Family owned and operated Pho Ngoc Yen is unlike any Vietnamese restaurant you’ve been to.
The expansive dining room outfitted with thatched bamboo roofs and palm fronds, transports you to the shores of southern Vietnam, while the authentic fare, bursting with fresh herbaceousness, transfixes.
Executive chef Tri Tran was born and raised in Can Tho, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, set on the southern bank of the Hau River, but has spent over 25 years cooking western fare here in Toronto. Working at prestigious establishments including The Estates of Sunnybrook McLean House and Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, Tri followed with his own restaurant,Millie’s on Avenue Road for 10 years.
His commitment to fresh, quality ingredients make each dish stand out. “I don’t mind to spend money for ingredients,” he says. He uses a ton of fresh herbs and fragrant spices including basil, garlic, galangal, and lemongrass. “We eat all different herbs here. [In] my experience, if you do it, you have to do it right,” he says. “You have to put your heart and soul into it.”
The menu features appetizers, clear and egg noodles, vermicelli dishes, broken rice, pho, pad thai, pho, hot pot, sides, and dessert.
Not only are you getting fresh Vietnamese like you’ve never had it before, portions are generous and most dishes range from just $8.50 to $12.
A full bar area features an array of cocktails and beer.
Enticing non-alcoholic selection include Juices – Soursop, Coconut, Pennywort Leaf, Lychee, and Mangosteen ($2.50 ea.) and Vietnamese coffees ($3.50-$4.50), available both hot and cold.
Fixtures and Fittings
The former Filipino restaurant was basically gutted – new floor, ceiling and kitchen were added, as was a bigger stove (needed for the gigantic pots to make pho). And bathrooms got a much-needed upgrade.
But it’s the decor that’s so striking. Siblings and co-owners Yen and Tri Tran did all the work themselves. “This is what restaurants look like in Vietnam,” Yen explains.
Many items including condiment holders, woven table linens, lights, bamboo Christmas decorations, and woven dresses that Yen wears, are all from Vietnam, where Yen and Tri’s Buddhist monk parents still live (the close-knit family includes 11 children, six of whom work at the restaurant).
A live pianist performs every Thursday.
Off the Menu
Vietnamese Preserved Salted Lime Juice ($4)
The brownish lime boasts an exhilarating tartness. Mixed with club soda, sugar and ice, it pairs beautifully with the food and is quite refreshing . Think lime margarita, without the booze.
Tamarind Drink ($4)
Served the authentic way with peanuts, sugar and lots of ice, sweet and very sour tamarind can give you just as much of a jolt as a cup of joe.
Fresh Shredded Pork Salad Rolls (2/$5) and Fresh Shrimp & Pork Salad Rolls (2/$5)
The freshness of ingredients is what makes these rolls stand out from the crowd. Served with house-made sauces peanut and sweet chili. There’s also Tri’s own hot sauce, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Mango Salad & Dried Shrimps with Shrimp Chips ($12)
You’ve never had mango salad like this. Fresh mango strips get tossed with a heap of teeny dried shrimp, peanuts and fragrant basil, along with rice vinegar dressing and served with dollar pancake-size shrimp chips for scooping. Result: an explosion of textures and flavours you’ll be back for.
Beef Ceviche ($12)
Vietnamese style ceviche is different than the western version – the beef is thinly sliced, mixed with fresh herbs and spices, and served with thick sesame crackers.
Rare Beef Pho with Rice Noodles (sm $7.50, med $8.50, lg $9.50)
Say hello to your new favourite winter elixir. An extraordinary fragrant broth (all stocks are made from scratch daily) surrounds thick noodles and shaved, juicy rare beef. And the serving size? Ginormous.
Shrimp & Chicken Pad Thai ($12)
Tri’s pad thai is made the authentic way, with no ketchup in sight. The towering pile of thin rice noodles - stuffed with fresh chicken, shrimp, egg, vegetables and a ton of herbs - isn’t sweet in the least. Which is how it should
BBQ Chicken & Fried Egg with Broken Rice ($9)
Broken rice offers a vastly different texture and even flavour than other varieties. It’s a popular dish with students in Vietnam as it’s filling and affordable. Here it’s served with succulent barbecued chicken, a perfectly cooked fried egg and salad with sticks of pickled carrot and daikon. Simple, yes, but absolutely perfect.
Deep Fried Fresh Bananas ($3 pcs/$5)
Ripe bananas encased in thin, flaky pastry, served hot. ’Nuff said.
Pho Ngoc Yen accommodates 150 guests for lunch and dinner. Takeout is also available.
At the Stove: Executive Chef Tri Tran
Head Honchos: The Tran Family
FOH: Yen Tran
Map it: 1090 Kamato Rd., Mississauga
Tuesday to Thursday: 11 am – 10 pm
Friday and Saturday: 11 am – 11 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 10 pm
Phone it in: 905-629-9559
How Cool is This?! Yen is a well-known Vietnamese singer in the GTA.
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