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Pho DNK Vietnamese Restaurant
151 King Street West
Kitchener, Ontario N2G 1A7
Pho for two with tea: $20
Open: Monday – Saturday at 11 a.m.
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Pho DNK seems to fly under the radar in downtown Kitchener, a city-centre core which doesn’t lack for the popular Vietnamese rice noodle soup. The place has been open for several years now and, though it never seems very busy, just keeps truckin’ along.
They don’t appear to have a website or much of a social media presence (which might explain the quiet), and the restaurant is similarly stark and reserved — there’s nary a nick-knack, a photo or a painting on the walls. The dining room is bright and open and comfortable. And, at least in the case of the front of house, everything is spotlessly clean.
The service is friendly and basic; the order system will be familiar as well: you pencil in the menu numbers on a small sheet of paper; the waiter picks up the order and about ten minutes later your food arrives.
That menu, a fairly large one, has all the usual suspects when it comes Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, but I have also found in past visits some interesting selections that were pretty good, including the deep-fried quail. I didn’t see it on the menu this time round, however.
Otherwise, the rare beef rice noodle pho is a fair enough bowl of the famous soup, if not somewhat scaled back and plain. The mild broth is different from other pho houses, and for some that might leave the soup missing the deep richness and layers of spicing that one hopes for or is used to.
There are green onions instead of white or red onions which is a nice change. The noodles are just fine but there is perhaps a little less meat than at other restaurants. That all leaves the flavours good but somewhat muted.
A curried chicken pho had very good flavour and was a generous amount to eat. While the soup had a moderate and pleasant kick of spice heat, the spices left a graininess that settled at the bottom of the bowl making for rather gritty soup slurping.
On another visit to Pho DNK, fresh rolls with noodles, shrimp and lettuce are constructed well enough and with shrimp properly cooked, but it’s a plain dish in any case if not for the peanut dipping sauce just about anywhere you eat it.
A plate of curried stir-fried beef and noodles with egg and bean sprouts was certainly hot and plentiful and of good variety when it came to textures, but it lacked just a touch in moisture: it needed a bit more sauce to get the dish into the very good category, though it was fairly rich and satisfying. I’d eat it again, to be sure.
Pho DNK is a clean and simple place to go to for pho in the downtown of the city. It’s there, and it’s bright and open and ready to get you in and out quickly. It’s quick and relatively cheap with pretty good value if that is what you’re looking for and with no frills and no nonsense — and that makes it a place that does its job as per pho specs.