Review: Pho Huong Viet

I had the pleasure of visiting Pho Huong Viet (3855 17th Ave SW, Calgary) this evening for dinner with my buddy JC as we got to catch up on life and a big moving decision that was coming up for him.

The restaurant is situated in a strip mall on a busy intersection and JC had mentioned it was often packed throughout the day.

The restaurant was half full when we arrived and had people lining up at the door by the time we departed!

It is a pleasantly estetic Vietnamese restaurant (most tend to go for pragmatic rather than pleasing design). The restaurant looks like it can seat about 50-60 people, the menu is priced fairly which is a surprise in a city that is well known for its Vietnamese cuisine and has seen prices inflate (unnecessarily) over the years.

JC went with the curry seafood noodle soup and I opted for my traditional choice of Pho Dac Biet (special Pho).
The reason I do this is that when I go to a restaurant, the item I want to put to the test is their signature dish, in this case, the special beef noodle soup. If a Pho restaurant fails at providing a good soup, they ahould not be in business.

The service was “slow” for a Pho restaurant, but I didn’t mind this. Typical Pho restaurants have cauldrons of Pho broth ready-to-go for their customers to get them in and out. However, the slower service actually reflected the quality of their food in this case as I found my soup was carefully prepared with just the right balance of noodles and soup and generously filled with various cuts of beef in a bowl so large that I haven’t seen in years.

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The soup was rich in flavour, it had a subtle sweetness, and it was fragrant.

Many Pho restaurants over the years have lost this touch of fragrance in their beef noodle soup and it is a sad thing; it is the fragrance that tantalizes the tastebuds of the potential diner and invites them to come and try out this particular meal.

I had mentioned to JC as we had pulled up to the restaurant that the name of the restaurant meant “Pho with the fragrance of Vietnam”; I’m glad their food lives up to the name of the restaurant!

I enjoyed my meal to say the least.
If you’re in the area, I highly recommend it!

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Review: Paloma Mexican Restaurant

My wife and I love trying out different cuisines from different cultures and that led us one day to take a look through Urbanspoon and try to find an interesting restaurant to eat at.

One particular afternoon, we opted to try Mexican and chose to go to Paloma Mexican Restaurant located in the community of Whitehorn in the northeast of Calgary. That being said, some of you who are familiar with Calgary may be wary of traveling to the northeast of Calgary to venture to find edible delights due to its reputation for crime and the general ghettoization of the neighbourhoods in the northeast… but I have lived in the northeast of Calgary for the majority of my life and cannot imagine living anywhere else in Calgary.

My wife has always wanted to try “authentic” Mexican food and so we opted to try this restaurant due to its high ratings.
Paloma is located on the corner of 36th Street and Whitefield Drive N.E. and is in a small strip mall. It had recently taken over a small local pub/bar called “Coyotes” which was notorious in the neighbourhood.

We arrived at 5pm and found ourselves in a restaurant that was understaffed due to a Latin festival that was happening downtown and the restaurant had sent half of its staff to sell food at the vendors.

We were promptly seated and given a menu and it took us a while to figure out what to order simply because this is truly Mexican food! Sure there were tacos and enchiladas (which my wife ended up ordering) and tortillas, but there was also a whole host of other foods on the menu!

We started off with quesadillas for our appetizer and my wife ordered a pineapple soda (which she has desperately sought out for many years in Calgary since her travels to Central America) and the chicken enchiladas and I opted for the Menudo Colorado. Now a word of warning… I am a Vietnamese guy who loves food and when I see tripe, I rarely say no. Sometimes I liken myself to the Asian version of Anthony Zimmern (Bizarre Foods), only with hair.

These quesadillas were sooo good. We scarfed them down!

My wife’s enchiladas… she couldn’t finish them so I helped her devour them. =)

The menudo colorado… this is the stuff of legends and only legends can really stomach… did you catch the pun there? hehehe.

My wife loved her enchiladas and soda and I scarfed down my beef tripe soup.
The menudo colorado is an interesting soup, if I were to describe the flavour of the soup I would have to use the word… “tripey”. That is, you can taste what part of the animal you are particularly eating from this soup. It’s organy, it’s irony, it’s sorta got a neat hint of bowel, not enough to turn someone off of this dish but just enough to remind you what you are eating. What’s interesting with tripe is that typically, in East Asian cuisine, we marry the tripe flavour with ginger, green onions, and garlic as well as fish sauce and sometimes five star spice powder (depending on the treatment of the tripe) and so the tripe often is cooked and marinated in sauces and takes on a wonderful rich flavour of herbs and veggies… so when I actually had the first spoonful of the menudo colorado I was actually surprised that there was no preparation done to transform the flavour of the tripe and instead it is utilized as a characteristic of the soup itself!

We were both satisfied with our meal but I am not sure we would come back for Mexican food here because the pricing is a little bit on the higher end of things. If you’re looking for delicious and cheaper Mexican fare, I suggest checking out El Mariachis down on Macleod Trail South.

For more info, check out their website: http://www.palomamexicanrestaurant.ca

Phở: It’s Always Better the Next Day

This morning's breakfast

Yesterday my wife and I had friends over for dinner, both of whom had never had Phở (pronounced ‘fuh’ with an upwards inflection) in their entire lives. So it was a pleasure for me to make Phở for them; however, it’s a greater pleasure to have a bowl of Phở the next day – a bowl of Phở is always better the next day.

If you had to identify a meal that was quintessentially Vietnamese, it would be the humble bowl of Phở.
Phở originated in Northern Vietnam and traditionally was either created from a vegetarian broth or a broth made from chicken and pork. It was not until the French arrived in Vietnam that the pork was substituted for beef and we were blessed with this culinary dish as we know it today.

Today, you can find Phở anywhere in Vietnam: North to South, East to West, small towns and large cities, in supermarkets or in a nook or a cranny – it is ubiquitous.

Phở is a meal that one can partake in at any point in the day. In North America, we reserve it for lunch or dinner outings. However, in Vietnam, Phở can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner… or all three.

A good bowl of Phở rests on the quality of the broth – if you have skimped out on the quality of your ingredients, then your broth will suffer. If the broth is bad, no amount of meat or fixins’ will ever redeem the dish. I have had Phở so bad that the only reason I kept eating was because I was in a city which I was not familiar with the food scene.

Let’s get to the fun stuff already!

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