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Category: Vietnamese Page 2 of 4

Pho 99 Broadway Tech Centre

My guest and I were looking for an easy lunch option by our homes. She recommended the newly open “Pho 99”, which turned out to be the nicest restaurant that I have ever visited for quick and inexpensive Vietnamese food.

The all glass exterior allowed in plenty of natural light, allowing you to clearly take in how new the place was. The walls were still a pristine white. All the bleach wood tables were still sharp, with pointed corners and a waxy finish that matched that of the chairs before them.

The menu was a book, coloured page after coloured page of Vietnamese soup, salads, and sandwiches. We got a few of our favourite dishes as a good gauge of their cooking.

This is their “Grilled chicken banh mi”, except we ordered it without cilantro and the meat pâté, to the preference of my guest. The sandwich was black pepper heavy. I would have liked it with more creamy mayo and for the vegetables to have more vinegar tang to them, the weren’t pickled or seasoned for that tell-a-tale flavour.

We added one “fried roll” to our order of the “Veggie marinated grilled lemon grass chicken”. My guest doesn’t like peanuts, green onions, and bean sprouts so we had this serving without all three. Sadly, I found it lacking without the additional toppings for their refreshing nature and crunch. The bowl tasted like a deconstructed salad roll or pho without the soup. The side of fish sauce did help to give it some flavour and life.

The “Combo roll” gave you a taste of three of their different appetizers. The salad roll with vermicelli, lettuce, and shrimp utilized the peanut based sauce for taste. Similarly, the peanut sauce gave the pork roll some depth of flavour. Although there was plenty of excess noodle and wrap, as we discarded the ends. The fried roll here was the same as above. It came out extra oily, and still hot from the fry throughout. The fish sauce was key here in balancing out the oil with some acid.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall, everything was standard. The food was as expected and the service delivered. It is your typical chain. If you are looking for deep cultural experience you won’t get it here. But they are a great addition for the community with the neighbouring school, businesses, and corporate offices. Making them a great lunch or after work/school destination. Especially as thy are located so close the Renfrew skytrain station. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PHO 99
2915 Hebb Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5M 3M4
604-255-3135
Pho 99 Broadway Tech Centre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dundas: #sixophochallenge

Thanks to “Dundas Pho”, Vancouver finally has a big bowl pho challenge to call its own. Back when I first began eating gross amounts of food for leisure, it was the large bowl of pho from Seattle that inspired me. So to have such a challenge in the city that I love, and to be one of the first few individuals to give it a try, I was ecstatic.

Admittedly I haven’t heard of “Dundas Pho” until today, nor would I have gone out of my way to visit them. However this competition is the sort of thing to put them on the map. A reason for you to travel far and wide to them. And a lure to have you coming in to see what it and they are all about.

As we waited for our large servings of meat and noodles to arrive, it gave me an opportunity to check out their menu. They covered bar-style tapas like nachos and wings, and Vietnamese favourites like banh mi and spring rolls, across a handful of coloured pages. The vivid photography certainly had me planning a return trip, in order to try what else they offered; in more reasonable portions, of course.

The #sixophochallenge will only be running from December 18th to the 31st of 2017, so be sure to take advantage and visit them within this time frame. However there will be limited quantities of the largest bowl of pho in the city, prepared per day. They don’t take reservations so it is a first come first served affair. So come early and come hungry, between 5-10pm, daily.

What it is, is 5lbs of meat and noodles with an additional 3lbs of chicken and beef broth submerging it. However, the contest rules state that you need only finish the three different types of beef and the vermicelli noodles to be deemed successful. You can leave the soup behind, but be warned eat fast or else the noodles do soak up the broth, adding to their volume.

You are given 30 minutes to finish, and each successful contest gets their meal for free. With the fastest three completion times, within the two week long challenge, earning additional prizes. First place with the fastest diner earns a $100 cash prize and their name on a trophy. Second and third place winners receive a $25 gift card to the restaurant. Winners will be announced on January 2nd of the new year.

