Pho Tan Vietnamese

Restaurant: Pho Tan Vietnamese
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Last visited: March 6, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Riley Park/Little Mountain)
Address: 4598 Main Street (at 30th Ave)
Train: Brighouse Station Southbound
Price Range: $10 or less

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 4 (based on what I tried)
Service: 3
Ambiance: 2
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Vietnamese/Chinese owned/operated
  • Award winning
  • Known as “best pho”
  • Local favourite
  • Busy at peak hours
  • Casual/quick
  • Cheap eats/budget friendly
  • Min charge $4/person
  • Cash only
  • Dine in/Take out
  • No delivery
  • Daily 10:30am-9:30pm

**Recommendations: Spring Rolls and Satay Beef with Rice Noodle Soup (in Peanut Sauce & Coconut Milk). Popular favourites that I didn’t try include: Shrimp cake, Stuffed boneless chicken wing, Special beef noodle soup, Chicken noodle soup, BBQ beef short rib, Curry beef brisket on rice and Grilled pork or chicken, spring roll on rice vermicelli

I can already hear it. I can hear your gasps and almost see your jaws drop. The last time I tried to come here I missed it, and ended up at Cambie Vietnamese just a few blocks down the street. Yes, it has taken me this long to write a post on Pho Tan Vietnamese because this was my first time here. I know. First time here. Am I ashamed? Somewhat, but not really, because I can turn this right around and ask if you’ve been to Pho Tam. If you say yes to that, then great!! But if not, then feel slightly deprived, unless you’re already spoiled with the “nothing can compare to home cooked pho”.

For me, Pho Tam is the benchmark for superior restaurant pho in Metro Vancouver. Pho Tan was still very good and I can sort of see why people say it’s “the best pho in Vancouver”, but until they have had their taste of Pho Tam, I just can’t share the same enthusiasm. With that being said, I ended up liking the other items at Pho Tan outside of their pho better.

Pho Tan Vietnamese Restaurant is more clean, comfortable and less shady than the Vietnamese restaurants I would normally visit. It almost had none of my 10 Things to Look for When Dining Vietnamese!, and ironically that almost made it more shady, or maybe just more surprising? Anyways I was going in with positive reviews and it’s already won awards with local Vancouver media and locals overall.

I actually think Pho Tan is Chinese-Vietnamese owned and operated so the broths seem to have a more Chinese flavour or style to them. Basically there are 3 types of pho: Vietnamese, Chinese and Cambodian. All pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup, but there are various styles of Vietnamese cuisine due to cultural influence in the country. Pho Tan actually offered dishes from all three I mentioned, and I was generally satisfied with my experience, but not as fanatical as I expected to be.

On the table:

Raw bean sprouts, basil leaves, lime and jalapenos

**Spring Roll5/6 (Excellent)

  • 2 spring rolls $5.50
  • These were excellent. I don’t order them all the time so I wouldn’t say I’m a “spring roll expert”, but they were fresh, piping hot and well made.
  • They used the right rice paper and it was stuffed with a good amount of minced pork filling that wasn’t crumbly or dry, but moist and well flavoured.
  • The filling was minced pork, carrots, cabbage, onion, black wood ear mushrooms, and clear vermicelli noodles, and it was a good ratio of each.
  • It was perhaps a bit heavier with the noodles if anything.
  • They were crunchy, but not overly greasy and I would order them again.
Pho Tai Nam Sach 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
  • Sliced rare beef, beef brisket & tendon with rice noodle soup  Small $6.50 Large $7.50
  • For me, the pho wasn’t the highlight here, although still good.
  • It seemed more Chinese-Vietnamese in style than Vietnamese.
  • The broth has a nice clear colour, but I found it on the sweet side.
  • I could taste the beef flavour, but it wasn’t as intense as Pho Tam or Pho Lan from what I can remember.
  • It didn’t have a beefy oiliness or richness, or that hint of star anise that leads to bringing depth in the broth.
  • It wasn’t that salty, but I think there was a good amount of MSG in it (which is actually sweet), but almost all Vietnamese restaurants use it anyways.
  • It was more apparent for me here, but it seemed like the Chinese MSG rather than the Vietnamese MSG.
  • There were a decent amount of tender slices of rare beef, although I prefer more pink.
  • There wasn’t as much brisket, but the noodles were nice and chewy and the broth hot.
**Pho Bo Satay – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
  • Satay beef with rice noodle soup (in peanut sauce & coconut milk) Small $7.30 Large $8.80
  • This is what I’d come back for and this is what I’d call their “signature”. It’s not available anywhere else.
  • It was almost Vietnamese-Thai and unique to Pho Tan.
  • It was richer from the coconut milk, but not creamy and thick like a coconut curry.
  • The broth was sweet, but still had a good acidity from tomatoes and it was strong with lemongrass flavour and some basil.
  • I could still taste the beefiness in the broth and there was a bit of chili oil for some heat, but it wasn’t hot or very spicy.
  • It had a slight nuttiness from peanut sauce (and/or sesame sauce?), but I couldn’t get any actual peanut texture and I would have loved some crushed peanuts on top.
  • It was less rich than I expected and it wasn’t as pungent as a Chinese satay sauce.

  • The noodles were the thin chewy rice noodles and they weren’t over cooked.
  • The thin slices of pink rare beef were quite generous and tender.
  • I found it less nutty then a modern “Tan Tan noodle” and less rich than a Thai curry, but still very good and worth coming back for.

