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Category: Vietnamese Page 1 of 4

House Special, take out with Perk Hero app

The hospitality and restaurant industry is much different than it was a mere month ago. Covid-19 and the necessity to stay indoors and distance yourself from others has transformed the way we work, play, and eat. And with no sign of it changing its trajectory any time soon, those in the food industry are looking for different ways to market their limited take out or delivery (through an app) business.

Today I was testing out what such platform. A new app that rewards you for taking out at your favourite restaurant, and paying through them. The premise, to earn rewards each time you do, and to redeem them for cash discounts on your next order.

“Perk Hero” markets themselves as a fun way to take out. You simply download and register the app. It is set up like a video game, with the ability to create your profile, customizing it with your own avatar. For every meal you purchase you collect both experience points and coins. The former allows you to level up, which leads to earning more coins to be put towards future meals. As a range, I earned 45 cents when I levelled up to level one. This landmark was achieved through setting up my profile and the initial first purchase, which they call “quests”, in following with the theme.

The app is fairly straight forward, although it did take me a couple of minutes to figure out how to use the credits I had towards my dinner. But paying is as easy as taking a photo (it literally is), and the app does the rest. The payment is taken on your credit card, which you register when you initially sign up.

My only feedback is that it is odd that you have to input your phone number each time you login, and access the app with the “secret code” they text you shortly after. And with them only recently launching, they have very little restaurants that you can choose from. And one barber shoppe, which predicts their growth and the direction in which they plan to take their platform. But the restaurants that they do have are notable stops: “Las Margaritas”, “Chickpea”, “Dunn”, and one of my favourite restaurants to recommend, “House Special”. So naturally the lattermost was the choice here.

We searched up “House Special’s” menu from off the restaurant’s website and ordered takeout by phone. Easy enough to do, but it would be nice to be able to do so through “Perk Hero”, making it a one stop app. Similarly, the phone number and address is listed for the restaurant, but clicking it doesn’t yield any results. Nonetheless we called ahead and made our choices for take out. And by the time we drove down to the restaurant our order was completed and packed up for us to take and go.

We ordered some of their staples, planning on enjoying it in the tailgate of the 2020 Hyundai Palisade. We chose based on what sounded good, and less on the ease of eating it in the back seat of a car. They are as follows.

Their spring rolls are vegan and gluten free. Crispy mung bean spring rolls served with nước chấm dipping sauce and a side of Vietnamese herbs. This delivered on expectations with a nice crunch. There was minimal grease, and they were well cut with the tangy and acidic fish sauce. Out of everything we had, this was the easiest to eat and share.

“Uncle Hing’s Chicken Wings” was a little more complicated to eat in the car, with you needing your bare hands to hold on to and eat clean their family recipe’s chicken wings and drumlets. The menu jokingly claims it “originates from the remote village of Houston, Texas”. Free range chicken wings prepared with spicy nước chấm. There was plenty of meat on bone. Flavourful, but I would have liked more sauce, something thick and sticky to coat each wing with.

We naturally ordered the “House Special Pho”, prepared with brisket, beef, beef balls, tripe, tendon, and rice noodles in their “famous” beef broth. Served with a baggie of sprouts and fresh herbs, like you would get in a bowl at your table. The serving was a beautifully light, yet full of beefy goodness; a good mix of textures from all the meat parts listed above. And should you need a bit more spice or zip, you can utilize either the container of chilli sauce or hoisin. The difficulty of tailgating here was the pouring of the soup over the noodles and sliced meats. Though I was happy to have so much extra broth to enjoy just as soup, when the noodles were long gone. Also worth noting is that there was an even ratio of noodle to all the meaty toppings over it.

Out of our two noodle orders, I much more preferred their “Bun Bo Hue” for its moderately spicy lemongrass pork and beef broth soup with pork belly, brisket, Vietnamese ham, thick vermicelli noodles, and Vietnamese coriander. I also preferred the thicker noodles use here, and the ability to slurp them down.

