So you live in Barrhaven but loathe the chain eateries that litter its big box malls? There’s a solution. Standing tall beside a nail salon, conveniently close to a newish megaplex movie theatre, Pho Thi Fusion is a one-year-old restaurant that forays into upscale looks and Pan Asian offerings, with a manageable menu of popular Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai dishes, and a page or so of sushi.
It may one day become a chain eatery (this one is affiliated with the Pho Thi Noodle House on Merivale Road and there’s word that a second one is set to open in Kanata) but for now, it is a sleekly modern restaurant in the deepest (southern) reaches of Barrhaven, with a pleasing atmosphere, kind service, tasty food, fair-enough prices and with a wine list that offers choices beyond Kressman red or white. Would I drive miles and miles for it? No. But that’s not the idea. If you live here, for about the same price as a large popcorn and soda at the Cineplex next door, you can feast on a Pho Thi maki roll or the house lemongrass chicken and be lots happier for it.
The food is not really “fusion.” No one plate delivers culinary crossovers. Rather, Pho Thi’s menu parades the popular proteins (chicken, beef, shrimp, seafood or combinations thereof) through a listing of the more popular Asian dishes. From the Thai section, tom yum, green curry, pad Thai; from the Chinese, black bean sauced dishes, chow mein, Chinese noodles; the Vietnamese, pho, vermicelli dishes; from Japan, sushi and sashimi.
Which is where we begin.
There is some drama in the sushi presentation. Gimmicky, perhaps, but so what. Garnishes come perched dramatically on the base of an upside down martini glass. Underneath the bowl are two luscious pieces of butterfish. Order a “fusion” roll and you will find the shrimp tempura still warm, cuddled up to unagi, with avocado and masago and something called a fusion sauce. Don’t know what it is, but it’s tasty stuff and the combination of textures and temperature is appealing.
You will need to probe deeply into the edible bowl that holds your Thai-style shrimp salad, to reach the sour-sweet-salty dressing, but once found, the combination of ingredients works well, the interplay of flavours is fresh, the textures appealing. If you want your Thai salad authentically spicy, do ask. The default here is mild.
The black bean sauced dishes are excellent, the texture gritty, the seasoning bang on. The lemongrass has been lavishly strewn in the lemongrass chicken dish, as has pepper, ginger and garlic – all tastefully. The quantity of meat is not excessive (some might find it skimpy) but it is tender and the presentation attractive, with shredded marinated carrots and scallions, pickled red onion and matchstick radishes garnishing the mound of food. A pretty painting of curried oil and reduced soy sauce ornaments the edges of the oversized plates.
In true Vietnamese fashion, there isn’t much here for the vegetarian, until you reach the back of the menu and find a vegetarian hot and sour soup. And, there are the cucumber and avocado sushi snacks, but otherwise carnivores and pho lovers are well served with dishes like the fully loaded beef noodle soup ($8) with “rare, well done, flank, brisket, tripe, meatballs and tendon” in a broth of big flavour and gentle restorative powers. Crush and disgorge the seeds of the fresh red chilli provided if you want more power.
Dessert? A banana spring roll of course, quite tasty, though they might bump up the quality of the mango ice cream that shares the pretty plate.