Pho Cao Van: Nothing Remarkable

It was Arkensen and Nanzaro’s turn to decide where we are going to eat out. It was no surprise to us what they want. Their criteria is simple and they don’t care where we go to. It has to be:

  1. No driving over bridges
  2. Sushi or pho or salted fish fried rice

Sushi is out because Suanne doesn’t like it. She will come along but she will order Udon which she does not like. I suggested to the boys that we go to Pho Cao Van since it was fresh on my mind. They were happy to say the least because it is just 5 minutes from home.


I had almost forgotten about this restaurant until Crispy mentioned it in one of the comments. I had always considered Pho Cao Van to be unremarkable. It had always been there for as long as I remember. Despite all the restaurants around in Richmond, they had managed to continue to operate.

Pho Cao Van is located in a quiet section in the middle of Richmond. It is on Saba Road and right behind the Richmond Public Market. There are hardly any traffic there. It is so quite that this location has the only permanent 4-way flashing traffic lights in Richmond.

There are lots of parking along the street but it is pay parking. So we parked along the street in front of the restaurant. We only noticed the sign at the entrance to Pho Cao Van that they have parking at the rear.


The place is clean but as you can see, the decor is just a mismatch of everything – like organized chaos.

There was only one person managing the entire restaurant. She looked like she is the owner. She was scurrying all over the place trying to tend to everyone. Despite that, we had the service as we needed so it was not a problem.

We noticed that they speak Cantonese here. I think this is a Chinese owned Vietnamese restaurant.


They have a big menu with the usual items you see else where. It seems like they had recently adjusted their prices because all the prices were taped over with new prices.


My attention was drawn to the “Dac Biet” (specials) page and the stand on the table. It is good to see that they have something different because I am just not in the mood for pho, com and things like that.


I wanted to get the Deep Fried Crab Meat (on the second blue colored menu above) but they ran out of that. So I got the King Crab Balls (10 pieces) which is $8.

Yeah, I wanted to eat lighter because I had put on so much weight over the Christmas holidays. We had been eating out virtually everyday. Well, I had just officially … tipped over to the obese category according to Health Canada. :-}


OK, I know. This is not gonna help with controlling weight but at least it is not carbo. I can also tell myself that this is like Atkins Diet too.

The crab meat was pretty good. It is soft and springy and tasty.


To supplement my version of Atkins Diet, I also ordered the Beef Soup with Daikon, Beef Balls and Tendon which is just $5. There is no noodles here. Just beef parts and daikon.

At first I thought this would be just like normal pho without the noodles. But the soup is different. It is stronger and herb-y.


The lady brought three sauces at the same time. We were left to figure out which sauce goes with what which wasn’t hard because we know what they are.


The bean sprouts looked kind of old. It must have been sitting in the kitchen for the whole day already. We did not touch this and since the table were already full of dishes already, I asked the lady to take it away. I added that I don’t want this and I think she got the message.

Really, I think it is better for her NOT to serve this at all than to give such sad looking food to the customer. It does the restaurant no good.


Nanzaro also ordered from the “Cao Van Dac Biet” menu. What he got was the Cao Van Rice Noodle and Egg Noodle with Prawn, Squid, Pork in Soy Sauce which is $9.


It is a dried noodle dish. This is certainly the most interesting of all the dishes we ordered because of all the different type of ingredients in it.

It was quite good too … not stellar but pretty good.


There is also an MSG laden bowl of soup that came with the noodles. We use this more to soften up the noodles when it gets too dry, not really to drink.

Actually after the meal, we do feel thirsty. It must be the MSG.

BTW, can you really TASTE MSG? I can’t. I only know if there is MSG sometime after the meal when i get thirsty.


Arkensen always order the No. 1 Special Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup … all the time, without fail. The large sized one is $7.50 which is the obvious choice because the smaller version is just 50 cents cheaper.

As you can see, the beef is raw – the way we like to see it served. The soup is served piping hot. Overall this pho is just OK. Nothing special about it. The broth was a bit flat too.


Suanne raised her eyebrows when her order came. She had no idea how big this is because if she knew, she would not have ordered it. First thing she said was “you all have to help me”. She hates wasting food and she is worried we are going to leave everything to her to deal with.

This was recommended by the lady owner.


What Suanne ordered was something with a long name — the Bun Suon Bo Nem Nuong Goi Cuon Cha Gio Rau Song. Basically it is Grilled Beef Short Rib grilled marinated; spring roll and prawn salad roll with vermicelli and assorted vegetables. Now, wouldn’t a dish with such a long name give you a clue how big it is?


Actually despite the size of the serving, half of the plate is veggie (mostly the same awful beansprouts) anyway.


The prawn salad roll was good and goes well with the nice thick peanut sauce. The deep fried spring roll is not the blistery rice paper type which we prefer.


It was just a so-so meal. Nothing really makes this memorable at all. There are a lot of other Vietnamese restaurant around. As a matter of fact, the Green Lemongrass is just around the corner from Pho Cao Van which we prefer over this for sure.

Pho Cao Van Vietnamese on UrbanspoonBUSINESS HOURS:
10 am to 10 pm Everyday

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Eric

    I like how you’ve started adding business hours too, Ben. Chow Times’ getting better and better.

    1. Elaine

      I agree! Sometimes it’s just so hard to find business hours online!

      1. Ben

        Hi Elaine, Eric: Yeah, I think including business hours is something useful because some readers do go try the restaurants posted on chowtimes. I had been reading too many feedback about people going on the day it’s closed. It’s easy to put in the hours and I thought why not. Ben

        1. LotusRapper

          Or just add the restaurant link in Urbanspoons

  2. bulakz

    We go to this place often, yes, its not the greatest but it satifies our hungry tummy, We are not the adventurous type, so we always order by the number.. #1 large, no tripe and #31-Lemmon grass chix, with pork and broken rice..I always wonder why its called broken when it tastes to me like an ordinary steamed rice…sometimes we will order the springrolls too..We dont eat the sprouts they serve on the side and the veggies for the #31 is so so,,but we still like going there, its just centrally located and its a familiar place for us now.. Like Ben, I cant taste the MSG myself but i always expect to get extremely thirsty or even a slight headache after eating..but we still go there anyways…

    I didnt see which post Crispy mentioned this but does crispy like this place? I just think that we may hv the same palette . I like this place and will continue to be their loyal patron

  3. Crispy Lechon

    Actually my favorite there is the Bun Bo Hue. It has all the requisite ingredients for a BBH and the broth has a very tasty lemongrass flavour.

  4. Ryan

    Hey Ben,

    Unrelated to food, but a couple comments.

    No. 1 Road and Moncton also has a 4 way stop light. It’s alright in winter time when it’s quiet, but during busy summer tourist season, and with all the new condos there, it’s a nightmare!

    OMG – I’m also nearing the obese scale according to Health Canada. My BMI is about 24, where 25 is obese I think. But I was at the Save On Foods on Cambie and Broadway, and where they have those blood pressure monitors, they now have this OMRON body fat measurer! It gave me 10.7% body fat! So I think people are recognizing BMI is not the only measure!

    1. Ben

      Hi Ryan:

      Oh yeah. I forgot about that intersection. We try to avoid that intersection by turning right at Chatham all the time. I wonder why the Richmond City Hall doesn’t make this intersection in the regular traffic lights. With so many pedestrian cross all the time, it is tricky to gauge who goes next.

      Oh that reminds me. I still need to write about my weight and all the eating one of these days. LOL!


  5. JMH

    Pho Lan!

  6. LotusRapper

    Thai Son !

  7. Chubbypanda

    What do your boys have against bridges? 🙂

Leave a Reply