Edmonton Restaurant Review: iPho and Grill Vietnamese Cuisine

#91 Special Combination 5 Vermicelli Bowl

I was really waffling on what to eat and where to go for dinner last month. Ultimately, I picked iPho and Grill Vietnamese Cuisine located along Calgary Trail at 6104 104 Street. We showed up right around six o’clock on a Saturday night without a reservation, and we didn’t have any problems getting a table. It was busy when we arrived though. A number of the tables were already occupied, including one with a large group of about ten people. It meant service was a tad slow, but thankfully, we weren’t in a rush to go anywhere else after. Despite the wait to order, the booth was comfortable and the space was new, clean and modern.

To drink, I ordered a Fresh Fruit Mango Bubble Tea ($4.45). Contrary to the name, the beverage doesn’t include any tapioca pearls in it for the base price, so you do have to add them for an extra cost ($0.75). I actually found that the mango tasted more artificially flavoured than fresh, but the consistency was smooth and there was a decent ratio of pearls to smoothie, so I didn’t run out of either before the other.

Fresh Fruit Mango Bubble Tea & Spring Rolls

As his starter, Kirk opted to go with an order of the Spring Rolls ($5.95). These rice paper wraps were freshly fried to a crunchy, thin, golden-brown and filled with a mix of ground meat, veggies, and vermicelli noodles. I didn’t eat any of his, but a couple of pieces came with my own food, and I thought that they were delicious. For the appetizer, they served the spring rolls with a side of fish sauce for dipping. Kirk wasn’t a fan of using it, but I think that the funky sweet, salty, and fishy taste married well to create a nice balance of flavours, amping up the spring roll ingredients.

Kirk’s main dish was the Specialty Chicken Noodle Soup ($10.95). He requested that they make it spicy for a dollar more. It would have been nice to try the broth before it was altered, just to see what it tasted like in a more pure form. All I can say is that the spicy version was HOT. The soup was piping temperature-wise, but the heat on the palate from the spice was even difficult for Kirk to handle. I had two spoonfuls of the broth and, while I enjoyed the flavour profile at first, it definitely kicked you in the throat at the end and the spice really lingered. Otherwise, I believe that the bowl could have used a little more of the chicken as there wasn’t a whole lot of meat, and the same goes for the noodles.

So much food in the #91 Vermicelli Bowl!

Whenever I go for Vietnamese, I usually turn to the vermicelli bowls and their Special Combination 5 (#91 on the menu; $15.45) didn’t disappoint. It had a well-portioned combination of noodles, bean sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, and carrot to form the base of the meal. It was topped off with copious amounts of grilled beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, and spring rolls. A small dish of fish sauce was provided to coat everything (I used all of it). The veggies were crisp and juicy, the noodles had a nice bite to them, and the meats were all prepared nicely. Occasionally, I find that the beef at other restaurants have a lot of tendon running through the pieces, making them chewier, but I didn’t have that issue here. The beef also had a distinct lemongrass flavour. The three meats were tender, and I was especially happy with the shrimp, which were surprisingly plump and perfectly seasoned. I devoured the whole bowl and went home very happy.

Once we were fully satiated, we head over to the counter to take care of our bill. I’m unsure whether or not they will take payment at the table, but we noticed a number of other patrons walking up to the till, so we did the same  thing. Overall, iPho and Grill was pretty good; however, if you aren’t certain that you can handle something truly spicy, you’ve been forewarned about their soups.

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Delicious Pho

The vermicelli bowl with the works!

The vermicelli bowl with the works!

It was late last year when, with great dismay, I found out The Makk had closed. Located at 124 Street and 104 Avenue, the restaurant had taken a bit of time to find its ground, and, while it eventually did, it was too late. The last couple of times I had eaten there, it was pretty much vacant save for my companions and I, so it wasn’t really a huge surprise to see it go, but it was sad nonetheless. Fast forward a few months and signs advertising a new restaurant were strung up outside of the same space. A Vietnamese eatery was to take The Makk’s place.

Delicious Pho (@delicious_pho), a new franchise, opened up around mid-February. The quick changeover to the new establishment is likely due to the fact that few renovations needed to be made. At fast glance, almost everything in the room is the same as the previous tenant, including the colours, furniture and overall style. The only noticeable differences come from the addition of some potted plants, which give it a slightly more Asian feel, and new artwork.

The interior of the restaurant on 124 Street. Photo courtesy of Delicious Pho.

The interior of the restaurant on 124 Street. Photo courtesy of Delicious Pho.

I didn’t actually make it over to Delicious Pho until November. On a slightly chilly evening, my companion and I found free parking on a side street about a block away from the eatery. Walking in a couple of hours before I had a meeting nearby, I saw that, besides a few claimed tables, it was quiet that night. There was one person on staff at the front of the house, but she made sure to get us seated immediately and she was very attentive, even making sure that any dietary concerns we had were met.

The menu is fairly extensive with a mix of appetizers, specialty rolls, Vietnamese subs, vermicelli bowls, pho noodle soup, specialty items and rice plates. They also serve Vietnamese coffee and bubble tea smoothies.

One page from their menu - the vermicelli bowls.

One page from their menu – the vermicelli bowls.

Both of us decided on the No. 42, which is the vermicelli bowl with grilled pork, grilled meatball, grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, grilled beef, a spring roll and a side of fish sauce. The bowls came to the table relatively quickly, and they were filled to the brim with meat. Other Vietnamese restaurants I’ve been to sometimes skimp on the toppings, but not here! I would say they provide an ample amount of meat, carrots and cucumber, making the bowl worth the $12.95 price. If I were to criticize anything, I would say maybe they could include just a little more vermicelli to help balance it out a bit. Most importantly, all the meats were tender – I didn’t find any of it to be at all chewy – and the flavours were strong yet refrained from being overly salty.

Usually, by the time I come to the end of my bowl, I’m not super full and I find myself picking at every morsel in my dish because I want to make sure I get everything. On this particular occasion, I was absolutely stuffed before I even reached the bottom. Forcing myself to, at least, finish the meat that remained, so as not to waste the best part of the meal, I couldn’t take another bite afterwards and ended up leaving behind a small portion of noodles and veggies.

The two of us even had a coupon for a free entree with the purchase of a first and two beverages, so, while we had full bellies, we left Delicious Pho with our wallets only a tad lighter than before.

If you want a healthy meal that doesn’t cheap out on the quality of the ingredients, but also ensures quantity, as well as a clean and stylish atmosphere at a decent cost, I would suggest that you check out Delicious Pho. It definitely helped to satisfy my vermicelli craving that evening, and it was a nice, low key place to converse.