Cold weather is upon us, and to me that means bowls of hot broth and noodles! Torontonicity was recently invited to check out the new healthy pho restaurant, Pho Vistro, located at 259 Queen Street West, just a couple of blocks west of Osgoode subway station.
If you aren’t familiar with pho, it’s a Vietnamese soup made with rice noodles, herbs, meat, and a bone broth typically seasoned with clove, star anise, coriander seed, fennel, saigon cinnamon, black cardamom, ginger, and onion. The signature bone broth gives pho its flavourful base, which is why the idea of a vegan option was so intriguing to me.
We started the night by sampling the Imperial Chicken Rolls: delicious and fresh with lively flavours, and a savory peanut-free “peanut” sauce. The peanut-free feature extends to the entire restaurant and kitchen, which is great for anyone who loves Vietnamese food, but worries about going into anaphylactic shock. One of the restaurant owners has a child with a severe peanut allergy, so the team of four unanimously decided to take on the challenge of making a sauce that all their family members could enjoy. Pretty heart-warming if you ask me!
Spring rolls and imperial rolls are available in a vegan options at Pho Vistro! Regardless of what you pick, expect a fantastic crunch and burst of flavour!
We were then treated to Pho Vistro’s take on the poutine: a rutabaga or sweet potato photine. In both forms, this appetizer is made with traditional Vietnamese spices and flavours, but the focus is on nutrient-rich Ontario vegetables. Owner Quan explained that one of the partners is a family physician and really pushed for a health-conscious menu that allowed patrons the freedom to enjoy comfort foods without worrying about a massive sodium or cholesterol kick. That’s why there’s a strict No MSG policy as well!
The Vietnamese Chicken Wings are marinated with lemongrass and real Canadian maple syrup. A great appetizer to share, as they aren’t overly sweet and have a wonderful yet subtle lemongrass note.
Fenugreek sprouts, chili peppers and Vietnamese basil are served as toppings here for every bowl of pho!
It was time for the main attraction, and I went right for the Vegan Pho. This dish had amazingly vibrant flavours! All the vegetables in this dish retained a lovely texture and crunch, meaning that they weren’t sitting in the kitchen going soft. Quan explained that most pho restaurants still use bone broth as the base for their vegetarian options, but just add vegetables on top. The Pho Vistro team spent one entire year tweaking their recipes, until they determined the right amount of time needed to create the vegan broth (and to my surprise the answer is still hours upon hours).
The Wall of Phamily grows at Pho Vistro, as images of people who have enjoyed their dishes right to the last drop are added daily!
I ended my meal with a sample size of the avocado-banana smoothie, and was pleasantly surprised by how clean the flavours were! The banana and avocado weren’t muddied by the other’s creaminess and managed to feel light, but still very dessert-like. If you champion your way to the bottom of a pho bowl, consider splitting the full-size smoothie with someone as in that situation it might feel a bit heavier.
Vietnamese coffee is also available for anyone wanting to end their meal on a sweet note! This is available in both iced and hot version.
After having some lengthy conversations with the owners of Pho Vistro, it became quite apparent that this restaurant was a genuine passion project for all of them, and not an attempt at banking in on the health-conscious move in Toronto’s restaurant scene. I would recommend heading in for some hot pho as the food is delicious and tastes fresh at Pho Vistro. With the dropping temperatures in Toronto, I’ve already been making plans for my next visit! Enjoy!