Looking for a second location, the owners of the health-conscious Pho Vistro eatery on Queen Street West liked what they saw on Avenue Road in North Toronto.
“The whole strip is health conscious,” manager Emilie Nguyen says, pointing out organic food shops and other businesses featuring natural products and services on the road north of Lawrence Avenue West.
Thus was born Pho V Express at 1923c Avenue Rd., opening just before the end of 2018.
After managing the Queen location for four years, Nguyen made the transition to running the new North Toronto location.
Previously a mental health educator with a special interest in naturopathy, she is especially concerned that the restaurant serve only food that meets her own standards of healthy fare.
“If I would not eat the food, I would not serve the food,” she says, adding that she encourages her staff to adopt the same rule.
It helps that most of the recipes come from her and her husband’s parents, who hailed from north and middle Vietnam.
Pho (rhymes with “huh”), of course, is the Vietnamese noodle soup, which has become so popular in Canada lately. Pho V Express also serves other dishes like spring rolls, chicken wings, ribs and salads — all Vietnamese style — though pho is the menu’s mainstay.
Pho V Express specializes in natural Vietnamese dishes with no MSG and no artificial flavours. Nor do they allow artificial salt to influence the natural flavour of the dishes.
“It’s as organic as we can get it,” Nguyen says. “And we try to source our supplies locally as much as we can, but always from Ontario.”
In aid of customers with nut allergies, the restaurant does not offer any nuts, such as peanuts — not even tree nuts or even sesame oil.
One of the most popular dishes is pho chicken, made with white meat from grain-fed chicken and with lime leaves in broth.
Restaurant staff is mixed Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese but all have training in hospitality management and culinary skills, Nguyen says.
So far the response from the local health-conscious residents of North Toronto has been excellent, and Pho V Express has been getting raves on online evaluation sites.
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