And if at first you don’t succeed, you are more than welcome to try again. And even if you were successful, you can do so again in hopes of earning a better time. However, if you are unsuccessful it will cost you $34.95 to play. But at least you are able to take what you can’t finish home, not that it will be as appetizing then.

Instead of describing to you the nuances of the challenge, and the emotions that those who attempted it went through; Instead, I suggest you check out my video recap of the night. In my latest video, myself and four other gluttonous food lovers take on this uphill battle.

 

And after watching it, if you still dare, or feel up to the challenge, I suggest you head down to “Dundas Pho” soon to test your might. Otherwise you are more than welcome to order the 5lb pho in its large bowl, and share it and the cost between your family or a group of friends. After all it is a delicious serving of pho. Quality ingredients made fresh to order, with no MSG.

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.
The challenge got me through the door, their friendly staff and glossy menu will have me coming back. This visit was enough to peak my curiosity, to see what they are normally all about. Don’t deny your cravings.

DUNDAS PHO
2077 Dundas Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1J5
604-420-1200
eatdundas.com
Dundas Eat + Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

House Special, revisit

“House Special” is one of those restaurants that I find myself going back to time and time again, mostly for their quality fusion Vietnamese cuisine. And each time I do, I am never disappointed. Not only do they deliver on consistency (’cause I always order my favourites when I visit), but they cater to occasions and the changing times, ensuring they stay relevant and continue to offer regulars (like myself) something new to look forward to.

To read up on a pass visit, which includes a detailed look at their decor, visit the link below.
http://vieamaggi.com/house-special-modern-vietnamese/

On this visit, their participation in the “Vancouver Foodster”caesar challenge brought me back through the door, and coincidentally on “National Caesar Day”, of all days. Their creation was a marvel, bringing together their Vietnamese heritage with this Canadian classic. Every part of this cocktail was made in house from the 11 spice rim, to their tomato juice mix and all the garnishes that embellished it. The former included curry powder for heat, and the exchanging of traditional clam juice for the popular vietnamese fish sauce. You get your choice of spirits, both infused in house and served as a double: a lemon grass vodka or a keffir lime gin. And continuing in your ability to customize your own caesar, you also have your choice of garnish: veggie spring roll, deep fried tofu, satay chicken, or bettle beef. We went all out with their “Night Market caesar” ordering all of the above. It ate just as much as a meal, as it did drink like a cocktail.

But sadly this is no longer available for you to try or order, however to relive it with me here, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei; and watch this masterpiece being assembled.

 

As much food as the above was, you don’t come to “House Special” without indulging in their beautifully presented plates. Like the “Pho bo vien soup dumplings”, handmade with a tender beef filling, sitting in an incapsulated pool of pho broth. Which released a wave of warm liquid into your mouth as soon as you bit in to it, very much like the popular Chinese “xiao long bao”. However Vietnamese fusion interpretation included sriracha caviar, hoisin sauce, micro basil, and a calamansi wedge; for a furthered depth of flavour. If you chose to lick the spoon, each dumpling came on clean, that is where you got the sweet and salty sauce. You tasted it as it dragged across your tongue, finished with a refreshing mint end. The only thing I would have liked was more soup hiding within the dumpling, and a thicker layer of dough to balance the dense meat ball it was wrapped around.

Their “Spring rolls” were filled with crispy shrimp and pork, served with a nuoc cham dipping sauce and a side of Vietnamese herbs. You could tell this was fried to order by how hot it was throughout. When it finally cooled down we immensely enjoyed its crispy skin and chewy centre.

One of my favourites to have and recommend is their “Coconut shrimp cakes”, I have never had anything else like it. Coconut rice cakes topped with shrimp and pork, cucumber, carrot, and Vietnamese herbs. Then dressed with a nuoc cham drizzle and sambal. It is sweet, spicy, and fishy. The sweet coconut flavour is pronouced, helping to dull the spices and highlight the proteins and vegetables by comparison.

On this day, their “Daily fried bread” was made and fried from scratch, then served loaded with duck confit. It is basically a pita: crusty bread hollowed out and filled with savoury ingredients. Pulled duck meat with hoisin and pickled vegetable; a great tried and true combination of salty and sour.