Reading salted egg yolk on the menu, I had to try the “Egg Yolk Pork Ribs & Rice”. Braised pork ribs & eggplant tossed in a salted duck egg yolk; served with rice and pickles. I could have used more egg yolk in the mix; and eggplant was better than the pork, which was on the dry side. Overall, both didn’t have enough flavour or sauce to eat with the bed of rice. But I did enjoy the side of pickles for balance and as a palette refresher.

And we also added two bottles of beers to the order, because it is now legal to take those to go to. We indulged in the Saigon Export, it pairing well with the food and all the fish sauce.

In conclusion, this was another great local restaurant to support during these uncertain times. One of my favourites to recommend for consistent service. So go out there and check them out, or revisit your favourites so that they will still be here when we all come out of this.

HOUSE SPECIAL
1269 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6K3
778-379-2939
housespecial.ca

NaMì, Vietnamese food truck

Today I was invited down to try some modern Vietnamese cuisine from the food truck “Na Mi”. They are typically posted up downtown Vancouver, right by the Vancouver city centre skytrain exit/entrance. However with a regular Monday to Friday work week I was unable to catch them as they normally are. So today, we took a trip down to the Hillcrest Farmer’s market to visit them on the weekend.

They are parked amongst a few other food vendors, right as you enter the market area, clearly visible in a coat of medium blue against their all silver facade. The menu is listed by the register. It is easy to navigate between their variations on banh mi and/or their vermicelli bowls, along with a handful of familiar sides. All easy to eat on the go, or in our case as a tailgate.

Given the plexiglass box dedicated to fresh baguettes on the counter, we decided to try a couple of those first. Lemon grass chicken tends to be a Vietnamese cuisine staple, so we thought it best to start with the “L.G.C.” Banh mi, described as “Lemon grass chicken and house sauce with spring onions.” The baguette was fresh, crispy on the outside with a shell that crumbles; and chewy at the centre, especially when sauced up with the mix of cream mayo and tangy hoisin sauce. The chicken was delicious with its grilling. Tender and full of flavour, I wanted it more as a part of a bowl with rice. As a sandwich it was missing a tangy component, it needed more pickling.

Out of the two, I preferred the “Chasu pork belly” banh mi with soy hoisin glaze and spring onions. The bun was stuffed with thick cuts of meat. Not just grease and gristle, it had the perfect about of fattiness to pair well with the same creamy sauces and julienned carrots above. It just came together better in this rendition.

We followed our sandwiches up with their “Banana blossom bowl”, being curious as to what a “banana blossom” actually is. You can choose either lemon grass chicken or satay beef as the feature of this bowl of vegetables and noodles. We went for the latter, seeing as we already had the chicken above; and that it would best match with the peanut dressing poured over the bowl. Along side kale, spinach, cucumber, carrots, shredded lettuce, and banana blossom. “Banana blossom” is “a purple-skinned flower, shaped like a tear, which grows at the end of a banana fruit cluster. Traditionally used in south-east Asian and Indian”, (as per Wikipedia). Here, they were sliced thin like noodles and fried for a nice crispy texture. This bowl was my favourite of all that we had, tender meat, crisp vegetables, and a sauce so tasty that it made me want to eat anything that touched it.

We also really like the spring rolls too. Battered and fried with a thick and crispy shell. They were exactly as expected when dipped into the brightening fish sauce.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked everything we had and would not be shy to repeat when I see them next. On the same vein, I would also like to visit and dine at their brick and mortar restaurant, if they ever open one. Fresh and fragrant modern Vietnamese that comes to you, you only need to add our own seating into the equation. Don’t deny your cravings.

NAMI
Granville St &, W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V7Y 1H4
namivietnamese.com

Hanoi Old Quarter

Over the past years our family has started a new tradition. Instead of visiting a Chinese restaurant for Chinese New Year, we gather and dine at anything but. One year it was “White Spot”, last year Korean cuisine, and this year it was Vietnamese. I choose “Hanoi Old Quarter” wanting to try the newer restaurant myself; having dined at and liking their sister restaurant, the long standing “Mr. Red Cafe”.

