Forgettable name, memorable prices
If you ask a typical Nanaimoite where to go for Vietnamese food, they will likely give you one of two answers: Saigon Kitchen, or Huong Lan. These are the old standbys and are great restaurants, but we’d like to introduce you to the new kid on the block: Sealand Pho.
Sealand is on Stewart Avenue nestled between apartment buildings and marine industry, and right on the water of the Newcastle Channel. It’s in the same (cursed?) location as The View used to be, and Beach Fires before that. It’s been open since September and offers dine in, pick up, and delivery service (via Doordash, etc.)
When we arrived for dinner, our server greeted us warmly and seated us. Complimentary tea was brought out right away. We enjoyed perusing the menu as there were lots of great pho and banh mi (Vietnamese sub sandwich) options to choose from as well as a few other pork, chicken, and noodle classics. We were a bit disappointed that there were no alcoholic drinks on offer, but that appears to be a temporary issue.
Speaking of disappointments – one small complaint before we get to the food. Sealand Pho has the most incredible wall of windows overlooking the water. It must be great to eat in there on a sunny day. Unfortunately, they keep the lights inside so bright that it’s impossible to see outside once the sun goes down. Maybe if it was a bit dimmer in there, it would be possible to see the food AND the channel. Just a thought.
We started our meal with an old favourite – salad rolls. Only, instead of regular old shrimp salad rolls and peanut sauce, we went with the special salad rolls (grilled pork and chicken) and fish sauce. These things were the biggest salad rolls we’ve ever seen and could have been a meal on their own. They were quite tasty too, with the the flavour of the grilled pork and chicken really coming through. We love fish sauce and were happy to soak the rolls in it, but you might also like to have them with peanut sauce, which we’re sure is also delicious.
Shortly after we finished those bad boys, our mains arrived. He had the classic grilled pork and rice combo and she had what we came for – the special pho.
The pork and rice is a super common Vietnamese dish although while we’ve typically seen it served in pork chop form, here we have shredded fried pork instead – likely the same pork that gets used for the banh mi and other dishes. No matter, it was was cooked nicely and very flavourful although a touch too oily.
The jasmine rice and veggies were nice, but the pickled carrot and daikon were really good and a fresh counterpoint to the heavier pork and rice. Even better was the spring roll the meal came with, which was crispy and flavourful.
For her we ordered the beef and beef ball pho, but what actually came was the beef and chicken pho. The server realized the mistake right away and was apologetic, but we were happy to have this dish too, so it was no problem. Our bill was later voluntarily discounted, which was a nice gesture.
As usual , side plates of hot sauce, hoisin, and bean sprouts arrived first (though no basil). The pho soup itself was quite large and full of meat (especially considering it was a “medium”). Rare beef sat atop the broth and slowly cooked as we stirred it into the noodles.
Overall we found the flavour to be mild and not as spicy as we hoped. While we enjoyed the taste, we generally prefer something bolder. Even so, there was a lot to like in the bowl. The noodles were perfect and the beef and meatballs were juicy and good. The chicken was marinated and grilled and was a real stand out. Next time, we’ll get some more spice added.
Overall, we were happy with our meal. The flavours were not particularly thrilling, but the food was well cooked, nicely presented, and generously portioned. We were however very impressed with the price. Our meals, including appy (but no drinks) came to $42 after tax and a modest tip. There was also a small discount applied, but even if the bill was $45 we would consider this to be excellent value.
We generally recommend Sealand Pho. While there’s still some opportunity for improvement in the dining experience and in the adventurousness of the flavours, we really liked the service, location and menu. Furthermore, the value is excellent here – you get a lot for your money.
We know we’re not alone liking the food and the prices too as we watched a seemingly endless stream of Skip the Dishes and Doordash drivers come through during our meal. If you want to try some quality Vietnamese cuisine and you’re in the neighbourhood (or looking for takeout or delivery), check them out and let them know we sent you!