We also had their “House special” house special pho, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the more obvious pun here. Rice noodles, beef soup, beef cuts, tendon, tripe, bone marrow, bean sprouts, onions, lime, basil, hoisin sauce, and sriracha. It was delicious and you could tell how fresh all the ingredients they used were, but in terms of flavour I found it not much different that the other bowls of clear broth pho, from other full fledged vietnamese restaurants. Good, but why order it when all their appetizer are so great, and a whole lot more unique to them.

And then we were given a sneak peak of one of their upcoming dishes, that at the time, had yet to make it on to their menu. This was a vermicelli noodle dish originating from Northern Vietnam. It is suggested that you utilize the lettuce on the side to make a wrap with. A wrap which would include two different types of grilled pork that were the actual stars of the dish. The pickled papaya in fish sauce was a great accompaniment, and a great palette refresher, with its acidic tang.  As a whole, this was a great comfort dish, and one that I would enjoy again and again.

 

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.
As one of my go-to’s for good food and pretty plates, I will no doubt be back and continue to recommend them to others. Don’t deny your cravings.

They also offer brunch now, which is comparable to their appetizers in creativity and quality. Similar sweet and tangy plates, eye catching with bright coloured pickled vegetable and fresh greens. To learn more about their brunch offering, visit my review post below.

House Special, New Brunch Menu

 

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

House Special, New Brunch Menu

I have been to “House Special”, the modern Vietnamese restaurant in Yaletown, a handful of times now; and they have yet to disappoint. So if you are like me, a fan, they now have weekend brunch; giving you yet another reason to come back to them.

Truth be told, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Vietnamese breakfast, and walking up to their patio, was wondering how they would interpret their fusion cuisine to the ever popular concept brunch. More and more places are now offering this early social affair, so they made sure to have theirs a standing out.

Today’s visit was a media event hosted by “Pekopekolife”, in celebration of this new offering, starting June 3rd, 2017. I would be one of five other bloggers and social media influencers invited to have a sneak peak. And as always, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant is run by a sister and brother team, the former running the front of house experience, including hosting this brunch; and her brother is in charge of back of house, design, and menu creation. And I must say, they know what they are doing. Especially considering their longevity, and the number of restaurants that held the space before them.

As a whole, many of the dishes we had reminded me of dim sum, but with a Vietnamese twist. Traditional small plates and various dumplings, served with plenty of pickled vegetable and fish sauce. Today’s tasting ended up feeling very similar from dish to dish, but they promised an ever evolving menu with updates and changes every 2-3 weeks.

They even went so far as to consider and create the perfect caffeinated beverages and citrus cocktails to pair with this new brunch menu. North American classics redone with exotic ingredient substitutions and ethnic retellings.

The work included freshly squeezed juices for their French citrus soda with fresh lemon juice and the “Guava and Calamansi mimosa”. The latter was a nice play on this classic breakfast bubbly, made tropical with the fruit used. Definitely original to them.

The “Kaffir lime Collins”, with gin, kaffir leaves, citrus, and soda; gave this classic a more spicy flavour, complimentary to the fresh and raw herbs common to Vietnamese cuisine.

 

And they even sourced the perfect citrus beer for those who like a brew over a mixed drink over ice. This is the “Beau’s Tyrannosaurus Gruit Beer”. Hailed the perfect brunch beer. A red grapefruit ale brewed with organic beets, juniper berries, hibiscus flowers, and white spruce tips. A really interesting flavour, where there is no missing the use of beets, in colour and distinct flavouring.

They also teamed up with local Burnaby coffee purveyors “Pistol and Burnes” to bag and offer their own line of dark roast “House Special” coffee. Because what is brekkie without some wake-me-up-juice. Whole beans ground up and prepared Vietnamese slow-drip style. Steeped in a metal strainer, stirred together with condense milk, then poured over ice. It was a strong roast to compete with the use of the strong condense milk. It was very comparable to traditional Vietnamese coffee. Thanks to “Pistol and Burnes” spending the time to source the right beans, in order to minimize the amount of bitterness of a categorized dark roast.

