Restaurant: Pho Boi, A Taste of Vietnamese
Cuisine: Vietnamese/Noodle Shop
Last visited: December 11, 2011
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond)
Address: 4131 No. 5 Road
Bus: EB Cambie Rd FS No. 5 Rd
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Limited menu
- Family friendly
- Budget friendly/Cheap eats
- English menus
- Some bubble tea
- Free parking
- Accepts credit card
- Mon-Sun 12pm-11pm
- Closed Wednesdays
**Recommendations: Grilled Pork & Fried Rolls
10 Things to Look for When Dining Vietnamese!
What to look for, what to avoid, and general scouting tips for an “authentic” Vietnamese restaurant.
This may sound like a “discriminating” post, and I know I’m stereotyping… but it’s for fun and there’s a degree of truth to it, so take it light heartedly. It’s not everything I look for, and it doesn’t apply for every Vietnamese restaurant, and there are exceptions and I know that. I apologize ahead of time if I offend some people, but I’ve probably already done so with several posts in the past… so what’s another one? Just kidding… sort of… anyways here goes!
1. The name sounds gangster or gangsta, there’s no English in the title and at a quick glace it looks like French on crack.
Pho Boi… yeah that sounds gangsta enough. Okay, I’ll never say that again. But “A Taste of Vietnamese”? Hmm, I’m not feeling the English. And yes! There’s a “China hat” on the “o”! Pho Boi is the new player in the Vietnamese pho scene in Richmond, BC.
2. It looks like a dive and the sign is missing, messy, crappy looking or tacky.
I drove by Pho Boi randomly and the fancy signage and large space made it impossible to miss. Yes, this is definitely fancy signage especially for a Vietnamese restaurant.
And what is that? A logo? Baller! And is that patio seating?! Dang!
3. The less non-Vietnamese people inside the better.
Yikes, that came out so wrong. Let me explain though. When I go to an ethnic restaurant I just like to see the majority of the diners being the same ethnicity as the cuisine. Since Vancouver is a multicultural society and Richmond is mainly Chinese I expect to see various clientele, but I just feel more confident in the authenticity of an ethnic restaurant when people of that culture are dining there too. I’m sure I’m not the only one on this one.
4. It’s Christmas time all year.
Usually when I go for pho I want the place to look like a hole in the wall shady dive with a random string of Christmas lights by the window or cashier. Those are generally the best places for pho. So far, I saw none of these characteristics, but the upscale neon lights made me hopeful.
Oh god… and this! What is this?! You accept Mastercard and Visa?! Well that almost translates to “non-legit”. A Vietnamese restaurant that accepts credit card is a rare find! But, I put my stereotypes aside, went in and opened a menu…
6. There’s no English, little English, poorly translated English or spelling mistakes all over the menu.
A description for pho? And is that pho organized by categories for “beginners”, “regulars” and “adventures”? The menu looked like it was for Westerners. At least the Vietnamese names of the items were on it and it wasn’t called “beef noodle soup”, but it was looking a little White Spot… or mall food court.
7. The #1 or #2 is the “house special” and usually the best pho on the 100+ item menu.
The #1 and #2 is usually the “house special” and “must try” pho on the menu. It’s usually the benchmark pho and shows what the restaurant can do if they nail the broth. There’s also about 50+ menu items that are “mix and match” of the same thing. At Pho Boi the menu was small and limited for a Vietnamese restaurant and what would normally be considered the “house special” at a Vietnamese restaurant was #14-16. It’s basically the options under “The Adventures Choice” with all the “scary” exotic meats like “crunchy”.
Photo of Cambie Vietnamese Restaurant not Pho Boi.
8. There’s a waving cat.
It also goes by the name of “Fortune Cat”, “Lucky Cat”, “Welcoming Cat” or “Money Cat” etc. I didn’t notice one at Pho Boi, and it’s a superstitious thing. Lots of Asian restaurants have them and it’s supposed to bring luck to the owner.
9. The food is cheaper than McDonald’s.
Your bowl of pho should be the same or even cheaper than a meal at McDonald’s. A large bowl of pho should not cost more than $8… and I’m being generous.
10. All the staff are Vietnamese and speaking in a language that sounds like choppy out of tune singing.
If you want authentic Vietnamese food you want the staff, or at least the chefs, to be Vietnamese. Sure there is the exception of Vietnamese-Chinese, and Vietnamese-Cambodian food where the chefs might not be Vietnamese, but generally speaking it’s a great sign to have the people who know the food making it. Mind you, my mother can make good pasta, but she’s not Italian. Is it authentic? Of course not, but it’s still good.