“Hanoi” was similar to the original location with its tropical theme: a mix of live and plastic plants, over grown foliage, a thatched roof bar, and artifacts. The traditional music and warm lights added to the cozy feel of the place. As a smaller restaurant, it is highly recommended that you make reservations, they will need to push tables together to accommodate parties larger than 4. We were spread across three tables. Those sitting along the booth, against the wall, found ourselves balancing cheek between the cracks of the seats. Worse still was the fact that the benches were set at different heights.

When it came time to order, a few of our family members ordered their own dishes, but most of us shared everything, family style.

The “Green Papaya salad” was a nice start. Thin strands of fruit that ate like vegetables. It was refreshing and tangy with the familiar flavour of fish sauce. You also get a certain herbaceous-ness to it from the mint, and layered crispiness from the fried onions.

The “Prawn and pork spring rolls” were a little too oily for my liking. They had a flat flavour that was helped along with a thorough dunking into the fish sauce dip. In my opinion, fish sauce fixes everything.

Similar, but different was the “Crab meat spring roll”, though actually they were more like squares”. Similar in deep fry texture and grease, but different in format, thus making it much easier to identify between the two stuffed spring rolls. I didn’t get crab meat in this, there was too much oil masking its lighter flavour. But just as well, with a remedying dunk into the fish sauce, that is all I tasted anyways. If I didn’t know what it was in it, I would have thought this was another pork and shrimp roll.

The “Deep fried chicken wings” were heavy on the batter, but still bland for it. It needed every pinch of the salt that was piled neatly on the side. Another one I dipped excessively into fish sauce.

My brother ordered his usual, the “Lemon grass with rice”, a normally quite person he cleaned his plate without complaints. Sadly, he was not in the mood to share.

I don’t like ordering the same thing as anyone else, so had the similar, but different “Grilled pork chop with rice”. Similar to the chicken in its dome shaped rice side, hard and bland broccoli florets, the bed of lettuce that the protein sat on, and bowl of sauce that looked like soup. I learned of the latter the hard way, taking a gulp of salty fish sauce to quench my thirst. As for the pork chop itself, the meat was tender and tasty with just enough gristle, an even grill and easy to cut. I would definitely order this again for comfort eating.

The “Pork hock, deep fried tofu, and Vietnamese sausage” was an impressive looking set. A choose your own adventure platter. You curate the perfect bite between airy tofu puffs, an earthy sausage with a metallic quality to it, and a tasty smoke prawn paste to mask what you don’t like.

The “Grilled pork belly and patties” wasn’t what I expected. I bowl of chopped up meats, sitting in a pool of fish sauce. Although soggy they were at least tasty. This was best mixed into a noodle dish with the bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, and vermicelli on the side.

The “Duck stew and green bananas in clay pot” looked like a hearty stew, but wasn’t as rich as I wanted it. The duck was dry and chalky, the flavour a little medicinal, and the bananas included the peel. Interesting and different overall, but this one isn’t for me.

The “Beef stew in clay pot” was more my speed. It read “stew” and it delivered. It even came with a whole banh mi baguette to help sop up stringy meat and plentiful gravy.

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.
Not the mainstream Vietnamese flavours I have come to know and expect, but something completely different and worth trying nonetheless. New flavours and unique ingredients prepared with presentation and freshness in mind. Although saying that, if I was to return I would try their pho and/or order the lemon grass or grilled pork on rice again. Don’t deny your cravings.

Com Vietnamese

Today I met up with my friend at one of her favourite restaurants in Richmond. She frequents it enough to have the staff recognize her. Which is telling, in terms of her thoughts on the place.

I was excited to dine with her today, but getting into the restaurant would be difficult. Their free parking lot out back was poorly designed. It had small stalls that was impossible to get in to, if the stalls to its front and its right were occupied. Though through sheer luck we both managed to find a spot. Typically they are busy, but this Wednesday they were especially slow, which meant empty parking stalls and any table of our choosing.