Now on to the food. The “Sunday dumplings” are house made roll dumplings filled with ground pork, shrimp, and jicama. Served with Vietnamese herbs, coconut milk and nuoc cham. With only two per order, this is definitely a brunch-time appetizer. There is no hiding how fresh everything about this is, the flavours were sharp and memorable. My favourite part was their use of coconut cream as a dip, giving the dumplings some refreshing sweetness.

The “Glass dumplings” were named after their appearance. Steamed tapioca dumplings with a translucent coating surrounding pork, shrimp, and water chestnut. I enjoyed this (and pretty much all the other dishes) for its (their) starchy carb-y chew. The jelly-like starch is a nice parallel to the dried bits of meat and seafood hiding within.

Although the “glass dumplings” and the “Flat Steamed Dumplings” looked alike, given both their use of banana leaf to wrap and steam. And they tasted alike, as they were both filled with shrimp and pork. Although this one was more like a Chinese rice roll.

The “XOXO Rice Cakes” were perfectly steamed rice flour and coconut milk blocks; topped with shrimp, pork, jicama, and XO sauce. They ate like starchy gelatine, with crunch from the toppings, and the preserved shrimp as the stand out flavour.

I found the “Saigon Rice Cakes” really unique. It made an omelette out of pan-fried, soya marinated, radish and green onion rice cakes. By wrapping them like a parcel and serving it with a refreshing papaya salad and a sweet soy drizzle. You couldn’t think of bringing them together, but they work; and the textures, although similar, compliment.

The pan fried “Chive dumplings” are all chives and a little pork. You must like the herb, as it’s fairly pronounced. I however, do not, but found this had a nice spicy finish to it, with an enjoyable crispy shell.

The “Steamed Sticky Rice” was prepared in a banana leaf with sausage, ham, and shredded chicken. It was very comparable to the bundles of sticky rice at Chinese dim sum. Whereas the rice here was unseasoned, and the use of herbs within left raw.

And another rice four dish was the “Banh Beo”. They were nice, but as I mentioned earlier, they were all starting to taste the same. I couldn’t tell notes apart. Steamed rice flour cakes with shrimp and pork, steamed directly in small sauce dishes. Chewy base, saucy meat, and fragrant spices.

And what is also offered during their new brunch, that would have given us more diversity in our meal, is their take one ham and eggs, and their spin on congee (popular amongst Chinese breakfast enthusiasts). “Ham + Eggs Saigon”. Marinated pork, Vietnamese ham, two fried eggs, tofu, pickled vegetable, and a baguette; served on a sizzling plate. And their “Black and white XO congee”. White and black rice congee with house made Chinese doughnut, scallop XO, and boudin noir.

We were also treated to dessert, another brunch time first with/for them. This is their house made “pandan ice cream”, with a very pronounced pandan flavour. A little too sweet for my liking, but manageable in this smaller, one scoop amount. I also liked their effort to decorate the plate. Crumble for crunch, fruit for freshness, and a block of jelly for enjoyable of chew.

We were also given a taste of their “Smoked plum ice cream”, but this came with a warning. The flavour was saltier then sweet. Like a granita, more icy than creamy. The smokey, salty flavour isn’t for everyone. I didn’t prefer it, but thought it better suited as an accompaniment and side to a cocktail.

 

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.
As one of my go-to’s for good food and pretty plates, I will no doubt be back and continue to recommend them to others. And once again, with their official launch of brunch on June 3rd, 2017 and their longer hours of operation; you can now dine with them for every meal of the day! Don’t deny your cravings.

 

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

Anh and Chi

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This one has been on my list for a while now, and even more so after “Daily Hive” ranked them as one of the top nicest looking restaurants in the city. And a self proclaimed visual diner, I was excited for the decor as much as the colourful food that would match it.

