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Restaurants

Xe Lua Vietnamese Cuisine

Posted by Devon Scoble / Reviewed on January 13, 2009 / review policy

Xe LuaI think that pho may be the world's most perfect food .Warming on cold days, hydrating on warm ones and always delicious, pho is the ideal antidote to whatever pains Ma Nature or my last night of drinking hardcore yoga are slinging. I like giving toxins the boot with replenishing liquid, burning chilis, and nourishing beef, veg and herbs.

My love for pho is not just a matter of health and taste, however. Like all great loves, mine is also etymological. Close on the sound-scale to "for" and "ful", Vietnam's finest export instantly reduces me to that most reviled comic genius: the punster. Delight-pho mouth-phos of broth and hand-phos of basil have me pho-getting myself faster than I can say wonder-pho!

Xe Lua Menu
Seriously: this dish is such ripe inspiration for punny hilarity that I was surprised when all my friends were too busy to join me for an un-pho-gettable lunch at Xe Lua.

Well, those pun-haters missed out, 'cause I've been dining at Xe Lua long enough to know what to order, and it isn't the pho! Xe Lua's version is pretty good, but in a city blessed with many superior phos, I go to one of these places when I want Vietnamese soup.

On this visit to Pho Train (like many of this city's fine citizens, I don't know how to pronounce Xe Lua, and often call it Pho Train, or The Train Restaurant), I ordered the BBQ Chicken Vermicelli. Salty, liberally oiled chicken chunks topped a bowl of finely shredded cabbage, mint, carrots, and rice noodles. I dumped the entire side of tangy fish sauce - the same kind that comes with spring rolls--over my bowl, creating a delightful melange of salt, sweet, grease and vegetable crisp.

The BBQ Chicken Vermicelli was tasty, but a little greasier than I'd have liked. Next time I go to Xe Lua, I'll follow the advice I give to friends: this restaurant's best options are always pictured on the menu.

My top choices: Beef Stew with Rice Noodle Soup, a hearty beef soup that tastes like my British dad's crock-pot roast went to Vietnam and rolled in basil for a week; Three Beef Vermicelli Combo, a great sharing plate filled with beef rolls (beef and greens with more beef inside), pickled radish and carrots, lettuce, sprouts and fine rice papers for wrapping; Shrimp Cracker Pork with Rice Noodle and Yellow Noodle Soup, a tangy broth topped with a crunchy pink cracker; and Vegetarian Spring Rolls, crisp and served classically with a side of fish sauce.

Pho Train

I also get excited about Xe Lua's wide selection of drinks, ranging from regular treats like Vietnamese drip coffee and fresh squeezed orange-juice to my favourite: Red Bean and Grass Jelly with Coconut Milk. This whimsical multi-layered concoction comes with a spoon and has the power to transport me out of adulthood and back into my fantasy childhood, where all drinks came layered in sundae glasses and were so reasonably priced that Mum would have to let me order them with dinner.

My biggest beefs with Xe Lua are that their gloppy, glutinous Satay bowls are still on the re-vamped menu and that their floors are perma-slicked with pho-juice and other greases. That's why I've vowed to lay off on the punning for now, because I need all the friends I can get to help me cross those slippery tiles, and finish those jumbo Beef Vermicelli combos.
Xe Lua Pho Train

Discussion

37 Comments

Malcolm Bastien / January 13, 2009 at 01:15 pm
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So the new Pho Train is on the 2nd floor of the building right? Pho-getting about the food for a second, I'm just curious of the insides of the restaurant have changed much?

Any noticeable menu, pricing, or food quality changes since the reno?
KevboTO / January 13, 2009 at 01:27 pm
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Devon knows what she's talking about here. I enjoy this place regularly for the quasi-healthy grease factor and she's bang-on.
geg / January 13, 2009 at 02:02 pm
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my favourite pho by far.. for the pork chops on rice however I prefer Pho Hung on St-Andrew and Spadina
jack / January 13, 2009 at 02:24 pm
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some restaurants of this franchise are not serving authentic vietnamese food... and they are awful..
Gloria / January 13, 2009 at 02:55 pm
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Nice review, Devon! Entertaining to read. Needs more prices :)
Mark / January 13, 2009 at 03:30 pm
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A good read pho-sho! I've tried the Durian shake at this place and it's pretty good. Also, the 2-person meat platters are delicious and fun.
Peter G / January 13, 2009 at 07:18 pm
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Good one: very punny!! This lexicographer would point out, though, that the pronunciation's more like how the Brits would say 'fur', with a soft r that's almost silent. Also, there's a diacritic on the 'o' in pho which makes the sound closer to a short English 'u'. Mot bat pho ngon lam...
DC / January 13, 2009 at 09:46 pm
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Food was good, huge serving but service was horrible. Horrible! Should try the restaurant downstairs, Laksa. They serve Singapore, Thai and Malaysian cuisine. Owned by the same owner as Xe Lua, but they have different service crew. Must try the Seafood laksa or the curry laksa.
Heather / January 13, 2009 at 09:52 pm
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Agree on the drinks, but for food I'd rather head up the street to Pho Hung.
Brandon T / January 13, 2009 at 11:52 pm
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Sorry, but this place is pure bullshit (Food wise and service wise)