Bún bò Huế 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Huế’s spicy soup with thick noodle Small $6.80 Large $7.80
  • Bún bò Huế is beef and pig’s knuckle rice vermicelli.
  • It’s a popular favourite for those exploring outside of the standard pho.
  • I enjoyed it perhaps more than their standard pho, but on the scale of Bún bò Huế it does get better.
  • This was less spicy than I’m used to and it was maybe a mild-medium for me and I like spicy.
  • The broth wasn’t as red as normal so I think they eased up on the chili oil. It got gradually spicier though.
  • I don’t like it burning my mouth, but this was just tingling it and the spiciness was sharp, but still flavourful.
  • The broth was clear and almost tasted a bit chicken like and it was more oily and rich than their standard pho broth.
  • It had a good amount of ingredients including Vietnamese ham, spongy and moist chicken balls, rare beef and pig trotters.

  • The noodles were slippery and chewy and comparable to a Japanese Udon noodle but thinner, or a Chinese “lai fun” rice noodle.
  • The noodle is called Bánh canh and it’s made from rice and tapioca flour so it’s a bit denser, springier, and chewier than the standard Vietnamese rice noodle.

  • It came with about 5 small pieces of almost boneless and skinless pig knuckles/trotters which were my favourite part. They were tender, but a couple pieces at times dry.
  • I could have used a stronger lemongrass flavour and some shrimp paste in the broth, but I don’t think they used shrimp paste in this version.

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17 Comments

  • Bow says:

    The spring rolls look excellemt, they have a proper rice wrap and look crisp. Hard to find excellent ones that don’t have too much batter. I like seeing rare beef in the pho, not a fan of grey meat,and the Pho Bo Satay looks different but very nice. Too bad the pho broth wasn’t intensely “beefy” like the Hai Phong, Pho Linh, Pho Le Do…it’s amazing that the broth that looks so clear, like water can have such a depth of beef flavour. Never tried this place but the Pho Bo Satay is beckoning me…

  • Dave says:

    Totally agree. Pho Tan is good and great decor for most Vietnamese Restaurants. Spring rolls are the best @ Pho Tan…but Pho Tam is the best for noodles in the GVRD. I’m so blessed it’s in my backyard. I used to live in Vancouver and love the variety but most Pho Restaurants don’t live up to Pho Tam.

  • LotusRapper says:

    Pho Tan is good 🙂 But at this location I find their portions small 🙁

    They are related to Pho Tan’s (Kerrisdale) owners, and at that location I seem to get larger portions. Go figure.

    There’s a third location I believe in Burnaby, on Kingsway east of Metrotown. Kerrisdale’s folks told me that’s also part of their operation.

  • yeppers says:

    I agree with LotusRapper that the portions are really small here. The owner is super friendly though.

    The spring rolls are good here, but my favourite ones are from Pho Lan in Richmond. We used to go all the time. I haven’t seen the the Pho Nazi there in a while. These days we usually go to Pho Thai Hoa.

  • LotusRapper says:

    @Yeppers: who’s the pho nazi ?!? Like on Seinfeld ? LOL

    Pho Tan, Pho Lan ……. we should start up a new one called Pho Man ! 😉

  • KimHo says:

    For Bun Bo Hue, try Cafe Xu Hue in Kingsway between Victoria Drive and Nanaimo, in the same block as Canadian Tire. However, timing is really critical, as they will run out of pig trotters as the day goes and, during lunch rush, specially in weekends, it will be packed. Also, they use one other ingredient that is really seasonal… Other than that, won’t say more! 🙂

    Thuan An in Kingsway (near Fraser, not far from LFB) has a strong following.

    For other Vietnamese dishes, try Green Lemongrass (go there for their “breakfast”), Hai Phong or Mui Ngo Gai.

  • LotusRapper says:

    I ate at Thuan An last week (first time since their new ownership & makeover) ……. freaking good !!

  • Linda says:

    mmm who doesn’t love pho?! i’ve only been to pho tan once and that was years ago.. i always order the same thing which is the pho dac biet (special) and i’m surprised you didn’t order it here… nor ice coffee and dessert lol i really luv traditional spring rolls and even though the egg roll wrapper version is good, it’s nothing like the rice paper version… maybe its the chewy skin that’s so appealing after its fried lol

    i used to order bun bo hue all the time when i was younger but haven’t been eating it since.. maybe i should start up again.. i forgot how delicious it could be 🙂

  • LotusRapper says:

    @Linda: a couple of times I ordered (at different restos) a banh mi with a beef stew. I dipped the banm mi *in* the beef stew (instead of just the plain sub bread) and it was awesome !

  • Mijune says:

    @LR – I ALWAYS dip it! 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – well the one we ordered was comparable to the special and had almost all the cuts of beef! :)Yes I love their iced coffee, but they keep me up if I have them late!

  • Nancy Mi says:

    After my lunch @ Pho Tan on Main & 3oth in Vancouver. I ordered a avocado smoothly to go on my way to Airport. I made a call to the restaurant after 5 minutes to complain about this drink, it tastes very bad cuz the avocado went bad. First the lady answered the phone and keep saying it’s not true and asked me to bring it back right away and will refund fully. I explained to here I’m on my way to Aurport. Then she put me through to the person who made that drink. I then explained the same think to here, she then blashhhhh. I then asked to speak to the manager, a man on the phone. Again I explained. He says if I bring it back right now then he will give my money back. What I’m trying to say here is not a drink but the way they managed. I’m paid $4.25 + tax. I’ll go and see them upon my return. I’m upset.

  • Nancy Mi says:

    Corrections: Here=her. Aurport=airport. Think=thing. I’m =I.

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