Saturday, 21 December 2013


830 Upper James Street, Hamilton
visited Friday December 20, 2014

A cold rainy December afternoon and catching up with a girlfriend calls for some good Vietnamese food..... specifically Pho!  So after seeing a picture featured in the Hamilton Magazine of Pho Dau Bo on the mountain, I had to check it out for myself.  I've been to the two other Pho Dau Bo locations downtown and thought they were ok, but generally I've preferred other Vietnamese restaurants in the city.  This location may have changed my mind a bit. 

The décor here is unlike the other two locations, which are typical thrown together Vietnamese joints.  The Upper James location sets a beautiful atmosphere, with pretty hanging pendant lights, big comfy banquettes, a feature white brick art wall and modern fixtures and colours.  I'm usually quite fine with uninspiring interior design as long as the food is good, but I will admit that the attention to detail here heightened the experience just that little bit more, especially compared to the other two locations.

Fresh Shrimp Rolls $4
Ok the food.... Admittedly I'm a sucker for Vietnamese food.  Its probably my favourite style of Asian food, due to its simplicity and freshness.  My upcoming bucket list trip to Vietnam is a clear indication of my love and appreciation for their cuisine.  I'm planning on just eating my way up the entire Vietnam coast!!!!

I ordered the small Fresh Shrimp Rolls $4 to start.  It came two in the order which was perfect for my girlfriend and I to start our meal with.  The rolls were each filled with three cold shrimp, lettuce, rice noodles, mint and encased in a thin rice paper wrapper.  A bowl of peanut sauce garnished with ground peanuts, carrot and daikon was served on the side for dipping.  The rolls were super fresh and made to can tell they're not pre-made because the rice paper wrap starts to dry up and harden if they are made too far in advance.  Even by the end of our meal the one piece left started to lose its al dente consistency.  The mint inside was perfect and although super simple these rolls are always a favourite of mine.  I should really make them at home more often now that I think of it!

Pho Tai  $5.75
For my main meal I ordered the small Pho Tai $5.75, a rice noodle soup with rare beef.   This is kinda the classic Pho most people come for (usually #101 on most Viet menus, but it was #318 here?).  I always get a small because for one they are huge to begin with and two I find as you go up in size you almost just get more broth and a bigger bowl, but not necessarily more ingredients.  This bowl of Pho was delicious.  The broth was smooth and complex in flavor (most pho broths take a chef a long time to develop just right and they always have their own secret concoction of flavours).  If you look up how to make a Pho recipe the list of ingredients is so long and the steps it takes to develop that refined flavour is also quite long...its really not worth doing yourself when you can get it at places like this for a few bucks. The soup was filled with a generous portion of rice noodles, onions, scallion and thinly shaved rare beef pieces.  The beef eventually cooks in the hot broth and is tender and meaty.  The side accompaniments of crisp bean sprouts, basil and lime are a must as is the hot chili paste and siracha that I douse my bowl in to turn it a bright red and kick up the spice level.  I maybe would've liked a bit more beef in mine but otherwise it was a great warming bowl of soup. Slurping up noodles and Pho all afternoon is a great pastime!

The service was excellent.  A warm pot of tea is always served when you arrive and food comes out lightning fast at these places.  The two of us ate a filling, satisfying lunch for $19...  you really can't beat that....well maybe you can...I hear a bowl of Pho in Vietnam goes for a whopping $1.  I CAN'T WAIT!!!!  If you haven't had Vietnamese food yet you should try this place.  Its comfortable, affordable and accessible. 

Food 4.0*, Value 5.0*, Service 5.0*, Décor/Ambiance 4.5*
Overall 4.6*:  I really do love Vietnamese food, so you'd really have to royally screw it up to make me say anything bad about these restaurants.  However, this place has a great ambiance to it for casual dining and the service was spot on.  I'm glad there's another restaurant on the mountain to get my Pho fix!

 Pho Dau Bo on Urbanspoon


  1. hi there ... just curious to what other pho places u recommend in the area besides pho dau bo. my husband and i have always preferred pho dau bo but looking to try other vietnamese places. ps- love the blog!

    1. Bihn Mihn on upper James is really good as is B & T downtown on James n Wilson. Pho Mai on stonechurch and upper Ottawa is also decent.