Colonialism sucks, right? Sure it may not be cool to admit you're a fan, but riddle me this batman: where d'ya think that yummy bowl of soupy noodles you so adore slurping came from? (and you do dig them--Torontonians love their pho like Coltrane loved the horse). Whether you buy the competing French or Chinese pedigrees of this humble noodle dish the fact remains that pho is both the original fusion food and quintessentially Vietnamese; born from a legacy of culinary influence and violent oppression it's a perfect microcosm of a peoople's history, speaking volumes about bombs, bullets, bowls and the indomitable spirit of Vietnam.
All quests for the quintessential bowl of pho should lead at some point to Pho Linh Restaurant. Occuping an unassuming shop front west of dufferin along a quiet strip of college this noodle shack probably wouldn't catch your attention as you walked past. Once inside, seated among the vintage war-era posters at one of the retro 80s tables you'll probably still be wondering why you're there. Well let me enlighten you, Jackson, you're about to dig into arguably the best pho in the city.
The broth is wonderfully flavourful-- not watery in the least-- complex and deep, kaleidoscopic with subtly smoky hits of anise and cinnamon it's almost a shame to disrupt with the addition of the ubiquitious sirahcha or hoisin sauce. You'd be hard pressed not to finish the entire bowl of broth even if you've ordered the large.
In the 'special' pho (aka the #01, $5.50-$6.50), the intensely beefy broth submerges chewy beef balls, paper-thin slices of rare beef and equally paper-thin brisket along with wonderfully glutenous bits of tendon and a healthy helping of tripe (I'm a sucker for offal, sue me). Complete the sublimation and replace the typical supermarket rice stick with 'fresh noodles' offered at no extra charge. Accompany this meal-in-a-bowl with an order of crispy veggie spring rolls ($3/2, $6/5) so good they'll disappear faster than the XFL and brace your palate for an ever changing parade of tastes and textures. Since you can never be too hydrated, test that bladder by ordering a fantastic preserved lemon with soda ($2.50)-- salty-sweet and redolent with citrus-y goodness-- to go with your soup.
If you're lucky enough to visit Friday through Sunday you can order the incendiary Hue Style Pho ($6-$7) with its spicy broth secreting away tasty slices of fatty pork, sausage and generous pieces of pork hock; a perfect prescription for a cold winter night.
Shameless displays of Pho favouritism being de rigeur here 'mongst the rarefied pixels of BlogTO this review should come as no surprise. There are probably more pho joints in the city than there are opinions about them. A trip to Pho Linh will definitely raise your standards.
Pho Linh - 1156 College St. (at Dufferin) - 416.516.3891