- Where: 360 Jean Talon Est
- Type of food: Vietnamese
- Usual Suspects: A nice cross section of the diverse ‘hood’ it’s located in.
- Why I love it: The authentic coffee and the adorable waitress.
- Why you’ll love it: The awesome pho.
- Who to take: Depends on your level of skill with chopsticks, and how recently you returned from southeast Asia.
- I ordered: Cold spring rolls, crispy shrimp chips, rare beef, soft tendon and tripe soup, weirdly superb bean and coconut dessert.
- Price: $
Have you ever tried and failed four times in one week to go to that Balkan deli on Saint-Hubert? (I can’t be the only one). Well, have I got a tasty alternative for you…
After finding our original destination unable to accommodate our growling bellies, my lovely dining companion – let’s call her Princess – suggested a nearby place that would take our gastronomic experience half a world away. I followed Princess west to Saint-Denis, then down some stairs and into a basement establishment. “Trust me,” she says. “Implicitly,” I reply.
They try and seat us in the room to the right, but Princess knows better. Sit in the room on the left. I decide to follow Princess’ lead, as well as that of the menu, which tells me they specialize in pho. I immediately eye the rare beef, soft tendon and tripe soup. Princess suggests we share appetizers, making a strong case for the cold spring rolls ($3.00). I choose the crispy shrimp chips ($2.50), because I like all three of those words when it comes to food. (Bonus: it’s kinda a tongue twister. Pre-dinner entertainment for the whole family).
Princess opts for the “special soup”. And why shouldn’t she? It’s the dish for the indecisive among us, as it comes with all the meats they offer. Nice choice, Princess. The small size is more than enough, and more than affordable at $7.00.
Our food arrives. We each pop a crispy shrimp chip into our mouths, and smile. These things dissolve on your tongue in the most delightful way. And the spring rolls… although normally served with beef, ours came with chicken and shrimp. The beef wasn’t missed. From the texture to the taste to the peanut sauce, everything about these babies was sublime. Well done, Princess.
Next, it’s pho time. Our soups arrive, and I make an initial awkward attempt with the chopsticks, but I’m too clumsy, and the soup is too good. The beef was rare, the noodles were smooth, and the tripe was tripe. The broth was tasty, and clear but rich. I was a pho-king happy camper. Princess, too, was pleased, if not a little overwhelmed with the volume and variety of meat present in her special soup. Be careful what you wish for, I say.
Despite being overwhelmed, Princess suggested an iced Vietnamese coffee and weird dessert: red beans, mung beans, tapioca and coconut milk. Whaaat? Yes. YES. Trust me. This thing is the bomb-diggity, as the kids (used to) say. It’s pretty, it’s delicious, and you get to mix it all up. And for those of you out there who are a little scared of coconut, fret not, my pretties. The coconut taste is light, sweet, and perfectly complements the beans and tapioca. And the coffee – having recently had the privilege of tasting Vietnamese coffee directly from the source, I can tell you the flavour and aroma of this cup is as close to the real deal as you’re likely to get on this continent. I just want to go back on the weekend to try their special spicy soup!
Take home message: Get your pho-king ass over to Dakao tonight. But not if it’s a Tuesday. They’re closed on Tuesdays.