Today I was at yet another restaurant competing in the Vancouver Foodster iced tea challenge. This is a newer Vietnamese restaurant on Hastings Street, on a strip already saturated with numerous restaurants offering Vietnamese food. So what sets them apart? An owner hailing from Southern Vietnam, bringing with her authentic Southern Vietnamese cuisine, and slight differences we would learn through eating.
Previous to them moving in this was a sushi restaurant. The change of management brought about a renovation that included pink walls and purple painted detailing. They were a contrast to the homey red tables and matching cushioned chairs. And all the mismatched potted plants offering their green leaves as colouring. This all pointed to a family run business, something that was later confirmed by the owner herself. She spoke to the toils of having to lay the laminate underfoot themselves and the uneven paint job of non-professionals, all done while she was pregnant with her second child.
Other than that it was a nice setting, it was an open space, one that was comfortable to sit in, where many such restaurants try to maximize their dining area with one to many, tightly crammed together tables. Here things were evenly spaced allowing you breathing room and the ability to hold a more private conversation from the table to your right. Everything was also kept very clean.
Their ice tea entry was a pandan flavoured milk tea made with ground and steeped pandan leaves. These leaves were also used to flavoured the cups of water they served, although very mildly, and I wouldn’t have even notice, if this wasn’t pointed out to me. I won’t be going into the actual flavour of the drink here, as the competition is still running. Instead, I will invite you to check back on my blog after the competition has ended, to read my thoughts on each of the drinks competing.
Instead, I will move on to all the food we enjoyed. The “Green papaya salad with beef jerky” was a fresh start to our meal. Thin shreds of carrot and daikon with lettuce, cilantro, beef jerky, fried shallots, and peanuts. It was spiciest at the bottom, where the sauce pooled. Therefore to best enjoy it, you stir up, mixing everything together. Note, it is easier to scoop what you want, then pour the sauce over it. And you will go back for several scoops, as this made for a lovely palette cleanser with a nice cooling crunch. I didn’t notice any of the beef jerky though.
The “Pork spring rolls” were light, crispy, and pretty standard. We got exactly what we expected from this, and was able to dunk each third into plenty of fish sauce.
The “Garlic butter chicken wing” was delicious on first bite. You immediately got the promise of its buttery flavour, peppered full with garlicky goodness, that evenly coated each crispy wing. This was the most memorable dish that we had, and one what I would come back for.
“Lemongrass chicken on rice” is my guest’s go to for Vietnamese food. Whenever she is at any new Vietnamese restaurant, this is the dish she orders, which she then uses as a gauge of food flavour and quality. She liked “Vietnamese Tea House’s” version plenty, but I found the meat a little dry and the amount of ginger textured lemongrass off putting. More so when I was surprised biting into a piece of chicken decorated with it.
The “Chicken curry” was most memorable to my guest. This is the first time she has had a sweeter curry like this, She enjoyed the creaminess of it thanks to its coconut base. Milder curries like these are my preferred type of curry. This one was rich and creamy, with a hint of spicy heat. It is made with tender pieces of dark meat chicken, mashed tomato, and softened potato cooked in a blend of coconut and homogenized milk. You had the option of enjoying it with either rice or bread, we choose the later given that we had rice in the dish before. All this only to learn that the bread that would accompany our soup-sized serving of curry would be the same type of baguette used in their banh mi after. Here we would pinch off bits and use it to sop up liquid curry like a sponge. The bread is the only thing they don’t make from scratch here.
The “Chicken sub” not only used the same bread as above, but the same type of tender and juicy dark meat chicken above as well.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great destination for Vietnamese food. Everything was consistently prepared and I have no complaints, especially after learning that they focus on using only fresh ingredients and prepare everything themselves in house from the sauces and spreads, to all the pickled products. Not necessarily worth driving all the way for, but worth choosing before its neighbours. Don’t deny your cravings.
VIETNAMESE TEA HOUSE
2526 E Hastings, Vancouver BC, V5K 1Z3