Phở 24 Express…Burnaby’s Newest Vietnamese
Phở 24 Express is Burnaby’s newest Vietnamese restaurant. It took a long while. Last June, this spot was Numero Uno Pizza. The new façade went up quite quickly when Numero Uno vacated. For a couple of months I waited and waited with baited breath for more phở in Burnaby. They teased me by wallpapering the windows with their menu. How cruel is that??! I’d drop by occasionally to check on the progress only to be teased yet again. Finally, around New Year’s, they opened their doors.
Phở 24 Express is a reincarnation of Gold Train Express II out on West 10th in Point Grey. Years ago it was my go-to spot before work at Provence. They made a killer bò kho as well as some great phở. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re still as a good as I remember.
I gotta say, this was a fantastic bowl. A solid curried broth jacked with lots of black pepper. Several big hunks of dark-meat chicken…nary a bit of gristle or bone. Plenty of roasted peanuts and chips of roasted garlic…great textures and an abundance of flavor. My only quibble was with the vermicelli. A bit too thin…verging on angel-hair…next time I’ll ask for the egg noodles. Can’t say enough about the broth, though. Great stuff…bowl drained.
The Chả Giò (Deep-fried Spring Rolls) were very good. A bit on the smaller side but packed with flavor. As with my soup, there’s a liberal use of black pepper to give them just that little added kick. Slippery little buggers, these. A bit difficult to grasp with the plastic chopsticks but I’m persistent!
Jacky went with the Bún bò Huế. This looked to be the real deal. He gave it a big thumbs up. The only thing missing, as far as I could tell, were the cubes of congealed pig blood. Another requisite ingredient is the knuckle of pork. This bowl contained one of the biggest I’ve seen (center-right). Jacky attacked it with gusto. So far, there’s some good authenticity here.
To cool things off, I grabbed a Durian Shake.
Having never experienced Durian in any form, I was a bit disappointed. I’d expected a much stronger aroma and taste. Don’t get me wrong…this was very good. It just didn’t have the full flavor I’d heard about. I’m told that they probably used a Durian powder to expedite things. Even with the powdered version this had a nice custard flavor, not quite vanilla…kind of eggy.
With a darn good meal under our belts, we returned the next day. With three more hungry and adventurous eaters in tow, we settled in and had a proper Friday lunch.
We started off with Gỏi đu đủ tôm (Shredded Green Papaya with Shrimp, Mint and Peanut). Although tasty and refreshing, I wished they would of cranked things up with some chilis and maybe cilantro. The vinaigrette was tart with lime but lacked some needed ooomph.
For another starter, we got a selection of Salad Rolls. There’s a full order of Bì cuốn (Shredded Pork) and a half order of Gỏi cuốn (Shrimp). These are a bit thin on the protein and too heavy on the lettuce and vermicelli. A fairly good peanut sauce helped things along but couldn’t make up entirely for a bunch of lacking rolls.
As Pho 24 Express bills themselves as authentic Vietnamese and Cambodian, I thought I’d give the Cambodian side of the menu a whirl. This is their Hủ Tiếu HoắcMì Nước Đặc Biệt (Special Phnom Penh Noodle in Soup). Not quite my thing. I probably have to attribute my feelings to the rather thin broth and lack of seasoning. There are some good elements here. The ground pork had a nice garlicky taste and the prawns were good and snappy. It’s just, overall, missing a depth of flavor I’m accustomed to. Good time to grab the sriracha…
Daddy D went with a big, hearty bowl of Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew). By all accounts this was highly rated. I tried to grab a taste but was fended off cuz Daddy had a cold. Looked great…he polished his bowl clean.
Being a huge aficionado of Vietnamese vermicelli bowls, I went with an old favorite, Bún Thịt Nướng . At least I thought so. I meant to go with #69, the Grilled Pork version. I mistakenly grabbed #70, the Grilled Chicken version.
Not bad, not too great. The noodles were nice and firm…served how they should be, close to room temp. There’s a good load of fresh julienned carrot, daikon and cucumber…crunchy sprouts, too. A healthy portion of roasted peanut and garlic helped out well. The slices of marinated pork patties, good, but could’ve used some garlicking up. The chicken was badly in need of some real grill time. Once you get near the bottom, however, the flavors meld and intensify. That’s the best part.
There’s a real dearth of quality Vietnamese in Burnaby. Thankfully, Pho 24 Express offers up some very good bowls needed to fill the void. Overall, they’re not perfect, but there’s enough to keep me coming back.