Lit in twinkle lights and striped with red panels, the restaurant it is easy to spot driving by. Inside, the decor is modern. Bleach wood furnishings to match the bar. Glowing orbs and patterned lamp shades offered romantic ambiance lighting. We were seated at a booth with decorative tiles embedded onto its table top.

When it came time to order, my guest selected all her favourite dishes to share, and none of them disappointed. We passed on the more common vermicelli and rice plates, and pho; and opted instead for dishes more unique to “Com”.

These were extra crispy “pork spring rolls”, cut in halves and served with fish sauce for dipping. Filled with carrot, taro, black mushrooms and glass noodles, it had a herbal flavour and great crunch.

The fried “Chicken wings” were one of my favourites. We had a choice between having them caramelized in fish sauce or prepared with butter and garlic. We had the latter and it was amazing, and everything that I want in a chicken wing. Crispy skin, juicy dark meat, flavour through to the bone, and a rub that you want to lick off your fingers when you are done.

The “Fish cake soup” is the one I will recommend coming all the way for. A flavourful clear broth seasoned with the unlikely, but delicious duo of dill and tamarind. And not that it needs anymore flavour, but the herbaceous fish ball, the squishy fish cake, stewed tomatoes, fresh chilli, fried garlic, and fresh green onion give it even more depth.

“Com’s” Vietnamese crepe is my guest’s favourite rendition of this egg based pancake. Theirs is filled with spiced pork, prawns, green onion, and plenty of bean sprouts. And it came with instructions. Our server recommended that we cut the whole pancake down to size with the knife and fork provide. And then taking those thick chunks, and wrapping them in lettuce, to be dipped into fish sauce. It was bland as is, but amazing with a full soak in punchy fish sauce. It citrus and tang balanced out the predominantly eggy crepe.

To drink my guest ordered a fruit juice cocktail from off the “Booze free” menu. The “Typhoon” was passion fruit, lime, mint, and ginger beer muddled.

I had the steeped “Ice Vietnamese coffee”. It came all assembled with vanilla and coconut cream mixed in, over ice. They also have it available with the more common place condense milk, but I thought I would give this rendition a shake. I still got the flavour of the coffee, but with a subtle coconut cream finish. Good, but next time I will order it with condense milk instead.

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? – Yes.
If I allowed myself to visit restaurants I like often, this would be one on the list. (I don’t because I rather visit new places to learn and write about). I enjoyed everything and now want to come back to see how good everything else is. It is a little on the pricier side for Vietnamese food, but it is certainly worth it for the flavours you get, and the full satisfaction you leave with. I highly recommend this one. Don’t deny your cravings.

COM VIETNAMESE
7688 Alderbridge Way #120, Richmond, BC V6X 2A2
(604) 285-2654

Sing Sing Beer Bar

Looking for an easy dinner on Main Street we found ourselves drawn in by the bright lights letting us know we could “drink beer here”. Their front window is as direct: the restaurant’s name on a neon beer bottle label, hovering over a sea of crushed up beer cans. And their sandwich board chimes in letting you know that you can also enjoy pho and pizza within.

The restaurant is brand new, crisp with new floor boards and tables that match in light birch, spacious with vaulted ceilings showcasing exposed wood beams. The room is set up like a beer hall with cafeteria tables, bar tops, and televised sporting matches. Although with the noise level you really can’t enjoy the latter. This is one of those places where you need to read lips to understand, and yell to talk. Plus you have to be in the bar area to get a decent view of any screen. Beer cans line the top of the actual bar. While you wait for a table, you can order here from all the options listed on papers, held in place with magnets, on back lit panels.

Seating is first come first serve, although there is a hostess by the door to greet you. She suggested grabbing a beer by the bar first and standing with it until a table cleared. Once you see a party start to leave and you dash over to claim their seat for yourself. I don’t like this style of self seating, because you end up hovering and rushing the party out before they are ready. Then you sit before the table has been cleaned.

Our meal began with us pushing left over food particles to the side with a folded menu. And there it sat until eventually, a waitress came by and pushed the rest of it on to the floor with a dirty rag. However, most of it landed on the bench next to my guest and the clothing she had over it. There aren’t any hooks for bags or jackets and it is either sit on it, have it over you, or beside you.

We were able to grab the corner of one of the large share tables and were given enough breathing room to sit and enjoy our meal without being shoulder to shoulder with the patrons next to us.

To start I ordered their signature cocktail, which is basically a spiked Vietnamese coffee. The “Sing sing ca phe” is available hot or chilled, I went with the former given the weather this evening. Bows and arrows coffee, suntory toki Japanese whiskey, sweetened condensed milk, fee brothers black walnut bitters, and cocoa nib syrup. It was as strong as I expected, but I would have liked it with more condense milk and for some of that listed chocolate flavouring to come through.

For food we tried both their pho and their pizza. The “Pho ga sing sing” smells like pho, but isn’t like any rice noodle dish with hot broth that I have ever had, and given the ingredient list it is probably the same for you too. Roast chicken, basil, sprouts, and quail eggs. The flavour went together, yet contradicted. The broth was light, yet heavy with an almost sour and tangy taste. It finished clean, yet was rich. It was a little too salty, but also packed full of varying flavours. But all together it was almost flat on its own, it need something else in between bites, another element, maybe more chicken slices and/or quail eggs to change the flavour and keep your interest. Even the traditional squeeze bottle of brown sauce would have helped. Overall this was was different and I enjoyed it, but it doesn’t need repeating. However, I would like quail eggs in any of my noodle soups in the future.

For pizza we went with the “Carne piccante” with brisket, bacon, and pepperoni. It is as cheesy as it smelled. Plenty of Parmesan to pair with the loaded sesame seed crust. The crust was a nice nod to their Vietnamese theme, paired with the meaty brisket chunks seasoned fully in familiar Vietnamese flavours. I know don’t if I like the price given how little pizza we got, but it at least tasted elevated. Meaty with a crunchy crust. Although at the end of the day, pizza for me is best chewy and doughy with more for less.

As for the service, we saw a rotation of servers walk by us, but we didn’t get the full service that you would from a restaurant that you didn’t have to seat yourself. Our server didn’t bring us water, nor did she offer any, and it was too hard to track someone down to ask for some in the end. Especially with a loud dining area, packed tight tables with narrow pathways in between each, and the set up of communal cutlery and menus that live on the table as permanent fixtures.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This place is different. Vietnamese restaurant, Beer hall, and pizza parlour all rolled into one. Giving diners who love all three the ability to have all three at once. They also serve as a safe space for those unfamiliar with Vietnamese flavours and pho; giving them the ability to taste and try, with plenty of beer to wash anything they don’t like down. A cool place to visit with a large group, but not advised for date night or a catch up session if you are planning to talk to one another. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SING SING
2718 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E8
604-336-9556
singsingbeerbar.com

Mr. Red Cafe

“Mr. Red Cafe” is a well known Vietnamese restaurant that specializes in North Vietnamese cuisine. They have been a long standing staple, therefore it is surprising that I am only just now visiting them. And lucky me, I was here with the best tour guide, acclaimed foodie and blogger extraordinaire “@foodologyca”.

She took the helm when it came to ordering, as I took in the decor. This cafe was transformed into a tropical rain forest with plenty of live greenery. Against a red brick wall a straw thatched roof was erected with wooden masks and straw lanterns hanging above. Whicker, wood, and bamboo really helped to complete the island vibe. They matched the straw and banana leaves that a few of our dishes were served on.

Like the “Vong village’s deep fry young rice cake with ground shrimp and pork”. They were essentially irregular, hand shaped meat patties. They had a gummy quality to them, similar to that of dim sum; but with the classic Vietnamese tangy fish sauce to dip them into.

The “Grilled beef wrapped in la lot leaves” was a handsome platter served with vermicelli noodle, fresh herbs, crushed peanuts, and fried shallots. Accompanied by the same light fish sauce again. I liked the meatiness of the sausage filling, but not the bitterness of the leaves that engulfed them. To help balance it out, I sought out more fish sauce and citrus, with the peanut for crunch. I would have also liked some vegetable and/or pickle within the leaves to give depth to the one toned meat log.

The “Mr. Red cafe spicy beef noodle soup” was inspired by hue style noodle soups, serve with assorted beef and pork ham slices, topped with green onion, cilantro, basil, and bean spouts. It wasn’t too spicy, a hearty and deep broth that warmed you to the core. No complaints.

 

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.
With an extensive menu filled with so much more to try, I would love to return when craving Vietnamese cuisine. A collection of platters, set meals, sandwiches, omelettes, soups, and wraps to keep you coming back for more. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MR RED CAFE
2131 E Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1V2
604-710-9515
mrredcafe.ca
Mr. Red Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dundas Eat + Drink revist

I have recently visited “Dundas Eat + Drink” to take on their newest food challenge: a giant vegan serving of their authentic Vietnamese noodle soup: bun bo hue. To see what that is all about, check out my vlog where I go head to head with this 3lbs of deliciousness.

 

However, today I was back at “Dundas” for a regular meal. You can’t really tell from their name, but they serve a full menu of authentic and delicious Vietnamese dishes; all made by their chef, a mother who has raised her lucky children and family on such fare.

 

Given the area and the want to drive local customers through their door, the more generic name does make sense. They have branded themselves as an eatery in order to appeal to their neighbours and those driving out of downtown. However, it seems like such a miss to not make note of the fantastic Vietnamese restaurant that is at its core. And how it is family run with their matriarch behind the stove.

Similarly, the decor doesn’t really speak to the cuisine, although this was for the better. The posher setting had you appreciating the value of the menu carved in wood, that laid before you. Everything was reasonably priced, you’d expect it to cost more given the decor and how good the food was. It had the flavours and the comfort of street food, but crafted with the aesthetics of casual plates, worthy of photographing.

But then there was the chalkboard bar in the corner, with beers on tap and the game splashed across three flat screens. All this made more sense under their “Dundas Eat + Drink” title. Giving it a well branded, sports bar feel; even more so with the banner outside, advertising that they broadcast all UFC matches. This, instead of fostering the more familiar hole in the wall, Vietnamese restaurant feel.

Their interwoven logo found its way onto the wooden planks of the dining room walls, and on a couple of the tiles in the washroom. Logos were on each carved and torched menu, on every paper napkin handed out, and etched on each glass candle holder that provided ambience light. I guess cohesive and literal branding is one of the perks of also running a print shop, where you can do all the above for yourself.

As for the food, they offer an extensive vegan menu with over 15 different options to choose from. I thought about exploring this a little more, and really focusing this post on how it stands up against its meat-full versions. But instead, followed my stomach and sought out some of their more authentic Vietnamese flavours.

But not before trying their “avocado fries”. Sliced up pieces of avocado, breaded and deep fried for a nice crunch. Each crunch, hiding a centre of creaminess. The house made chilli mayo for dipping was a nice balance for all the heavier flavours. It was tangy and bright, giving each bite a further whipped sensation and another level of complexity.

To match with our deep friend veg we also ordered a pound of their fried chicken wings, with 6 flavours to choose from. We went with the most popular, their “house special”, which had a variety of textures and flavours. A good crispy coating with chunky bites, mildly spicy and fairly peppery. It was best dipped into their house made blue cheese sauce that came with it. Tasty enough, but I felt like I would have enjoyed either one of their classic wing flavours or their Vietnamese focus ones more. Spicy buffalo, tamarind, garlic butter, honey garlic, and salt and pepper.

We thought a great way to try a handful of their more meaty offerings was to customize an order and build our own rice dish. You basically choose main proteins or a handful of them, like we did and have them with jasmine rice, cucumbers, lettuce, pickled daikon and carrots. All topped with fried onions, and a healthy dose of their Vietnamese vinaigrette sauce. What started as lemon grass chicken, now included beef short ribs for $4 more, a spring roll for another $3, and a sunny side up egg for a toonie.

The blackened grill of the chicken was a tad acrid, but under the burnt skin was juicy dark meat. We don’t get much lemongrass flavour, but it was still a tasty piece of meat. Although I much prefer the short ribs, they were so tender and so easy to pull meat from bone. The spring rolls were tasty, in hindsight we should ordered two so that we didn’t have to share. And the sunny side egg just rounded out the dish off, adding an additional texture and some sauciness to the rice with its runny yolk.

The “Sate beef”, specialty noodle soup came highly recommend by our very knowledgeable server. She pointed out that she has yet to see the following offered in beef or chicken anywhere else, and on any other menu but their’s. This was reason enough to give it a try, and it ended up being my favourite dish of the night. Rare beef in a spicy peanut and coconut broth. It was like curry and pho melded together in delicious harmony. Creamy and buttery, it reminded me of satay. Great if you love peanuts and bold soupy flavours. When we got it, the meat was already fully cooked, whereas I would have liked to see the beef red and raw as its description promised. But overall I was very impressed by this and how generous they were with the thin slices of beef.

We were full, but had to try a couple of their desserts. They all weren’t traditional Vietnamese sweets, but special in that the same chef who prepared all the dishes before makes all their desserts the day of as well. Impressive as most restaurants tend to buy out, for their cheesecake and chocolate cake. Even more so if their chef isn’t a trained pastry chef. We were not disappointed.

The “Dundas cheesecake” was a New York style cheesecake with berry toppings. And it was everything that my guest and I like in a cheesecake. A whipped creamy texture, but still fluffy. The raspberry topping was the perfect amount of sweetness and tang to pair with the saltiness of the cheese. I just wanted more graham cracker crumb crust and less cheesecake for a more even ratio of the two per bite.

The “Mango n sticky rice” is a Thai dessert topped with coconut milk, therefore a great option for vegans looking for a little sweetness after their meal. There were familiar flavours, ones that I wanted more of in varying degrees than what I got. I found it a tad too fragrant with the flavour of the toasted sesame seeds, maybe less of them, to balance this out, could help. I liked the faint flavour of pandan and wanted more of it from the rice. It was wonderfully intertwined with the silky coconut milk, and the fresh mango side offered some sweetness to the lot. I just wished it was in season. This is a dessert I would come back for more of. It paired well with the green tea and pandan brew they were offering with the meal.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I am hooked, after this visit I have several reasons to want to visit again, and soon. They make for a great spot to meet up with a friend for a good cost effective meal. Half way between city and my home. Coquitlam versus west end. I would go out of my way to “Dundas”, despite the distance from my work or home, for either a bowl of their sate beef or their vegan bun bo hue, should the right craving arise. That and be sure to follow it with one of their pandan desserts. They are also really good for drinks, $5 for a 6oz glass of the house red or white, any time of day. All served by friendly staff who engage in your party and are very welcoming. They love their food and are able to speak to it. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DUNDAS EAT & DRINK
2077 Dundas Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1J5
604-420-1200
eatdundas.com

Giant Vegan Pho Challenge at Dundas Pho

The restaurant that brought Vancouver its first big bowl pho challenge is back with another!

It has been a year since “Dundas Eat + Drink” gave us their 6lbs “Six-O-Pho” challenge. And with the colder weather upon us, they’ve reckoned its time to launch another. This is their 3lbs “Vegan Bún bò Huế” challenge. It is 100% plant based, meaning this opens the doors for a lot more competitors.

 

And once again, I am honoured to be able to be the first one to attempt this challenge, and to road test it for them. To check out how I faired, and to get an idea of what’s it like to take on an eating challenge, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

Bún bò Huế is a popular Vietnamese soup containing rice vermicelli and beef. The dish is best known for its balance of spicy, sour, salty, and umami flavours. This version is as tasty as its reputation suggests; made with deep fried tofu, king oyster mushrooms, and vegan Vietnamese ham. All the above gives the bowl plenty of taste and texture; along with the rice noodle base, and the mix of raw green onions, red onions, and cilantro for topping. But truly the star of this dish is the spicy vegetable broth. Despite its red hue it is actually not that spicy, more of a medium-mild on the heat meter. Delicious and great for chugging, which is helpful considering the challenge requires finishing the entire bowl, including the broth, down to the very last drop.

