Dear Saigon (Toronto)

I know this sounds counter intuitive, but when a restaurant is plastered all over social media it makes me want to try it less. Too much promotion leads me to think the hype is paid for and I start doubting the restaurant’s ability to attract diners for their flavours.

Dear Saigon’s most photographed item is the Dear Saigon pho ($22.99). The restaurant knows how to draw in the camera: a large tower displaying the dishes’ ingredients, a sizzling stone bowl, and a hulking beef bone that’s protrudes in its full glory. I had my doubts on ordering it, but then felt obligated to see if it really is worth the extra six dollars.

Firstly, the tower: they need to make it more structurally sound. To get the individual layers out, you’ll need to hold onto the wobbly light-as-air tower or otherwise risk having it topple over. Ultimately, it’s a bit kitschy with the only benefits being it takes up less table space and does allow diners to gradually add the raw beef slices to control its doneness.

In terms of the stone bowl, while it arrives rapidly boiling, this starts to lose steam in under 30 seconds. Add in the noodles and half of the bean sprouts and the soup sits as still as a pond on a non-windy day. In fact, I was nervous whether it’d still be hot enough to cook the beef slices, so I jammed them all in at the start. Luckily, the remaining warmth was enough to gradually cook them through, and the beef did stay tender longer, which was a nice touch.

Moreover, the broth stayed hot until the end. Dear Saigon’s soup was just salty enough and was hearty but still fresh. While the noodles started off as a sticky clump, they quickly loosened in the soup and resisted getting soggy. Point goes to the stone bowl.

Lastly, the beef bone. Perhaps the best distinguishing feature as it’s an ingredient not offered with the other pho. For me, this alone was worth the additional $6. Since it arrives in the soup without any sauce, I worried it’d be tasteless. For me, it was flavourful enough solo, but if you need tje extra oomph there’s hoisin and hot sauce available. Meaty and tender, I ended up sharing the beef bone and was still stuffed. If you’re hungry, order the Dear Saigon pho.

If the beef rib doesn’t do it for you, the house special pho ($18.99) was satisfying. While not overly exciting, it contains the requisite favourites – rare beef, brisket, tendon, tripe, and beef balls – with plenty of noodles, herbs, and bean sprouts. The broth wasn’t as beefy but still had a comforting quality. I sense some diners may find it bland, but I found it satisfying and liked that it wasn’t oily.

Dear Saigon’s appetizers were also decent. The chicken wings ($13.50) are covered in a honey glaze that’s best eaten hot while it’s still runny. Very crispy with just a touch of heat and savouriness, it reminds me of a milder honey garlic deep-fried wing.

Wash your hands as the deep-fried spring rolls ($8.99) are extremely difficult to pick-up with chopsticks – even my mom was stumped. Utensil challenge aside, they’re uber crispy, and I enjoyed the combination of vegetables, beans, taro, and little bits of shrimp.  

Despite holding off on trying Dear Saigon because I felt it was over hyped, I’m glad I eventually gave in. Their menu is extensive including a variety of appetizers and even Thai dishes for those not in the mood for pho. But who goes to Dear Saigon for pad Thai? Give me a bowl of noodles with a massive bone any day. 

In a nutshell... 
  • Must order: Dear Saigon pho
  • Just skip: nothing that I ate

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3720 Midland Avenue

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -
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!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: