When I first moved to Ottawa, the first restaurant that I ate at was Vietnam Noodle House. It’s outside of the main clump of Vietnamese restaurants, and is a lot bigger than most. It’s a large, clean and surprisingly bright space in the basement of an otherwise nondescript commercial building.
The family who runs it is phenomenally nice. Their pho is nothing remarkable, but their main dishes are really good. They have a selection of “broken rice” dishes, which feature grains of rice that are, indeed, broken. They’re cooked al dente and topped with a variety of meat (preserved pork, barbecued chicken or pork, ham) and often a fried egg. Yum.
If you go, you must have the shrimp rolls. It’s an ordinary-looking salad roll: the rice paper, the noodles, some greenery inside. But inside the roll is pure magic, in the form of a slightly sweet shrimp cake. It’s moist, it’s juicy, it’s sweet, it’s salty, and it’s perfectly complemented by a bit of basil and some green herb I can’t identify.
Not only is Vietnam Noodle House one of the few pho places that can accommodate big groups, they’re also licensed.
Even better than the promise of liquor is that this is the only place in Chinatown that does a Vietnamese iced coffee properly. Most places make it too sweet and bring the finished drink to the table, when part of the fun is in watching the coffee drip into the glass. Vietnam Noodle House brings you the whole shebang: a glass with condensed milk topped with a coffee-making contraption, a long-handled spoon, and a pitcher of ice.
Vietnam Noodle House
784 Somerset Street