“Among the many Vietnamese restaurants I have been to, the Mai Vietnamese Fusion has the best value overall.”
review by Aonan He
Walking down Bourbon Street in West Edmonton Mall, you can’t miss the Mai Vietnamese Fusion restaurant because of its iconic golden Buddha at the front door. Although this restaurant is relatively new, since it opened not long after Covid-19, I have been there quite a few times already. Both the décor of the restaurant and the quality of the food are superior to any other Vietnamese restaurant in Edmonton that I have tried.
In comparison with the other dining establishments on Bourbon street, Mai Vietnamese Fusion appears to be the smallest. It has a very narrow entrance. In fact, this restaurant shares a kitchen with Delicious Pho upstairs. The difference is, it is much cleaner and organized with a more exquisite décor and a Zen vibe.
As you walk in, the dining area is arranged in two lines of tables. You’d be pleasantly surprised by how spacious the sitting areas are. Although Covid-19 polices have pressured restaurants into controlling the number of people dining in, this place does not seem to be dispirited. Between the two lines of tables, there is a long glass wall installed, and polycarbonate barriers in between all tables.
Unlike other restaurants on Bourbon street, you don’t have to wait in a line to get in. Just like eating at a restaurant in China, you simply walk in and find your favorite booth to sit at. The several times I have been there since the beginning of COVID, they had few diners and I felt very safe every time. The giant golden Buddha with other small Buddha statues on the side always gives you a sense of Asian tranquility and authenticity.
One thing worth mentioning is their excellent service. Normally there is only one waitress in the restaurant, but your order is taken very fast. Typically within 5 minutes ordering, the food is served. I’m always impressed that I can enjoy my food within 10 minutes of entering this place, and the same cannot be said about other Vietnamese restaurants, especially not in Edmonton.
For the main dish, I always order Pho Noodles 15, which contains pho noodles with steak, flank, tendon, tripe, and fatty flank. The medium size is plenty for me; with a large portion, you really only get more noodles rather than any meat.
The food is served in a hefty white ceramic bowl with pieces of green scallion scattered in. The beef tendons vibrate like jelly as you use chopsticks to stir the soup. Other cuts of beef have fat and lean pieces intertwined in each other.
On the side, they serve basil leaves and green bean sprouts which you put in when the soup is still hot. I like to bury these underneath my pho noodles as soon as I get them so they can get cooked by the broth. They can both add a refreshing flavor, especially when you bite down the pho, the fatty meat, and the crunchy bean sprouts in one bite.
Finally, I top the soup with generous amounts of chili oil, which adds an additional kick and makes the flavor much more powerful. The chili oil sauce is made in house and has a strong peaty flavor on the nose. Sriracha and oyster sauce are also available on demand.
There are also plenty of other pho noodles with different meats: for example some contain meat balls, some contain raw beef or tendon-only. You can always choose the one you like the most. The complexity of flavors and the countless combinations you can create according to your own taste makes this pho experience an artful one.
For dessert, the fried banana with vanilla ice cream is always a must after a hot pho noodles soup. There are a few desert choices, but the classic is with vanilla ice cream. The ice cream and the fried banana can be enjoyed separately or together. The silky smoothness of the ice cream creates another irresistible blend with the crunchy crust of the deep-fried banana. They used to serve fried banana with very thin crust, but during my last visit, they made square cuts to the banana and used a lot of flour to coat it. If possible I would ask them to serve the old version. The dessert is generous in portion as well, more than enough for two people and totally sharable among four diners.
Aside from the traditional Vietnamese pho noodles, the restaurant serves some other Vietnamese dishes, such as grilled pork, grilled shrimp, spring rolls, as well as some Chinese style rice, stir-fried vermicelli, meat and vegetables.
I have tried grilled pork with some spring rolls. The pork was grilled with minimal browning on it which definitely makes it healthier while the smokiness can still be appreciated. The spring rolls were very crispy and you could taste the juiciness of the ingredients wrapped inside. I have also tried some stir-fried tofu with a variety of vegetables as a shared dish. It tasted like your run of the mill Americanized Chinese fried vegetables, which is fine, but of course even the most spicy option is not spicy at all.
Overall, the pho noodles soup is the best among all other pho places I have tried in Edmonton – particularly with the chili oil sauce, which is hard to get in other pho noodle places. The deep fried banana with vanilla ice-cream is a must-try after slurping a bowl of hot pho noodle soup.
For other dishes, I think the price is a little higher than other Vietnamese counterparts. Appetizers range from $8.52 to $15, the Pho Noodles 15 is $15 for the medium size, $16.70 for the large, and other main courses range from around $15 to $25. However, given its location in West Edmonton Mall, with the chic vibe on the Bourbon street, the price appears to be fair.
This place is also the cleanest among all other Vietnamese restaurants with the most prompt service. If you don’t want to wait in line for food on Bourbon street after a whole day of shopping, Mai Vietnamese Fusion is a very good option!
Among the many Vietnamese restaurants I have been to, the Mai Vietnamese Fusion has the best value overall.
Mai Vietnamese Fusion
on Bourbon Street in West Edmonton Mall
8882 170 St NW, Edmonton