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Strips of tender chicken sauteed with lemongrass and chili with sticky white rice, fresh shrimp spring rolls with two fantastic dipping sauces, and a spectacular Vietnamese beef and vermicelli soup.

Montreal is packed with fabulous restaurants, but this no frills spot on Rue St-Laurent in the red light district is one of the best.  Paradoxically, it is also one of the cheapest.  I have been coming here for over ten years now and fortunately nothing has changed.  Every time I visit I worry that it will either have closed or gone downhill, and every time it surpasses even my best memories. The food is incredible, the staff is extremely nice, and the price is right.

I always order combination B1, but with fresh shrimp spring rolls instead of imperial rolls (they are very accommodating here).  Every one of the items in this combination is out of this world.

The lemongrass chicken is tender, succulent, and just a tad bit spicy.  This is served with crisp veggies and perfectly cooked sticky white rice that provides a nice antidote to the spice.  The shrimp spring rolls are fresh, flavourful, and  paired with both a sweet vinegary sauce with carrots and cabbage and a homemade sweet and crunchy peanut sauce so crazy good you’ll want to dip everything into it.  And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the beef soup (‘Tonkinoise’ in French) is perhaps the most delicious thing of all: a generous portion of incredibly tender, wonderfully flavorful beef strips floating in a jaw-dropping lemongrass broth with crisp green onions, soft vermicelli noodles and fresh cilantro.

It isn’t fancy, but Pho Bac is definitely worth making a special trip for.

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