You can always tell if I feel my food is bland. I will reach for the nearest bottle of hot sauce and sprinkle the contents all over my plate. “Needs hot sauce” is my culinary kiss of death. Now, the fine people at Pho Hoan Pasteur have an assortment of hot sauces on their tables, but I don’t need to use them. That’s because, with just a squirt of lemon and healthy helping of basil leaves, the pho on offer is the best in the city. Really, it’s no surprise that the Vietnamese category continues to be owned by Pho Hoan Pasteur, which holds on to first place for the third year in a row. There is nothing fancy about the place, though the three-dimensional art of ships on the high seas is pretty awesome to look at while you wait for your pho to arrive. But you won’t be staring for long; once you sit down, the meals come out soon after you order.With brisket and other cuts of beef swimming in the hearty broth, it’s the perfect tonic for, well, any time you’re screaming for some comfort food. –Steven Sandor
11443 Kingsway Ave., 780-761-1989
Thanh-Thanh Oriental Noodle House
Like an optical illusion, Thanh-Thanh, located near Victoria School of the Arts, first seems like a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that you may stumble upon by accident. Step inside, however, and you’re exposed to a large two-room resto, elegantly decorated and modernized for the everyday diner.
And, when lunch hour hits, the restaurant goes from casually buzzing to absolutely packed, with every table filled with diners sampling Thanh-Thanh’s extensive menu of Vietnamese dishes. For first-timers, we recommend the Special Vermicelli Bowl, a heaping dish of vermicelli noodles, veggies and a mixture of grilled chicken, pork and shrimp, with two crispy imperial rolls (the restaurant’s signature spring rolls) thrown in for the complete Thanh-Thanh flavour experience. –Cory Haller
If there was a title for “most unassuming restaurant,” Pagolac’s 97th Street location would be a prime candidate. The restaurant is filled with what looks like kitchen tables and chairs you’d remember from your parents’ house, and the faux-wood paneling on the walls brings back memories of rec rooms of an era past. But the food is solid; the grilled pork, served over vermicelli, has a wonderful, smoky flavour – and the shrimp and pineapple dumplings, flaky triangles that feature a mix of savoury and sweet, are must-share appetizers. –Steven Sandor