Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Pho 99 Vietnamese Noodle House : Schoolhouse location

Pho 99 and Pho Hoa (I guess Pho Boi now…) are two of the largest Vietnamese franchises in Vancouver. Of course these restaurants may not serve the best Vietnamese food and cannot compare to some of the small family owned establishments, but they get the job done… sort of, for those who have a craving. Or in general, for the non picky.

The newest Pho 99 restaurant is in Coquitlam on Schoolhouse, very close to the SilverCity theatre. The back of the restaurant also has a door which leads to a bowling ally! Since this is the newest Pho 99, the restaurant is very clean and looks nice. I believe this is the largest restaurant in the franchise as well. There are plenty of seats along with booth seating arrangements and the restaurant overall was very comfortable to dine in.

The avocado smoothie has a mild flavour and lacks that usual creamy consistency. The smoothie is also a touch icy as well. As for the iced coffee, there is a strong flavour along with a hint of sweetness. The coffee tastes rich and not watered down.

Rating: 0/5.
Oh man… I do not know what is more sad, the fact that the wings are over fried, the cook cut one of the wings to ensure it is cooked fully through, or the pathetic sprinkle of five spice on only one piece of meat. As for the taste, the wings taste like how it looks, over fried and dry.

In addition, although it is not the kitchen's fault, but it is unappetizing when some of the hairs are not plucked. Some restaurants choose to leave the hair, but majority do not. Moreover, the wings taste bland and unlike Pho 99 by Coquitlam Centre, there is no side of five spice!

Rating: 3.5/5.
The eggs are perfectly fried with a crisp caramelized bottom and the yolk is runny. There is also a sprinkle of sesame seeds. As for the side of soup which is included with an order of rice platter, I usually pass on them but this one tastes fairly good. The soup has a rich beefy broth and is not heavy on the MSG. It actually made me want to try their pho!

As for the pork chops, the meat exhibits a nice char and tastes tender. The juicy chops are also well marinated without tasting salty and have a rich lemon grass flavour. Having tried Pho 99 in Richmond, Burquitlam (the worst location in my opinion) and Coquitlam by Coquitlam Town Centre, the Schoolhouse location serves better rice platters. Noticeably better.

Rating: 3/5.
The banh mi consists of well seasoned, tender and juicy chicken along with lightly pickled vegetables. The vegetables could have tasted more tart but I considered it fine for Pho 99. Moreover, the pate is on the lighter side as well and could have tasted stronger, while the banh mi also lacks some spiciness. I am surprised there was no jalapeno! But regardless, the highlight asides from the chicken would be the baguette. The fresh baguette is soft as well as crusty, and not stale nor rock hard.

TOTAL: $29.10 + TIP $5.90 = $35.00.

A couple of the dishes we tried were above average, but the chicken wings were horrible. As for the service, wow… the staff were friendly! The staff actually responds to your "thank yous" and were genuinely friendly. My friend mentioned the staff were friendly because they are younger, like in their early 20s. Really? I never noticed that younger staff are friendlier…

Due to the friendly staff on our first lunch visit and because the complimentary soup included with the rice platter tasted good, we decided to revisit to try their noodles. On the revisit, none of the staff from the first visit were here and everyone was in their 40s. Not sure if my friend was correct or not… but the service was pretty much like a typical "Asian" restaurant. We even had to pay at the front this time! Lame.

PHO TAI SMALL, "Noodle soup with eye runs steak, well done flank, fatty brisket, soft tendon and beef tripe" ($7.15).
Rating: 2.5/5.
The broth tastes very simple, one dimensional, overly salty and oddly worse than the complimentary soup from the first visit. The soup from the first visit had a strong, flavourful and clear beef broth. As for the ingredients, the meat is on the skimpy  side compared to other Pho 99 locations but the noodles are nicely cooked. The noodles have a nice chewiness and are not clumped up nor mushy.

BUN BO HUE SMALL, "Thick vermicelli with well done flank, fried pork ham and chicken ball" ($8.00).
Rating: 2.5/5.
The bun bo hue tastes simple and has a mild spiciness, but lacks depth, spices and flavour. The slippery noodles however, are well cooked and have a nice chewiness. As for the meat, the slices of beef taste tender and not chewy one bit and the rest are generic with no complaints.

SALAD ROLL ($2.30).
Rating: 2.5/5.
Wow, what is with the appetizers at this location? First the wings and now the salad roll? This is the smallest and thinnest salad roll I have ever had, and the taste does not make up for the size. The salad roll tastes very basic, including a slice of ham, a couple halves of shrimp and lettuce. This is odd because the kitchen actually put some effort in the sauce which tastes rich and even added crushed peanuts.

Rating: 3/5.
Unlike our first visit, the complimentary soup has a chicken broth instead of beef. The chicken soup tastes bland, oily and MSG laden. As for the eggs, they are nicely fried and the bottom is more crispy compared to our first visit's.

With regards to the pork chops, we received one large cut this time and the meat tastes tender. The chop is also exhibits a nice char and is well marinated. If anything, the fish sauce can use more chilli.

TOTAL: $28.30 + TIP $3.70 = $32.00.

The rice platters at Pho 99 are above average and despite that the pho is on the bland side, it is better than other restaurants' in the franchise. The bun bo hue on the other hand, tastes better at the Coquitlam location.

- One of the cleaner Pho 99s
- Above average rice platters
- The younger staff are friendly
- Spacious and comfortable restaurant

- Poor wings and small salad roll
- Very basic noodles

Food: 2.5/5
Service: 2.5/5

Pho 99 Vietnamese Noodle House on Urbanspoon

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