Golden Turtle is a family-run establishment and long contender in Toronto for the city's favourite pho offering a range of other Vietnamese staples like vermicelli, fried rice and Singapore-style noodles.
The Golden Turtle, whose Vietnamese name Rua Vang means "luck for the future," has sat on the corner of Ossington and Argyle since 1987.
In those days the Ossington strip was known as Little Saigon, covered in Vietnamese karaoke bars from Queen to Dundas, with this Ossington mainstay outlasting nearly every one of them.
The original menu, which has shrunk from over 200 items, features a lengthy hundred offerings or so to the loyal following of pho slurpers that make their way to the unassuming dining room and private side patio come summer.
The steaming pho bowls, which range from the classic rare beef pho tai to options like spicy satay chicken and vegan tofu and veggie, are each topped with a lemongrass and hot chili sauce. The tasty paste is also available by the jar upon popular demand.
Aside from the tofu bowl which takes a veggie stock, the aromatic broth gets its unreal flavour, and darker colour, from a slowly-simmered beef bone marrow different from the clear chicken broth of northern pho.
Most of the pho-centric menu is typical southern Vietnamese cuisine, with the owners coming from Saigon, the largest city in Vietnam situated in the southeastern region near the Saigon River.
Ultra crispy deep-fried veggie or pork spring rolls make for a starter that'll have you licking your fingers while fresh salad rolls ($5) provide a lighter refreshing alternative.
Your choice of pork, beef, chicken, shredded pork skin, veggie or shrimp can come between the translucent rice wrapper. Shrimp provides a nice crunch in the middle, a must for any great fresh roll, which is only made better by the homemade peanut sauce on the side.
The vermicelli is another dish they take seriously here, offering even more options for this noodle dish than pho. Get it with your choice of protein and throw in a crispy spring roll for good measure.
We go for the grilled shrimp, pork, and spring roll combo ($14.50) which all comes piled high on a bed of rice noodles. Generously drench the heaping dish in the side fish sauce for a flavour punch of sweet and sour.
If pan-fried vermicelli sounds good to you but you'd like to trade sweet and sour for a spicy curry taste, Singapore-style noodles would be the way to go.
Beef, chicken, shrimp, seafood with shrimp, squid and fish balls, and tofu ($12.50) are all options when it comes to noodle accompaniments. The heat levels are high while still staying manageable, slowly building in every bite.
Vietnamese-style iced coffee ($4.50) is the drink of choice around here, made with Cafe du Monde, a chicory coffee from New Orleans that's synonymous with Vietnamese coffee, and condensed milk, of course.
Golden Turtle, a culinary gem when it comes to Vietnamese food in the city, is a full family affair. Huyen Vo, her kids, Linda Nguyen and Michael Vo, as well as aunts, uncles, and cousins, are all on-staff, keeping the flavours of Saigon alive on the Ossington strip.