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Sitting on the corner, it is a strong standing building with a white awning and green trim. Walking, in rich patterns and warm lights engulf you. Had we not been planning to order quite a bit, I would have insisted on a seat at the bar. It gave the most ornate view within the restaurant. Built around a window, its stain glass bamboo and green leaf pattern gave your view a fresh and modern feel. It and a few other walls are splashed with 50’s print, geometric lines common during the days of the Gatsby. A silver sun with its rays spanning out, a series of jags running across the bar, and clover shaped blue and white tiles on the walls by the door.

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Even the washroom had the same attention to detail. It is a communal space with individual stalls, all facing a lengthy sink with four golden taps. The same gold trims each door frame and drips down from the ceiling for lighting. All of it complimentary to luscious green palm wallpaper. It was one of the more luxurious washrooms with a tropical twist that I have had the pleasure of using.

They don’t take reservations so the wait we had was inevitable. We ended up lingering for 15 minutes, only to get a small top for two. I take issue with tightly packed tables that lack intimacy. Therefore I did not like our assigned seating. We were closer to the person next to us, at the next table; than we were sitting across from one another. And when I asked, we weren’t able to a claim one of the larger tables that opened up instead. We were told that they have to hold it in case a larger party comes in after us. A common practice, but in the end we found ourselves at that very table.

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Our first seats felt absolutely claustrophobic. So we shifted ourselves down to the end when that table cleared. But after the manager, hostess, and our server realized how much we ordered they moved us again. One after another our platters were delivered, we had ordered so much that we lost real estate for even our glasses of water. We were shifted over to the four top I originally wanted, that was still unseated. Just as well, considering we ordered food for for individuals sharing anyways. Something our server could have anticipated when she took our requests.

But truth be told, she didn’t seem all that engaged in what she was doing. When our candle light blew out, I had ask for it to be relit, and instead she took it away and never came back with it. But after feeling like a continuous burden to her, I dared not ask her to bring it back. The restaurant is kept fairly dark, and light for my photos or just to see what we were eating would have been appreciated. She also didn’t seem all that concerned when we called her attention to the plate of bloody chicken we got (more on that later). Instead she took it away with a huff, as if it was a nuisance to her that we had bloody meat between our teeth. Luckily during our service we were also attended to by the table accommodating hostess who allowed our first move, and the cheery manager who helped us with our second one.

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With such a handsome bar, they have a healthy list of Asian influenced cocktails to put it to good use. My guest had the “The Love Market” made with a rosemary infused rum, jackfruit, lime, plum bitters, sparkling wine. Jackfruit was definitely the stand out in this, though not that you could taste it.

I had the “Thang Long Fizz” because it listed having pandan infused cachaca; along with gonzalez nutty solera, lime, egg white, and soda water. I love the uncommon flavour of pandan, though sadly didn’t get any of it here. You don’t get the tropical fruit flavours you expect or what to be featured in each, but at least both cocktails were still nice fizzy drinks to sip on.

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And our water was no slouch. Each table gets its own carafe, and in it a lengthy thin strip of cucumber curled up like a snake. It refreshed the water and made it a memorable detail.

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With their “Cánh Gà (Fried Chicken Wings)” you are given the choice of either having it seasoned with chilli fish sauce or butter, garlic, and green onion. We went with our server’s strong recommendation of the former. It came out surprisingly quick, but not fully cooked. And as I mentioned earlier, we were served it still bloody; something we didn’t take notice of until we each finished one, having chewed it clean to the bone. The entire plate with the pickled vegetable side and the citrus sauce dish was taken back to the kitchen, to be remedied. When we got our wings back it was plated just as nice, but without the side of veggies or the sauce, and even the decorative leaf that separated the meat from the printed plate was missing. Once again, I made every attempt to not ask our server for anything, but felt like the chicken needed the sauce for dipping, so mustered up the courage to broach her. The wings had a nice crispy texture, but was also fairly dry. I didn’t taste any chilli or fish sauce either. But maybe this was due to the second time it when back into the pan? Either way disappointing.

