Pho Ai My
Pho Ai My is yet another restaurant that joins the sprawling Vietnamese community in Chinatown .
Walking into a white-on- white concept dining room in this neighbourhood is like finding a shiny brand new Mac store in a desolate strip mall, I'm a sucker for simplistic design and Pho Ai My gives the appearance of being far cleaner than most restaurants along Spadina.
The staff are generally friendly, but patience is key at this family- run establishment, as English is limited. We navigate through their extensive menu solo and look for items beyond the standard bowl of beef pho.
Our Vietnamese iced coffee ($1.75) is similar to an Italian cafetieri and drips slowly over the condensed milk and iced cubes. This strong coffee mixed with creamy condensed milk offers a surge of potent caffeine and sugar rush.
I am all too happy to see my mango milkshake ($3) piled sky high. Made with fresh mangos, blended with condensed milk and ice. It is thick and could easily be a meal on its own.
Spring rolls ($4) here come sans lettuce. They are crunchy and filled with vermicelli, pork, carrots and the usual trimmings, but I find them overly salty, especially when dipped in the fish sauce.
Described as "Cubed Beef on Salad Plate with rice" ($8), a soy- based beef stir fry with slivers of bell peppers arrives instead. There is an attempt at conforming strips of beef into square shapes, though it is far from the medallions I was anticipating. The whole notion of salad seems to have been abandoned altogether, with the exception of the single lonesome lettuce leaf propping up the goods.I find the beef far too salty and the dish leaves a lingering MSG taste long after the meal is done.
Fried minced shrimp on a sugar cane, grilled pork chop with vermicelli ($7), also known as #137 is refreshing as it is delicious. The pork is lightly charred and bears a smoky flavour. When mixed in with the tangy slaw, vermicelli, toasted peanuts and fragrant fresh mint, it is possibly the perfect way to beat the summer heat outdoors.
Vegetarians are out of luck, as there is only a single veggie option out of the 267 items listed on their menu. For everyone else, Pho Ai My is surely another wallet friendly find right in the heart of downtown.
Photos by Francis Jonas Yap.