Phở Bến Thành, or more informally referred as B&T Restaurant, is one of the most popular Vietnamese restaurants in Hamilton. It is actually referred as a Viet-Thai restaurant, although the owners are Chinese and the waiters do not necessarily speak either Vietnamese or Thai. The owners also own The Jade Garden, a few blocks away.
It seems like B&T Restaurant has become a little chain with restaurants all over Southwestern Ontario. The Hamilton location is situated at the corner of Cannon Street, in the heart of Little Vietnam. Ok, I'm exaggerating. It's like maybe two blocks of Chinese and Vietnamese businesses. It is also next door to a Vietnamese grocery store, where I shop very often.
The B&T Restaurant is one of those restaurants with a VERY extensive menu (over 600 items, including the drinks, yikes!), including their specialty phở (Vietnamese beef soup), vermicelli and rice dishes. There are also a dozen of vegetarian items. Like many Vietnamese restaurants, they also have a great offering of Vietnamese shakes. You have to jot down the item number you want on a piece of paper. You can make special requests, like no peanuts, but the waiters are sometimes unresponsive. You might have to repeat a few times and send your dish back.
Since it is still cold here, I decided to go for a phở. I always order the same one: phở tái bò viên (lean beef and meatballs). I was meeting my friend D before he and his wife move back to Halifax and he also went for a phở, minus the bò viên (meatballs). I got a small bowl of #108 for $5.50 while D went for the large #102 for $6.50. I should have taken a pictures of both bowls for a comparison!
#108, phở tái bò viên (lean beef and meatballs), $5.50 for a small bowl.
There are many different ways to eat phở. Usually, you add the bean sprouts, Thai basil and some lime juice in. I always ask for extra lime juice and like my broth extra lime-y. My mom likes to get her bean sprouts blanched because she does not like them raw. I find they cook sufficiently once they are added to the broth. I like to have Hoisin sauce and Sriracha on the side, and dip my various meats in the mixture. Others like to add the sauces directly to the broth. It doesn't matter how you eat it!
The accompanying Thai basil, limes, bean sprouts and hoisin sauce.
I have to admit that I have no interest in learning how to make phở. I think it takes a lot of work and for just one person, it's not worth the effort. I can be satisfied with eating it at restaurants. Maybe one day I will want to learn. I do remember my mom making a ginormous pot on Saturdays and really enjoying it, with pieces of cooked daikon in it. There are no daikon pieces at restaurants!
All in all, B&T Restaurant offers affordable Vietnamese dishes. Other than the phở, I also really enjoy the different combinations of vermicelli bowls, such as #303 (grilled pork balls, BBQ pork and spring roll). I will have to write about it next time! I have seen the pad thai and it does not look appealing to me. I doubt their Thai food is authentic and would stay away from them. While the owners are Chinese, they actually grew up/lived in Vietnam and know their Vietnamese food pretty well.