The Ossington Pho-Down!

In search of Toronto’s best Pho, I’ve often come across the same debate, Golden Turtle versus Pho Tien Thanh. Now over the years I’ve eaten my way through many places all over town including Chinatown (Pho Hung, Pho Pasteur, etc.) and even have travelled uptown to Markham and North York in search of the best noodle soup. People from uptown argue that the asian food up North doesn’t even compare to what you can get further south towards the lake and into downtown. Over the past year, I’ve eaten at a lot of these uptown asian places and will concede that when it comes to most asian food, they have us downtowners beat. But not when it comes to Pho! I’m not sure if it’s the local competition that drove these two places to such dominance, but on the little strip of Ossington between Queen and Dundas, two little shops serve the best bowls of Pho I’ve had in my life.

I first heard about Golden Turtle several years ago. A colleague of mine told me he thought they had the best Pho in the city. My following Google search was my first glimpse into this heated debate. I found a flurry of blogs, reviews, and message boards with random strangers strongly expressing their opinion of one over the other. Today I decided it was time to try both, back to back, and make a decision for myself. I first went to Golden Turtle and ordered the rare beef pho and an order of spring rolls. I don’t know why, but Vietnamese restaurants in Toronto crush it at deep frying spring rolls.


The spring rolls came out piping hot. I find with anything deep fried, freshness is key but one must be wary of burning one’s tongue. These spring rolls were on the thicker side, a little less than an inch in diameter. The filling was juicy, meaty and delicious. Excellent crunch but wasn’t too greasy. Now for the main event, the pho.


The broth had a lot of flavor. A lot of the places in the city have really bland broth which make you want to add a lot of hoisin and sriracha. This is not the case here. It stands on its own. I like a little heat and sweetness so I added a little after a few bites of the pure stuff. The broth is a little oily but worth it for the flavor pickup.The meat was nice and lean. I find most places use really cheap beef and can be gristly. No gristle here, just chewy tender beef. It came out nice and rare but quickly cooked through in the hot broth. The noodles, perfectly cooked. Nice and chewy and they absorbed a lot of the broth flavor.

A short walk south you will find Pho Tien Thanh. Every time I walk into this place, no matter what time of day, it’s packed. The place is warm (literally) and smells of delicious pho. It definitely feels like more of a dive compared to Golden Turtle which is cleaner with nicer decor. But I don’t really care about decor, I care about taste. First up, the spring rolls.


These are skinnier than the Golden Turtle counterpart, about half an inch in diameter, however they are longer. On a per bite basis, you get less filling but more crunch. I feel like the filling was a little more flavorful and juicy. The spring roll itself was also greasier. Both are delicious. I guess the choice will depend on whether you like more filling or more crunch and what your greasiness tolerance is like. Now the pho.


The broth is less oily and just a flavorful. It almost tastes, cleaner. The beef also came out nice and rare. It was chewy and delicious but I thought the quality of the beef was a little lower than Golden Turtle. Some gristle and fattier chunks but still better than anywhere else in the city. The noodles were also perfectly cooked to a lovely chewy texture. I thought the noodles didn’t absorb the broth as much. To get around this, you just eat it in a spoon with the broth.

Both bowls are delicious in their own right. When you are comparing the best of the best, it’s splitting hairs and really is just a matter of preference or maybe even your mood that day. It’s like comparing the top burgers or top steaks or the best BBQ. It’s a matter of personal taste and preference. Somedays, I’ll want cleaner broth and crunchy spring rolls, in which case I’ll find myself at Pho Tien Thanh. Other days, I may want leaner beef and nice porky spring roll filing, in which case I’ll find myself at Golden Turtle. I think the patrons can all agree on one thing though, if you love pho, Ossington is the place to be.



~ by jlowjlow on March 20, 2017.

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