Best of Chinatown: Variety and flavour at New Pho Bo Ga La

New Pho Bo Ga La in Ottawa’s bustling Chinatown at 763 Somerset serves big, delicious flavours in a variety of different Asian cuisines. When I visited on a bright, sunny afternoon unseasonably warm for spring in a Canadian city, I was treated to a big, hot bowl of spicy Thai Tom Kha soup.

One of New Pho Bo Ga La’s top sellers, their Tom Kha Soup is pho-style soup (because, as I learned, pho really only refers to beef and rice noodle varieties) is super-spicy with a subtle sweetness to the beautiful, bright-orange broth that is both shocking and savoury at the same time. Topped with crunchy shrimp, mussels, and no shortage of bean sprouts and Thai basil, the scrumptious soup is popular for a very good reason.

The concept of seafood in soup was new to me—in fact, I was not sure if I had ever had mussels before, much less swimming in soup. But the risk in trying something new was entirely worth it for the big, bold spice and flavour I was rewarded with.

The soup comes in medium ($13.50) and large for a dollar more. Other soups on the menu stick to a small price range on a few dollars on either side, and medium is more than enough for one. I would suggest ordering a large for a little more, and sharing with one or two others in your bubble—if, of course, you can agree on a single dish from New Pho Bo Ga La’s excellent options.

If you are not a fan of spicy food, I would suggest seeking out something else to your taste on Pho Bo Ga La’s wide-ranging menu. They offer plenty of options, from Japanese U-don noodles to a new special (món mói) of fried rice with pineapple served, according to the takeout menu, in a hollowed-out half pineapple.

Due to pandemic restrictions at the time of my visit, they did not offer dine-in. New Pho Bo Ga La, however, offers great takeout options. I ordered in store, and got to choose between a bowl of takeout should I want to take it to a park for a picnic and not deal with the messy set up of my own bowl, or a separated takeout.

I elected for the separate style, and was glad I did: with each element of the pho in separate packaging, nothing got soggy or soft before I got home. Though this takeout style offers a lot more packaging, they use less styrofoam than other places and more recyclable plastic.

Check out the New Pho Bo Ga La menu here!