1. The broth for the Pho lacks flavour and the temperature of the broth is always cold.
2. Service is like none other. Unattentive, uninviting and they wonder why no one tips. Well, at least I don't.
3. I'm Vietnamese, so who do you think knows Vietnamese cuisine better than anyone else on the block? This place will be an everlasting joke to my friends and I.
4. Only people of non-Vietnamese decent will consider dining here. Viets simply don't dine here. If they do, good luck to their taste buds if they have any.
5. We have tons of hidden gems hidden throughout Toronto, serving up piping hot Vietnamese cuisine with superior flavour. This establishment only thrives of it's super convinent location, late hours of operation and tons of intoxicated clubbers dining @ 2am on the weekends.

Other than that, I don't twice at this place. Even if they did move upstairs and re-did the decor a bit. Same food, same service and same ol' bullshit.
Brandon T / January 13, 2009 at 11:55 pm
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This establishment only thrives because of it's super convinent location, late hours of operation and tons of intoxicated clubbers dining @ 2am on the weekends.

TYPO CORRECTION FOR ABOVE.
Sean replying to a comment from Brandon T / January 14, 2009 at 01:22 am
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Xe Lua has a location in Scarborough as well....McCowan and Finch @ Woodside Square. It's been there for years.

Brandon T: Any places in particular you can recommend?
Brandon T replying to a comment from Sean / January 14, 2009 at 01:38 am
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My all time favourite, hands down, 1st place, Phở Tien Thanh. Wouldn't eat my phở anywhere else.
chenyip / January 14, 2009 at 04:00 pm
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I agree with Brandon. I'm not Vietnamese (Chinese, so we one-up you brother! ;)) and I do have to say this place is sub-par. The broth - which i consider the brick and mortar of pho - is seriously bland. If I had a choice, It wouldn't be near my top pick.

I'd have to say Pho Asia 21 has to be one of the better pho spots west of Yonge street in the downtown core.
jack / January 15, 2009 at 01:04 am
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laksa is absolutely terrible, don't waste your money there.. i went this past weekend.. i ordered curry chicken with vietnamese bread.. the curry is not warm, very small portion.. small pieces of chicken, mostly bones..the bread is over toasted.. dry.. very expensive... service is terrible too..i had to ask for a plate and knife..lazy waitress
Richard Silver | Downtown Toronto Blog / January 15, 2009 at 05:34 pm
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Check out Mi Mi Vietnamese Restaurant at 668 Gerrard Street East. It is amazing, well priced and great Community atmosphere.
apetimberlake / February 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm
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When in Chinatown, Pho Hung end of story.
Jenn / February 19, 2009 at 09:01 pm
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This review is adorable.

Pho is delicious.
Eddie / April 29, 2009 at 05:24 pm
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Nice review!

I like this place - I go there pretty regularly. Favorites are the chicken/beef/port skewers, spring rolls, curry & of course Rare Beef Pho.

What is with people liking Pho Hung so much? Pho Xe Lua is way better! Every time I've been to Pho Hung, the beef in the pho has been sub-par and the portion sizes small and expensive. They always bring out nasty rotten sprouts too... how long have those been sitting out?!

Brandon T: my vietnamese friend introduced me to this place, so I think you're an idiot! Also, what the heck is with people thinking they magically know better because of their ethnicity... we all have taste buds people! You might as well say you know more about basketball because you're black!
Jimmy V / May 4, 2009 at 07:13 pm
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I would agree with Eddie, Pho Hung's pho is good but the horrible service, high-price, small portions, and rotting vegetables are a big turn off overall.

Pho Xe Lua on the other hand has the same soup taste, with larger portions and fresh food. The only thing I would agree on would be the service. I new servers are quick but can be quite grumpy some times.

If any of you guys like either Pho Hung or Pho Xe Lua, I would recommend going to their other locations. For Pho Hung, the Bloor/Avenue Rd. location has larger portions and better service. For Pho Xe Lua, the Yonge/Steeles location is roomy with large portions and UNBELIEVABLE service (seriously, they seem to have eyes on the back of their heads).

Otherwise, the best pho places are either on Ossington Ave. or around the mid-suburb areas.
DrewDogg / June 19, 2009 at 08:41 pm
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Went to the Xu Lua in Markham and experienced horrible service/quality of food.

Ordered the usual bowl of noodles and beef. Received the typical plate of lime, sprouts and mint leaves (or whatever they are) with it.

The mint leaves had a caterpillar on them. The caterpillar had eaten too evidently as there was holes in the leaves by it's head.

We complained, lady serving us offered discount.

