By Anne DesBrisay
Named in honour of Hanoi’s most historic district, often called the “36 Old Streets,” @ 36 Pho Viet Cuisine is a fairly new addition to the Merivale strip.
It’s a mod looking space, black and red with dark wood, spread over two levels. We find ourselves tucked into a back booth on the upper level. We’ve come for pork. We’ve heard they do a good job with it.
What we notice first is that the 36 Pho menu is not 36 pages long. It’s still longer than it needs to be, but far more manageable than the vast majority of Vietnamese restaurants’ bill of fare. Which means we can find what we came for without reading a hefty tome to get there.
Bún chà Hànôi — Hanoi style grilled pork — is a simple dish, famous in the north, and very well done here. It’s a three-part pleasure: a mound of vermicelli rice noodles, a bowl plump with nuoc mam-marinated and well-grilled fatty pork, housemade pork sausage patties (cha), pickled carrots, and daikon, and a pile of greens — chopped cucumber, mint, and Thai basil with a menacingly-red bird’s’eye chili if you want to rev it up. But it’s the grilled meat that matters most. Its texture and flavour is immensely superior.
We were talked into the chicken wings, with their salt and pepper dunk and their topping of crunchy-fried onion and garlic, by way of whetting the appetite. And to ascertain if this place can do chicken as well as it does pork. Still debating that. Clearly need to return.
Cost: $11.95 for the Hanoi-style grilled pork; $8.95 for the chicken wings
Open: daily, from 11:30 a.m .to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on weekends)
@ 36 Pho Viet Cuisine, 1600 Merivale Rd., Unit 5, 613-228-6786.