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The “Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Crêpe)” was served in ab oversized, round, bamboo tray. The leaf that laid at the bottom of the plate and the bouquet of greens on the side, certainly lent itself to the tropical imagery. Although most of it went untouched. The julienne carrot and daikon was pickled for flavour, but the stalks of vegetable and herbs were not dressed. The crêpe itself is made with rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric. It is pan fried crisp, and served folded in half. At its centre it is filled with pork meat, prawn, bean sprouts and mung bean. The dish of chilli fish sauce gave it some freshness and tang. But most notable was the flavour of the coconut milk, it paired nicely with the eggs, crispy sprouts, and chewy pieces of flattened pork. A tasty dish, but best during the first few bites. I would not be able to finish it all myself, as I would grow tired of the one tonal flavour.

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The “Khay Bánh Hỏi Lụi Nướng (Street-Side Platter)” came was just as much panache as the entree before it. Though I thought it was a mixed dish that we ordered, so added on the fried egg at an additional cost. In reality this was more a table side, build your own wrap kind of platter. It comes with rice paper sheets that you dip into a shallow bowl of warm water (this comes as a side to the platter). When moisten you wrap it with the bevy of ingredients available. House-made pork sausage, beef in betel leaf, grilled chicken, crisp fried spring roll, grilled prawn, fresh lettuce, mixed herbs, pickled carrots and daikon, and fine rice vermicelli. Then dip your creation into more chilli fish sauce.

It was a unique and interactive idea, but the actual process was clumsy. It was hard not to snap the brittle rice paper sheets, trying to squeeze each into the small sauce dish of water. It was also hard to dry, sticky to fold, and too small to wrap more than one or two ingredients. So what you ended up with were small, limp, and soggy rolls. They were hard to eat with hands and not all that appetizing to look at. You were better off taking bites of everything and then chewing on a clump of wet rice paper wrapper, or layer on it like a pizza and eating it with cuts from a knife and fork. As for all the individual ingredients, everything was tasty and well prepared. I would have preferred them all together as a rice noodle dish with the meat skewers and vegetables served over top, covered in fish sauce.

Of note is how well they have done to brand themselves. Little details like their logo and name embossed on the leather billfold and on the clear stickers used to seal shut the take out boxes.

 

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.
The food was good, but a little pricy for the pageantry. I have had just as good, if not better Vietnamese food at small mom and pop shops and hole in the wall restaurants. So the cost to value gets me here. But I will not be apposed to coming back to try more of their fruity drinks at their wonderfully designed bar. They also make the ideal setting to celebrate in with a group of friends. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ANH AND CHI
3388 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3M7
604-874-0832
anhandchi.com
Anh and Chi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Basil Garden Restaurant

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My visit came as a recommendation from “Flyingvee967”. A newer Vietnamese restaurant that was actually in my old neighbourhood in East Van. A restaurant he liked enough to go back to a couple of times, and one many might not stop at given its location. A little plaza with a couple of other restaurants on the corner of Broadway and Renfrew. I had past by it a few times, but never thought enough of it, to venture in. Not until Victor’s praise for it and it’s owner.

With easy parking in its own lot, it is plenty accessible. Although its doubled up awning signs were a little more confusing, but I guess the one in red was there to make sure you knew that they offered pho.

Walking in, I immediately deemed it as one of the nicest, more budget friendly Vietnamese places I have been too. The newness was still present in their white lacquered tables and matching chairs, and in the un-scuffed white painted walls. There wasn’t a lot of decoration or noise, to kept things chic. Just three strips of green on the wall, imitation grass in two shades. It spoke to the freshness of the place and added a certain zen to the room; making it a restaurant I would frequent just for its setting alone. Though it did help that the food was good as well.

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The menu was an easy read across a double sided large sheet and 71 options. Not a lot of photos, but pretty self explanatory item names, if you have a basis in Vietnamese food. Appetizers like spring and rice rolls and crispy chicken, pho with a beef soup bases and ones with pork bone, chicken or pork over rice, vermicelli noodle bowls with meat and vegetable toppings, specialty stir-frys and curries, banh mi sandwiches, slow drip coffees, smoothies, and other freshly squeezed and ice beverages. In order to get a good idea of their cuisine, we ordered what we would have at other pho places, to get a good comparison.

