Restaurant review: Pho Tam

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I don’t visit Surrey very much. But having heard good things about this one Vietnamese restaurant, I was willing to venture out of my usual boundaries to give it a try.

Pho Tam is, by all appearances, a family run hole-in-the-wall type restaurant in the Whalley neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the Whalley Skytrain station.

Upon arrival we were seated at one of several long tables in the middle of the restaurant.

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Looking at the menu, it is mostly a standard Vietnamese noodle place, so “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.  I know that Vietnam is a warm country and they will have Pho any time of year, but I think of it as cool weather food, and this being the middle of summer, I opted for a vermicelli bowl, and my lunch companion chose a bowl of pho.

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The pho arrived first.  This is a large bowl of steaming seasoned beef broth, filled with rice noodles, Vietnamese meat balls, slices of cooked well done beef, tendon, thinly sliced onions, and minced scallions.  It was served with a side of fresh (blanched by request) bean sprouts and sliced jalapeno peppers.   The rice noodles were not the usual vermicelli noodles, but thicker and rounder (similar to what cantonese restaurants would call lai-fun).

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I had a small taste of the broth. It’s very nicely done.  It has a deep beef flavor, with a nice accent of cinnamon and star anise, dried tangerine,  roasted onions and roasted ginger.

This was the vermicelli bowl.

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It consists of a generous serving of soft rice vermicelli noodles, topped with grilled lemon grass pork,  battered & deep-fried prawns, and garnished with pickled carrots and onions, minced scallions and crushed roasted peanuts.  It comes with a small cup of nuoc cham.

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This was very good.  The pork was nicely grilled to the right doneness, and flavored with lemon grass and garlic.  The pickled carrots and onions provided some fresh tart crunchy contrast to the soft noodles.  The prawns were nicely cooked in, what would seem, was a wet batter that puffed up during frying.  They were pretty good, but in hindsight, I would ordered the spring roll instead.

The service was… okay.  As I would expect from most small asian restaurants, it’s efficient, but somewhat aloof.

The room quite minimalist, and a little tired.  I could use a fresh coat of paint or some new decor, but then it would lose it’s ‘hole-in-the-wall’ kind of authenticity.

The restaurant is located in a tiny corner strip mall with free parking, but the lot was full when we arrived, and we resorted to meter parking down the block.

Given that I live so far away from here, it’s doubtful that I would make another special trip, but if I was in Whalley again for some other reason, I wouldn’t have a second thought about stopping at Pho Tam.

Pho Tam on Urbanspoon

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