Way before this blog, I have been keeping a list of restaurants "to try". Originally sourced by word-of-mouth recommendations and newspaper reviews, more recently I feed it based on curated lists and influencer posts – no crowd sourcing or user-generated content for me. As much as I try to cross off entries from it, I find myself inadvertently revisiting many restaurants. In fact, more than half of last year's reviews were of spots I had been to before.
For the first review of 2023, I made a concerted effort to follow through on my new year's resolution of hitting as many new – to me – restaurants as possible. With that in mind, I decided to dig into my long must-try pho list; which brought me to Chinatown's My Canh. Not surprisingly, this neighborhood is as parking challenged as can be; even on a slow, post-New Year's Monday night.
Stepping inside the Saint-Laurent Boulevard locale reveals a dated interior, revealing the restaurant's age. White laminate tables sit beneath drop ceiling tiles and are surrounded by wallpaper; drab on drab on drab. Clearly ambiance is not the draw here. Adding to the state of desolation is a quasi-empty dining room with a single occupied table upon our arrival, making my party of two couples and three children 80% of the cohort in attendance.
While pho – soupe tonkinoise – seems to occupy an important place in Montrealers' hearts and takes central stage when ranking Vietnamese restaurants, the menu at My Canh goes past this quintessential staple. A dozen varieties of pho are pitted against imperial and spring rolls, a plethora of rice and vermicelli dishes paired with grilled or sauteed meats and, finally, some less-common items such as bun oc – snail soup – and banh xeo – pork/shrimp pancakes.
If I were to zero in on the star of the show, I found the pho broth deliciously flavourful and aromatic, with cinnamon and cardamom standing out the most. Unfortunately, it was not served hot enough and the "rare" beef slices lacked any hint of pink. Still, this is one fantastic bowl of soup, especially with generous helpings of hoisin sauce and the house's pickled hot peppers.
While trying to be sensitive towards the trio of middle-aged men on site tonight – one in the front of the house, two in the back – let's just discount language and tact from their strengths. Placing our order proved quite difficult in either English or French.
Even pointing to the menu and asking for items by number was not enough to clear all confusion; one dish still came in error. The quiet shift also meant the gentlemen had some free time on their hand, part of which was spent awkwardly staring at us from behind the counter in an inoffensive but hard-to-ignore manner.
tagged: LOST IN TRANSLATION
Although considered one of the best pho spots in town, My Canh failed to completely woo me. While I did enjoy my Tonkinese broth as well as some of the little bites I stole here and there from the rest of my party, I could not help but take points off for the soup's temperature and non-rare beef. That, in addition to the semi-depressing mood inside put a damper on what was my last holiday before heading back to work the next morning.
At least I got to cross off an entry from my ever-growing restaurant list. Here's to more of that in 2023!
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
Price per person: $20.62
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.