pho tien thanh toronto

Toronto director loves the restaurant he lives above so much he made a film about it

There are plenty of popular pho restaurants in Toronto, but a local director loves the one he lives above so much he's created a short documentary about it. 

Pho Tien Thanh is part of the Ossington strip that's not only packed with restaurants, it's also got a good number of options for pho.

Pho Tien Thanh sets itself apart with a huge "I love pho forever" sign, and people love debating over whether this spot or another in the neighbourhood has the best Vietnamese noodle soup.

Jackie Abraham lives above the restaurant that's been serving Toronto for about 30 years, and directed the minute-long doc about it which features owner Tuan Vo.

Vo, who taught himself English, explains in the documentary how he left Vietnam in 1985 and was working for someone at a restaurant until 1995.

He also says he attributes a lot of Pho Tien Thanh's longstanding success to word of mouth, thanking the people of Toronto for their support. 

Abraham was born and raised in Toronto, and lived at Queen and Broadview before taking over the apartment above Pho Tien Thanh from a friend in 2018. Vo both works beneath Abraham and lives beside him in the place next to the restaurant.

Abraham says Vo is "basically like family in a strange neighbourly way" and that it was essentially impossible not to develop a relationship with him as he's such a "giving person," always offering gifts of beer, food and even rare Vietnamese ice wine.

Abraham tells blogTO his goal with creating the doc was "to get eyes on this restaurant" and create buzz for them after this "awful year." Fortunately, as an advertising director, he's got experience in doing just that.

"They were just getting clobbered," Abraham says of the restaurant during the pandemic, continuing that he was worried they might go out of business.

They had to work with a small crew because of COVID, but that didn't stop Vo from feeding them the entire menu over the course of a 10-hour shoot that took place in late April. 

Though the spot is only 60 seconds long, it still took until Aug. 8 to fully wrap and put out the completed video produced by 8.5 x 11 Films (a small collective of filmmakers based out of Toronto) and shot by Shady Hanna.

Abraham's hope is that it will renew interest in the Toronto staple where the restaurant owner knows him so well, he doesn't even have to look at the menu: Vo just puts a bowl down in front of him.

Lead photo by

Jackie Abraham


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