Pho Spring Garden
Has pho replaced sushi and tapas as Toronto's 'it' food? Lately everyone is talking about pho, debating where to get the best , most authentic Vietnamese rice-noodle soup. While the discussion often revolves around restaurants South of Bloor, a friend recently recommended I try Pho Spring Garden in North York.
We decided to splurge on appetizers to start. The shrimp rolls ($4.75) were as expected, rice paper wrap rolls with rice noodles, fresh mint and shrimp accompanied by a hoisin-based sauce.
Shrimp on Sugar Cane ($4.75) was equally delicious with spiced ground shrimp deep fried on a piece of sugar cane, which added a touch of sweetness to the shrimp.
I love pickled carrot and daikon, with each appetizer I ate this garnish first. However, I was disappointed that the Yelly Fish with Pork and Shrimp Salad was simply a remix of the garnish - a bed of greens with rubbery jelly fish, pork bacon and a few shrimp with the pickled carrot and daikon as the dressing.
My dining companion chose the usual suspect, Pad Thai. I've never been a fan of Pad Thai, or as I affectionately refer to it, noodles with spicy ketchup. In this case the Seafood Phat Thai ($7.75) was full of seafood but the noodles weren't spicy or tangy, just bland - further reinforcing my disdain for the dish. I challenge anyone to name a restaurant that would change my mind about Pad Thai.
The restaurant specialty was the Spring Garden Pho Special ($4.95/$5.95/$6.95), a mixture of two orders - beef ball pho mixed with rare beef, well-done lightly fat beef, tendon and tripe stew.
The pho was exactly what I wanted it to be, comforting enough for a rainy day but light enough for a summer dinner. You need to be a big fan of star anise because the chef did not skimp on this spice in the broth.
In the end, Pho Spring Garden may not have the best pho in Toronto but it's certainly a worthy contender and proof that you can get good pho north of the 401.