So now that you know how delicious this serving is, how can you try it for yourself, and better yet beat it?

The challenge is running all through December, it started on the 1st and “Dundas Eat + Drink” continue to host customers until the 31st. Each competitor pays $25 to play, win of lose the price is set. If you finish the entire bowl in under 20 min, you will win an instant prize! Then the 5 fastest contestants will be invited back for round two. This is a winner’s table where all 5 will face off against one another, in the hopes of winning the grand prize, valued at $500!

As they did last year, the extra large bowl of noodles will continue to be available for order after December 2018, although the price will increase to $30. To reminisce over last’s year’s meat heavy pho challenge, click on the link to watch my attempt video.

 

DUNDAS EAT + DRINK
2077 Dundas Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1J5
604-420-1200
eatdundas.com

Bánh Mi Très Bon

Today we were traveling around Richmond, taking on the “Dumpling Trail”, a self guided tour that took you on a journey to taste 13 different kinds of dumplings across 20 different restaurants, all vetted and vouched for by “Tourism Richmond”. “Banh Mi Tres Bon” is the latest restaurant to be inducted to this list and their “banh bot loc”, the newest dumpling you can try on the “trail”.

 

To check out all our achievements on the trail, and too learn more about the dumplings featured at “Banh Mi Tres Bon”, check out the latest video on my channel: MaggiMei.

They are not just a causal Vietnamese restaurant, this little cafe has character. A collection of art and knick knacks littering the room makes the space feel smaller and more live in. A decorative old timey bicycle with giant wheel, geodes and crystals, stuffed plush, and hanging decorative hot air balloons. In the corner was a little nook with upholstered chaises and books facing out on a shelf. And the soft melodic music in the background, furthered the above with its calming ballads.

In tune with the cafe feel there was a showcase by the register offering character macarons and individual sized cakes. But we were here for their savoury dishes, as spelled out on their memorable wooden menus.

“Banh bot loc” are Vietnamese shrimp and pork dumplings served with fish sauce. You pour the latter over the former, and enjoy the salty and sweet with the chewy and starchy of these dumplings. A taste and texture, I very much so enjoyed.

Another type of dumpling that wasn’t on the menu, but we were lucky enough to be treated to, were these mung bean rounds. With a pork filling and a fish sauce dip, they were similar to the above, but different with its gummy exterior and fried onion topping.

When visiting “Banh Mi Tres Bon”, their “Savoury mini crepes” are also worth trying. Served in their very own sizzling skillet, with all the tools you need to remove each round. It is suggested that you do this before pouring the fish sauce over the mini crepe. This is to ensure that you get the full experience of a crispy cup housing the salty meat filling.

I highly recommend their “Butter garlic chicken wings”. Crispy fried chicken with a buttery finish and a garlicky kick. I could eat a bucket of these in one sitting. Best with a dip into their sweet and salty fish based sauce.

And you don’t visit a resultant called “Banh Mi Tres Bon”, without trying one of their banh mi. And with their “Banh mi trio”, you can try 3 out of 7 of their Vietnamese sub offerings as a flight. Each has the same list of vegetables that include carrot, radish, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeño; you are just changing up the protein in between the crispy slices of fresh baguette bread.

The house special had cold cuts of Vietnamese ham and braised pork belly.

The pork meat ball, was more like a minced pork loaf.

And the grilled lemon grass chicken could have used more time on the grill, to allow the pepperiness of the chicken to shine through better.

 

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Not necessarily my go to for Vietnamese cuisine, given the travel time; but a solid option for a quick meal and even take out, when you are in the area. Everything was unique and delicious, and I am told their bone marrow pho is worth coming back for. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BANH MI TRES BON
1840-4720 McClelland Road, Richmond BC
778-928-7298
banhmitresbon.ca
Bánh Mi Très Bon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vietnamese Tea House

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
604-620-5922

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