It's a small, nondescript restaurant in a strip mall in Cedarbrae, but it is clean, cozy, and fantastic.
After reading the reviews on Urbanspoon, and it being relatively close, I decided to pick lunch up from there one day. I had the classic pho. It's pronounced "fuh," like fun without the "n," not like "foe" or "faux," like so many people do. To begin with, the restaurant is very clean and cozy and contains about twelve tables. There is a flat-screen TV on the south wall and the owners are very pleasant and polite and fluent in English. I assume it is a family-run business with the parents and their son, but don't quote me on that.
On the menu, what I had was the number eleven: "Pho Dac Biet (Tai, Chin, Nam, Gan, Sach & Bo Vien) House Special Beef Noodle Soup (Incl. Rare, Well Done Brisket, Tendon, Tripe, & Beef Balls)." And it was wonderful. It is probably the best pho I've had in Calgary.
I had this as take out so I was not surprised when I went in to pick it up that it came in two separate Styrofoam dishes, one for the broth and one for the solids of the soup. Upon opening the broth container, I smelled a wonderfully fragrant brown liquid with bits of scallion and cilantro floating in it. The other dish had rice stick noodles, tripe, tendon, cooked and rare beef brisket (which I don't think is actually brisket but probably sirloin, which is definitely a step up from brisket), onions, scallions, cilantro, fresh basil, a lime wedge, and beef balls. It was accompanied by a little dish of sauce. There were two sauces in the dish: a hot chili paste that wasn't all that hot, and a darker brown sauce that was kind of like hoisin but not really.
Upon mixing the broth with the solids and squeezing the lime wedge onto it, I picked up my chopsticks and began to eat. The meat was perfectly cooked, the onions were sweet, the tripe was just slightly chewy, as it should be, the tendons had just enough give as to let you know what they were, the noodles were firm yet properly cooked, the beef balls were absolutely wonderful, as well, and the broth, oh, the broth was spectacular. For the beef balls, think of them more as a beef sausage with Vietnamese seasoning, but instead of a western sausage where the meat is coarsely ground, this was very finely ground, but not as fine as say a frankfurter (I think they actually might use this for the charbroiled sausage on the menu but, just to make sure, that is what I will order next time). The tripe was also very good; it was not the honeycomb tripe that one would usually find in Safeway or something, but one of the other stomachs, and it was very finely sliced so there were no huge pieces, which is very telling since large pieces can be reminiscent of chewing on an eraser, but these were perfect. If you are going to try tripe and you haven't previously, I would suggest doing it this way. The tendon might throw some people off as it is not something usually eating in western cultures, but is was very good, I will say that. The beef was beef and probably Alberta AA at the very least. The broth had all the subtle nuances that pho broth should: the cassia, fennel, coriander, star anise, cardamon, ginger, onions, and the cilantro was just enough to give it a slight flavor but by no means overpowering. It was perfect.
I will definitely be eating there again. Thank you very much, Ha Tien.
Monday to Friday 11am-9pm, but there was a sign out that said they are also open Sundays, as well.
- Appetizers and Hor d'oeuvres
- Soups and Stews
- Fish and Seafood
- Vegetable, Eggs, and Side
- Pasta and Sauces
- Bread and Baked Goods
- Preserves, Pickles, and Condiments