In the end if I can find 3/10 of these characteristics from my list at a Vietnamese restaurant, I’ll give it a try. It depends on which 3 too!
So far at Pho Boi I witnessed a gangster sounding name, nice signage, a large group of Westerners at the front window, wannabe Christmas lights, an acceptance of credit cards, an English description of pho, the #1 and #2 not being the “House Special”, no waving cat, a cheap menu, and half the staff speaking Vietnamese. So what is that? 3? 3.5/10? Ahhh, it’s a gamble I’m willing to take!
At first glace Pho Boi looked like it was pho sure for Westerners. It was a wide open space that was quite nice and more comfortable than most shady looking Vietnamese restaurants. The food was clean with nice presentation and I would say it was visually catered to a Western clientele, but the food wasn’t bad! It was pretty legit, but not the best Vietnamese in Richmond. It was more authentic than I assumed so I’m glad I didn’t completely judge a book by its cover or I might not have gone in!
On the table:
- If I take photos of complimentary bread, why not bean sprouts?
- They’re offered cooked or raw.
- Everything was clean and it had all the fixings.
- Steak, Flank, Tendon, Fatty Brisket, Tripe Regular $6.45 Large $7.45
- This is equivalent to the house special and it’s an “Adventure’s Choice” on the menu.
- It was good, and it had way more noodles than most places, but there wasn’t enough beef flavour in the soup.
- It had a beefy oiliness to it, which it should, and then a white pepper flavour too.
- I couldn’t really taste the star anise or any other flavours, but it was decent and not too salty. I actually wasn’t dying for water after, but it doesn’t mean it’s free of MSG.
- It was a bit dark in colour and I prefer mine a bit clearer and still nothing beats the best pho I’ve had which is at Pho Tam.
- The noodles were clumpy, but chewy and not overcooked and the broth was served hot.
- It was a decent amount of beef and everything was presented well in nice pieces and slices for what it was.
- The meats were somewhat tender, the flank and steak a bit chewy, and the fatty brisket was pretty much falling apart, but a bit dry.
- I wished it came with some beef balls, which usually comes in a house special.
- Hot & Sour Seafood Noodle Soup $7.45
- There were a couple slices of tomatoes, 3 shrimps which were likely frozen, but they were crunchy and not overcooked, and then a few of those artificial crab sticks.
- The squid was crunchy and overcooked and there was also a deep fried fish ball, but on the whole I wasn’t feeling any of the seafood.
- There was an immediate flavour of intense lemongrass and lime in the broth and it was mildly spicy with chili oil.
- The broth had no seafood flavour and I think it was just the chicken based soup with added lemongrass and chili etc.
- There was a slight tomato base and it was quite acidic with added lime juice and there was flavour, but it wasn’t a seafood broth.
- Again it came with way more noodles than most places would usually give you. They were nice and chewy, but clumpy again.
- Grilled Pork & Fried Rolls $7.95
- This was my favourite. Generally I do like this item, but the grilled pork was done well here and the presentation was nice.
- It is a dry noodle dish served room temperature with hot meat so it’s almost like a warm salad.
- It comes with a side of orange nuom choc fish sauce which I love and that’s what you dress this dish with. It’s like a sweet, salty and tangy vinaigrette.
- It comes with bean sprouts, julienne cucumbers, julienne carrots, shredded lettuce, raw onions, peanuts, garlic chips, and cilantro so it’s very aromatic and flavourful with great texture.
- The pork was a decent amount and the quality of meat was better than most Vietnamese places.
- It was boneless pork that wasn’t too fatty and it was very tender and well marinated with some lemongrass and a sweet and savoury soy based Hoisin like glaze.
- The pork wasn’t dry at all which can usually happen with this dish, but it didn’t have that charcoal grilled exterior I like.
- Overall I enjoyed it and it was better with a squeeze of lime and added basil leaves.
- Chia Gio (Crispy Fried Rolls) - 2.5/6
- Crispy fried roll with ground pork, glass noodles and veggies served with fish sauce
- The roll was a bit premade and over fried, but the filling was very moist, juicy and flavourful. I liked the filling.
- It was very crunchy and crispy with very flaky spring roll wrapping rather than the rice roll wrapping.
- It was oily as expected, and the ratio of wrapper to stuffing was decent.
- Rice paper roll with shrimp, pork, vermicelli noodles, and salad served with peanut sauce $2.76
- I know it’s very simple, but I really like these in general. This was not a great one.
- It was mostly noodles and there should be some basil leaves in the stuffing.
- The pork was Vietnamese ham so that was a no no since the menu said pork.
- The peanut sauce also tasted funky and it lacked Hoisin sauce. It was gritty, very sweet like honey and a bit fishy and not just from fish sauce.