it was middle of the road. That’s not to say there’s no grace to be found in this broth – someone clearly knows what he or she is doing with the spicing. This wasn’t a haphazard broth, there just wasn’t enough umami. And in place of beefiness, there was salt, and lots of it.
In the end, this was an enjoyable experience on a day when I deeply wished for an enjoyable experience. And it may well be the best value play for pho in town. It’s just not the best pho in town.