343 Booth Street
For the first lunch after going to Ottawa, we went to have Vietnamese food. Our friend Curtis always raves that Ottawa has the best pho, so I think it was necessary to try it out. Lucky for us, this restaurant is owned by the brother of Curtis's half-Vietnamese girlfriend, so we probably got some pretty authentic Vietnamese food!
One of the things I noticed first going into the restaurant, is that the place is very space efficient. Despite being small, they sure did pack many rows of tables and chairs. On the side wall there is a "daily specials" menu, which I noticed was more fusion of Vietnamese-Chinese items (ex. Lemon grass chicken, fish cake noodle, etc). Not feeling to venturous, we all opted for some familiar dishes.
Pho-Rare beef, Brisket, Tripe, Tendon
To test out Curtis's claim, I ordered a pho with all the trimmings that I usually get. When it came to the table, the first impression I had was that the bowl was very small. It wasn't until I actually dug my chopsticks into it, that I realized that this bowl was jam packed. I guess they are efficient with everything at this restaurant! In terms of taste, everything was in line. The noodles were thicker than most pho places I've been too, border-lining the territory of Chinese flat rice noodles. The broth had a very natural flavourful to it as if it had gone through an extended period of simmering, versus just straight up MSG. I really enjoyed the rare beef which was a good cut of meat. The brisket on the other hand, wasn't what I'm used to. They were smaller cubed up pieces, with a big chunk of fat on each peice. Overall, I felt as if this pho had a more "homemade" touch to it.
Left: BBQ pork on rice, Right: BBQ chicken on rice
These rice dishes were pretty interesting. The skewers of meat may look pretty chunky and kebab-ish in the picture, but they are actually thinner pieces of meat that came off effortlessly from the stick. The marination had a lot of dimension to it, and you could tell they used all different types of spices and herbs. The chicken was slightly dry to my liking, but the pork was amazing in every way. Rob commented that he thinks it's so good because the cut of meat is the same cut as bacon.
Chè Ba Màu (Three colour Drink)
Because it was so darn hot that day, I decided to order a drink to go along with my meal. I probably should've ordered a slushie or something, because this was not the drink to quench thirst! It was so thick, almost like pudding dessert. It was good though, very creamy and heavy on the coconut flavour.
Bánh Bèo Lá Dúra (Pandan Water Fern Cake)
I think this dessert was my favourite part of the meal. It's something you don't try everyday and it tasted really good! Though it may look cold from the picture, the dessert was actually served hot. The green petal looking things are made with rice flour and are chewy like glutinous rice balls. The coconut topping and sesame seeds on top gave it some extra flavours and texture. Not too bad of a dessert to share at the end of the meal.
While I was quite satisfied with my experience, I feel like I'm still missing out on something. I think by sticking with typical familiar dishes, we actually weren't able to try some of the better things that this restaurant had to offer. I did a bit of research online after coming back to Toronto, and most people seemed to enjoy the more authentic Vietnamese dishes that are less commonly seen at other mainstream restaurants. That being said, I don't think the food we had, nor this blog post does the restaurant justice. Shame. Guess I'll have to just try again another time....if I make the trek out to Ottawa again that is...