It’s that time of the year; the air is crisp, the days are getting shorter, and the foliage is picturesque. But most importantly, I finally zip up the pant-legs to my cargo shorts and call it a season. Yes my friends, it’s officially autumn. This means we fall our clocks back an hour and it’s time for me to eat my weight in comfort-foods. Mainly big bowls of steamy noodles. I was recently asked about where is the best place to eat pho in Montreal. If you’ve been following me long enough, you’ll remember I put out a list of the best pho in Montreal. Don’t worry, I’m working on an update. Until then, here’s another spot at add to the list. This week I visited (got take out from) the newly opened location of the local chain I Am Pho in DDO.
I’m not sure if the name of the place is word play or a homonym for “I am full”. Or it’s a cute way of the restaurant boiling down it’s name to a descriptive to announce what they serve. It’s located next to Coq au Miel and across the street from Tacos Don Rigo. The menu is concise. They have a handful of appetizers, mainly fresh and fried spring rolls, a mini bowl of pho and brochettes, soups and grilled meats on rice.
Phở đặc biệt
I ordered the gold medal standard in all pho, the “all dressed”. A bowl that consists of well done beef, raw beef, beef flank, tendon, and beef balls. The beef portion was generous and I was happy to see supple lobes of beef tendon in the bowl. The noodles where blanched and ready to receive hot soup. The pho’s mojo is in the soup. At first sip, you can tell if the bowl is going to be bussin’. I wasn’t impressed, nor disappointed when I tasted the soup on its own. I figured, the soup needed to mingle with everything else in the bowl in order to get the full effect. Sure the aromatics (onion, scallion, basil, lime) helped elevate the aroma of the soup. However, the inherent flavour of the soup was subdued. It felt like it needed a few more hours is boiling.
My sister got the “Phở chín” – fully cooked, well-done beef. Because she’s a chicken. Unlike the dac biet which included various other ingredients, this was 100% all beef. Which coincidentally was my nickname in high school. Even with the help of the sheer volume of bovine goodness, the soup still lacked that beefy depth of flavour.
Bún bò huế
I noticed they have Bún bò Huế on their regular menu. It’s a spicy beef noodle that is usually on Vietnamese restaurant’s weekend menus. It’s time consuming to make. But I Am Pho has it on the daily. The bowl has a thicker, rounder rice noodles. It’s served with beef flank and chả (pork loaf). But it’s the soup that makes it. A rich broth made with savoury aromatics like lemongrass and fermented shrimp paste with pork bones.
I was impressed that a pork knuckle was included. Albeit a small quarter, but impressed nonetheless. The portion in general was generous as was the slices of beef. For a “spicy soup, the soup could have been spicier for my taste. I found that the broth, like the pho, was missing a je ne sais quoi. It was good, but could have been better. The saté chili paste that you traditionally eat this noodle with wasn’t included. Maybe this would have given the bowl the umph it needed.
This was my first experience with the relatively new Vietnamese restaurant chain I Am Pho. They have a few other locations with one in Brossard, downtown, and in Cote Des Neiges. The option for the West island is decent. The pho itself was good. But like I said, it could have been better. With the colder weather creeping in, we’re going to want options for cold-weather-foods. Noodles, curries, hearty foods that are going to stick to your ribs. With this recent opening, I’m happy for the west to have another option to taste the east.
I Am Pho
4832 Boul Saint-Jean