CLOSED: Pho V Express (Toronto)

Walking along Avenue on a piercingly cold day, seeing Pho V Express was like seeing a water mirage in the desert. While it’s definitely new to the area, stepping through the doors I couldn’t help but get a sense of déjà vu. There’s colourful blue and green lanterns hanging by the window, rich dark high top tables, and décor hanging on the walls that’s generally not found at pho places. Yet, I felt like I’ve seen the set-up before.

It wasn’t until the owner launched into a lengthy monologue explaining Pho V Express only uses organic meats (while striving to do the same with vegetables) and non-MSG broth that I remember why I’ve heard it before. Glancing down at the logo on the sticker holding together the chopsticks it finally clicked - this is the second location of Pho Vistro.

It’s confusing why they decided to change the name for their uptown location - Pho Vistro actually sounds better and seems to be a better fit with the neighbourhood. Also, to be an “express” version of the original, things need to be faster. From my experience, the service speed was exactly the same.

Regardless, the hot bowl of noodles hit the spot. Maybe it had something to do with the frigid temperatures, but the classic beef pho ($11.50) was tastier than I remember: the broth richer and more seasoned. Compared to other establishments, it certainly tastes healthier. The soup doesn’t merely rely on bone broth, rather also contains star anise and cinnamon that gives off such a lovely aroma. The soup is so flavourful that I didn’t even need siracha sauce; after using a small dollop at the start, I refrained from adding more as I found took away from the broth’s natural flavours. 

Their beef is also leaner. A combination of brisket and rib-eye round, the brisket goes really well with the noodles but the round is shaved so thinly that it breaks apart and tastes grainy, especially when you near to bottom half of the bowl (the granules in the soup is a bit off putting). In the future, I’ll have to remember to ask if I can only get brisket.

Another ingredient that will take some getting used to, is the spindly Ontario bean sprouts. Whereas sprouts in other restaurants are added for a textual element, these lack crunch and taste a lot like alfalfa sprouts giving a slightly bitter grassiness to the pho.

The fried chicken spring rolls ($5.50) contained a lot of colourful thinly grated vegetables but minimal chicken. The lack of meat isn’t a problem for me, but the addition of mung beans gave the otherwise delicious roll a slightly mushy and coarse texture that you don’t normally expect when biting into a spring roll. Be warned.

Pho V Express is a good option for vegans as their rolls and most of the noodle dishes are offered with a vegan preparation. And it’s sort of nice to leave the restaurant feeling warm, full, and feel like you’ve enjoyed something healthy. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1923 Avenue Road

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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