Pho 90 focuses on homestyle Vietnamese food with dishes like vermicelli, fried rice, bahn mi and fragrant pho bowls on the menu.
The restaurant provides an authentic food experience in the Stock Yards Village shopping mall that takes up the northwest corner of the Keele and St. Clair West intersection.
The tall ceilings and incredible artwork, which has been there since it was a brunch and high tea spot: Sweet A La Mode, make it one of the more upscale and sophisticated spots for pho in the city.
Hùng Tôn and Sang Nguyen took over the restaurant from their long time friend and owner of Sweet A La Mode, and DT Bistro before that, Chef Don Duong. They tell me it was their promise to Duong when he passed away from cancer in 2019 to continue serving authentic Vietnamese food to Toronto.
Nguyen left a 20-year career in real estate to try his hand at the food business and Tôn continues to work full-time as a support worker for Habitat Services on the side of running things with Nguyen.
The menu, which comprises recipes from both of their families, is vast and ranges from rice, noodle and soup dishes while also featuring plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
There are nearly 15 different ways you can order your pho, including chicken and vegan broth options and a northern-style version of the beef soup bowl, which uses chopped beef instead of sliced with fresh ginger. One of the most popular is the rare beef tripe (regular: $12.95, large: $14.95, extra-large: $16.95) that comes with a comforting richly seasoned beef broth over rice noodles and thin slices of beef. Star anise and cinnamon sticks, along with other spices, give the soup its potently sweet flavour and smell.
There's a similarly long lineup of vermicelli options on the menu. We go with one that comes with a spring roll, pork, chicken, pork balls, and minced shrimp wrapped around sugarcane sticks, a delicacy with origins in central Vietnam ($18.95).
All of the meat is grilled giving it a freshly charred flavour and a homemade fish sauce comes on the side that's meant to be poured over.
The vermicelli runs a few dollars more than usual. The same goes for the fried rice, which is fried and tossed in a skillet of soy sauce and chicken broth (or VG powder for vegan fried rice).
The fried rice with egg, mixed veggies of peas and carrots, and chicken and shrimp ($15.95) is piled high on the plate.
Bahn mi comes with your choice of meat between chicken, pork or beef and is slathered in a homemade pate. The creamy and tasty paste is made of chicken liver and fresh herbs and spices nicely adding to the mix of pickled veggies.
The Vietnamese sandwich ($7.95) comes on a long crusty baguette and is always wrapped in the latest edition of The Vintage Saigon, a tongue-in-cheek publication written entirely by Tôn that I'm told has been registered as an actual newspaper.
Among the many offerings of vegetarian options are the fresh rolls, which provide a bit of a cleaner alternative to the deep-fried spring rolls. They can come meatless with avocado or tofu, or with beef, pork, chicken or shrimp ($6.50).
Unique milkshake flavours like durian, soursop, jackfruit and avocado ($5.50) can be added to your order.
But the one with fresh mango comes as a favourite.
Pho 90 serves up flavourful bowls of pho to the neighbourhood and has you covered in terms of Vietnamese food cravings with a long list of other dishes available.