I quite enjoy trying out hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Since starting with NileGuide, I’ve increased my efforts to find gems around Calgary. But, one thing that comes with popular or brand-name restaurants, generally, are standards of cleanliness (at least, you’d hope so). With small, independent operations, you never know. My rule of thumb (and you should store this in the back of your mind) is that if the toilets are clean then it’s a safe bet that the kitchen is clean. So far it’s served me well.
That brings me to Pho Pasteur Saigon, which is a small, cash-only outfit on the east side of Calgary’s tiny “Chinatown” district. Located on 1st SE, this restaurant does not get much drive by or walk up traffic, even though it’s close to the downtown business area. Compared to most restaurants downtown, this place had very little business at lunch hour (largely due to location, I’d discover). But, the toilets were immaculate, so I wasn’t scared off by its lack of customers.
The sign outside the restaurant says, “Pho Pasteur Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant – The Most Famous Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup.” I had to try to the Beef Noodle Soup, if only for its fame. And, although I’d never heard of it before, it lived up to its reputation.
The soup is made fresh. Sometimes you can tell with Pho that it’s pre-packaged and laced with MSG, but this wasn’t. The beef cooks itself in the soup’s broth, and it is perfectly prepared. On a separate dish, they provide fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, and hot chilies. Optional hot sauces are on the table, as well. Although I’m not a food connoisseur by any means, I would have to rate this as the best Vietnamese food I’ve ever had. Certainly the best in Calgary.
Inside the restaurant are a bunch of small tables with simple chairs. Nothing about this place is ‘fancy’. The decor is a tacky, 2X4 creation, attempting to look like a SE Asian hut, I imagine. There was only one person serving the dining room, and she also manned the cash register (did I mention it’s cash only?). But, it was great. Well run. Efficient. Delicious. And, best of all, really cheap. The Beef Satay cost only $7.20. And, it’s a big bowl of soup.