Pho Boy a sipping and slurping delight, says Edmonton AM food critic

The soup here is good — in fact, the soup is pretty great.

Pho aficionados will delight in this Old Strathcona eatery

Searching for a new pho joint? Pho Boy will have you reaching for more, says Edmonton AM food critic Twyla Campbell. (Pho Boy/Facebook)

Edmonton has its share of pho shops — Vietnamese restaurants specializing in aromatic broth-filled bowls swimming with rice noodles and (usually) beef bits.

Fans of pho are vocal about who offers the best soup, but curiosity overrules loyalty when a new vendor hangs a shingle.

Pho lovers, young and old, look for a soup similar to their reigning favourite so that the comparison can commence. With heads bowed and chopsticks at the ready, they breathe in the aroma of the broth and determine, before even one sip, if the soup is good.
Pho Boy offers a new twist on traditional Vietnamese dishes with exciting spices and new ingredients. (Pho Boy/Facebook)
 At Pho Boy you don't have to order to find out; the scent of star anise is noticeable the moment you walk through the door. Other spices linger: cinnamon, coriander, black pepper. It is a comforting blend of familiarity if you're a pho aficionado.

The soup here is good — in fact, the soup is pretty great.

Pho Boy has spent the last two months in soft opening mode, tweaking dishes, listening to customer feedback, adding and subtracting as needed.

The menu is unlike those in other Vietnamese restaurants. There are no laminated pages filled with photos and items from 1 to 100. Pho Boy's menu has six appetizers, two types of pho (plus the option to build your own) and two vermicelli bowls.

Appetizers include mainstays like green onion cake and salad rolls, but also a few uncommon items such as ban knots and ban xeo: deep fried pockets (knots) or crepes (xeo) filled with coconut, pork and shrimp.

Fresh-made shrimp chips and spring rolls complete the appetizer list. The spring rolls aren't your standard offering. Wrapped in rice paper instead of wonton wrapper, the result is a chewier, heftier, easier-to-eat delight of deep-fried goodness packed with pork and vegetables.

Those needing to stay in control of all dining decisions can create a personal bowl of soup using beef, chicken, or vegetable broth and your choice of other ingredients such as flank, tendon, tripe, steak, beef balls, chicken and various vegetables. Ramp up the heat and make it saté with the addition of house-made peanut-chili paste.

Or, take a chance on the Pho Boy Dragon Special. It features a clear but complex beef broth plus all the meat options along with a hefty Dragon ball made of pork, crab and herbs.

The vermicelli bowls, jam-packed with colourful, fresh, crisp vegetables and three Legend rolls, are just as enticing. At $15, they're an absolute deal, considering you could easily ration one over three meals.

Pho Boy has a patio ready for summer sipping and slurping; they just need to beef up the beer list to make it more attractive. In the meantime, enjoy a Tiger beer from Singapore, or a Corona if you must.

Check out Whyte Avenue's latest pho spot at 10037B 82nd Ave.

You can hear Campbell's reviews on Edmonton AM every second Friday. You can also see more of her reviews on her blog, Weird Wild and Wonderful, and can follow her on Twitter at @wanderwoman10.