Review: Pho Ben Thanh hits Jack Frost where it hurts

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Howdy food fans. Recently, my buddy Jack has been giving me some problems. 

He keeps asking if he can come over, and although he used to be a breath of fresh air, his chilly personality now makes me shiver. All he talks about is snow and ice, and as a result, our conversations have become quite glacial.

This week, I thought I’d show Jack who’s boss and journeyed to Pho Ben Thanh Restaurant near Conestoga Mall for some good, hearty winter fare. 

On Fridays, this establishment doesn’t take reservations after 12 p.m., which is a close shave considering that they open at 11 a.m. However, upon arriving, I saw that it was for good reason: they were packed. 

Somehow, they conjured up a table for my group of six within 10 minutes.

The menu was virtually bottomless, with everything from pho, to curry, to bubble tea, to a decently sized vegetarian section. 

The entire menu is also online, giving the keeners in your squad a chance to lord their predetermined choices over you as you scramble through this culinary encyclopedia. 

Service was lightning-fast, and our food was placed in front of us in mere minutes. 

I ordered a large Ben Thanh Special Beef Noodle Soup which contained lean beef, flank brisket, soft tendon, and tripe. The portion was fantastic, providing a satisfactory amount of food for the $12.38 price tag.

Although at a comfortably warm temperature, the soup could have been served a little hotter. If it ain’t steamy, it ain’t dreamy, you know? 

The broth was full bodied and perhaps a little too well-seasoned, giving me a thirst for the gourmet tap water they offered. 

The noodles were unassuming and cooked well, if perhaps a tad too long. 

Initially, the meat was pink and uncomfortably chewy, but as is typical with pho style soups, the meat continued to cook in the broth after being served, improving in texture throughout my dining experience. The tripe was cooked nicely with a perfectly chewy texture.

Fresh sprouts, basil, and chilis were provided on the side to resuscitate the pho’s flatlining flavour profile with splashes (or perhaps cannonballs) of heat, earthy umami, and succulent crunch. 

The star of the dish was the beef tendon. Cooked to perfection, it was supple, yet incredibly tender, and designed to be eaten with minimal effort. 

This tendon offered a brief glimpse into pure serenity, the eye of the hurricane, the freshly raked Zen garden, or the cool side of the pillow, as it were. 

Only two pieces were present, which clearly signaled to me the duality of all things, or was it that the best things come in pairs? Maybe the real conclusion here was that it was mind-blowingly good. 

All things considered, you get what you pay for and the service really stands out. 

I would definitely recommend giving this place a try despite its few culinary flaws.

As the saying goes “Life is like a bowl of soup, you never know which spoonful you’re going to get.”

And as for Jack, he’s still around. At least the pho left a better taste in my mouth than kicking him to the curb.

See you next time food fans.

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