Then as we ate our noodles, we noticed a fly in our bowl. Small fruit fly, but still disheartening to see a second member of the insect world in our food.

We complained, asked for manager. He apparently refused to speak with us, because "he's very busy". The restaurant wasn't even half full and that's a ridiculous statement regardless.

They comped one bowl off the bill and that's it. I manage a restaurant myself and I likely would get fired if I refused to speak to a customer complaint, especially on a matter like this.

My recommendation is to stay away from this place and try something else.
saranya / September 22, 2009 at 01:21 am
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just i want email id to contact this restaurant, anyone plz help me, thanks in advance
Alex / January 21, 2010 at 08:25 pm
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Hey, i think this place is awesome, the food is good and a lot of you people say this restaurant is bad because of the service? well look what is around you, asian people, not trying to be offensive to asian people since i am one myself, but we don't usually tip a lot no matter how good the service is.

They service quality is based on where you are, c'mon where are you?
CHINATOWN.

You think people tip a lot there?
Pho Master / February 19, 2010 at 07:24 pm
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You guys are all noobs,

Pho Xe Lua, Pho Ai My, Pho 88, Pho Pasteur, Com Tam Dao Vien and Pho Hung all fucking suck. If you want real authentic pho when your in CT, go to Saigon Palace at College and Spadina. This is the closest thing to how pho tastes back in Vietnam.

If you want really really tasty pho, go to Mimi's in East Chinatown or Pho Linh at College and Dufferin.

Bun bo hue master / February 19, 2010 at 07:26 pm
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Best Bun bo hue is at pho linh
so stfy
Mr.V / August 23, 2010 at 07:01 am
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All Viet restaurants in Toronto are fucking suck you guys because they don't have pro chefs to cook the food and use cheap ingredients. I have tried many restaurants in Toronto but the food at those places is not delicious.
Tina Pham / January 11, 2011 at 10:06 am
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If you can travel to Scarborough I would try Pho Vietnam, amazing service, very very clean and delicious tasty pho. I'm vietnamese and I gotta say not if the best, one of the best pho I have ever had at a restaurant. Unfortunately I haven't been up there in a few years but it would be worth the distance if you want some real good stuff.
Robin / February 24, 2011 at 02:44 pm
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I like the one in Chinatown East (on Gerrard east of Broadview) a lot more. The broth is more flavourful, the service is friendly, and it's always full of Vietnamese which I always take to be a good sign. It's not as nice on the inside but I don't care about decor when it comes to a $5 bowl of soup.
Elaine / September 5, 2011 at 07:14 pm
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I agree with many of the comments here. As a regular customer at Xelua located around Gerrard (Broadview) , the service is very friendly and the food is delicious. I've been to other Xelua restaurants and the one located in Spadina has great food as well but the customer service is not that great, sometimes they are lazy and grumpy even towards cutomers. Anyway, the food is great !
Pho Phuong / November 17, 2011 at 02:17 pm
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This is just like Pho Phuong.
Adam / November 17, 2011 at 02:18 pm
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Pho phuong
Tom Ritchie / November 17, 2011 at 02:21 pm
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Phuck this place, you guys heard of Pho Phuong?
Sam / September 12, 2012 at 01:06 am
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Terrible food and an overall bad service.
Avoid this restaurant.
Phuk Yiu / October 29, 2012 at 08:02 pm
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Why are the Vietnamese in Chinatown? There is a reason it's called Chinatown and not Vietnam-town. Be original, don't be a follower!
Wah Dafuq replying to a comment from Phuk Yiu / October 30, 2012 at 01:55 am
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strong name to post ratio
Pho / January 28, 2013 at 04:02 pm
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There is a new restaurant called Pho Tien at 358 Bathurst st (Bathurst/Dundas) and their Food is awsome. We came there last week and i loved the Pho Dac Biet soooo muchh.... My friend also liked their Vermicelli dish especially the one with 3 toppings : spring roll, grilled pork and minced shrimp on sugar cane.... We shared an order of spring rolls as well as the shrimp rice paper roll (both are $3.95 for 2rolls).... They not only offer good food but also the service... If you always complain about the service at chinatown, come to this Pho place and you will not want to go any where else. By the way, their coconut milk shake and taro bubble tea are the best in town.
Wai / January 26, 2014 at 02:10 pm
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Cashier demands tips at Vaughan location:
I was at the restaurant today, Sunday January 26, 2014 at 12:30pm.
My wife and I had finished our meal and were waiting for the bill, however we could not get any staff's attention. We decided to pay at the register. The bill came to $19.10. I had given the cashier $20, however he said it was not enough because he wanted additional money for tip. Then I gave him an additional $20, $40 in total. He gave me back $20 in change, not $20.90. I still gave $2.90 for tip, because we received good service from the wait staff. However I felt extorted for the money and so myself, family members and friends will never eat or return to this location again. Tips are freely given for service and should not be demanded from customers. It is a shame, because the food is quite good and I was a repeat customer.

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