Tucked into the unassuming Six Points Plaza shopping centre is Pho House, one of Toronto's few great Viet-Thai restaurants in the west end of the city.
The sleek, modern decor is a welcome departure from traditional pho houses, which generally opt for over function over fashion. A closer look shows the tears in the faux-leather booth seats and cracks in the drinking glasses but the pendant lighting and fresh, trendy bar in the back of the restaurant may be enough to overlook these hiccups.
The appetizer menu is expansive, offering three different variations of spring rolls as well as the expected shrimp skewers and wontons. Unexpectedly, crispy quail and soft shell crab make appearances on the starters menu, each a well-seasoned surprise that elevates the cuisine beyond the typical pho joint's.
The main event - the pho - is exactly as it should be. The broth is hot, salty and complex. The steak in the rare beef pho is thinly sliced, red and buttery when it hits the broth, while the seafood soup is pungent and acidic in the best way possible. Pho House's 17 different varieties of pho are accompanied by traditional plates of fresh bean sprouts and basil which lend a bright crispness the soup.
Once again elevating the menu beyond the standard pho house is the inclusion of Thai cuisine. The pad thai is forgettable but the curries make up for it. The spicy coconut curry is a unique blend of coconut milk, coconut juice and yellow curry, and the Thai-style fried rice includes an addictive combo of pineapples, cashews and green beans.
Unfortunately, the abhorrent service taints the greatness of the menu's breadth and complex flavors. Waiters smile not and speak very little beyond the initial greeting which is robotic in delivery, as if being read from a script. Waning drinks are ignored and there is no check-up or further service from the wait staff after the arrival of the food. Employees collectively watch the clock and drag their feet, as if begrudging each new customer who sits down.
One employee went as far as to challenge a patron's request for the unorthodox addition of a splash of coconut milk in his pho, telling him he would not be responsible if the dish doesn't turn out the way he wanted it. He served it anyway and did not come back to see if the customer was in fact happy with his choice.
If the cracks in the drinking glasses as well as the cracks in the service can be overlooked, Pho House is one of the best Viet-Thai establishments western Toronto has to offer. The menu offerings are vast and often times surprising and the flavors are deep, savory and delicious.