When making the recommendation, Victor mentioned calling ahead to see if the owner was in, and saying that “Victor from Richmond” recommended my visit. However, I just couldn’t stomach calling ahead and name dropping. One, because I don’t like making a fuss when I dine out; and two, I prefer to write with the raw guest experience, one unrehearsed and free of special treatment.

Though had I done as Victor suggested, the perk would have been getting to order specialty dishes not labeled on the regular menu above, like their market price speciality lamb chop. However, I was later able to mention the lamb he was raving about to our server, and she then went to request it from their chef, who also doubled as the owner. Today I purchased them by the bone at $5 per. The chef/owner would later come out of his kitchen to greet us table side. He did this to reassure our happiness in all that we had. I always appreciate this kind of care, it shows that the restaurant is dedicated to the customer’s experience and willing to gain feedback to improve. To me, this is going over and beyond.

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The chef was particularly interested in how we liked his lamb chops. He was worried that they didn’t have enough time to marinade. But we found it plenty flavourable, a little too salty if I am to be honest, with majority of it lingering on the bone. As for the meat, It was a tender cut, dabbling on the greasier side with all the gristle. My guest couldn’t stop raving about it, he declared a few times, wanting to come back just for more of it.

Although Victor didn’t steer us wrong above, we didn’t take his suggestion of the spring rolls that he described as being “a bit small, but there is enough small pieces. The traditional spring roll skin crunch is the best!” Or the lemongrass pork chops that were “thinly sliced and boneless. Chargrilled on the outside, with some fattiness that was really good.”

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But I did enjoy some of their pho, as he did. The “House special” combination of beef with rice noodle soup. It arrives at your table the perfect temperature and ready to be slurped. And as Victor found his, the portion was light. The broth wasn’t overly oily, a kind of soup you can drink as is, spoon after spoon. The serving included various meat and organ parts. They added chew and a different eating experience, together with the slippery noodles. Although I could have used more, as there was more noodle and soup than meat to enjoy it with. We had the large to share for $10. One size down was the medium bowl for $1 less.

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We also shared their “Special cold cut sub”. It was crusty French bread sandwiching smooth pate, chilled sliced meats, and pickled vegetable. No complaints, it was as expected, with the jalapeño slices hidden for a spicy surprise.

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I don’t drink coffee, but I appreciate a good “Vietnamese iced coffee with condense milk”. My guest just wanted coffee, not know what Vietnamese coffee was like, so was excited to see the drip apparatus brought over to our table. It is a metal cup with a screw down press that sits above your glass. And slowly the water and coffee grounds mix, and then drops of black sift through the sieve and lands over a spoonful of sticky syrup-like condense milk waiting for it at the bottom. When all the liquid has run through, you mix milk and coffee together, and add ice to chill. Not knowing what good coffee tastes like, I guess I just drink it for the condense milk.

Our meal cake to $40 total, for three dishes and two drinks. $8 for two coffees, $5 for the bun. This was a great deal and we left more than well fed.

 

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 can definitely see myself coming back for a quick bite and closer to payday when I want good food and funds are in short supply. They might not necessarily be a destination, but should be considered a neighbourhood favourite. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BASIL GARDEN
2889 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5M 1Y9
604-871-9998
basilgarden.ca
Basil Garden Pho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pho Xe Lua 24

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Looking for something warm and cheap on Cambie street, fellow food bloggers “Foodology”, “Foodgressing”, and myself found ourselves deciding between Chinese or Vietnamese food. After a discussion of our options, and the consensus of which restaurant we have all yet to try, our destination became “Pho Xe Lua 24”

Despite the number “24” at end of its title, it is only open until 11pm. Walking in they have made it clear that they only accept cash. A reminder repeated twice painted on the wall and printed on a separate piece of paper.

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The setting was a little dressier than most fast food pho place, this is referring mostly to the walls. Wood framing mirrors and unlit pillar candles, shadow boxes of ornamental chopsticks; and striped wallpaper in pinks, purples, greens, and beige. The furniture was a bit more common place sticky table tops and chairs you would find at a school assembly. The chairs clumsily weren’t aligned to the height of the table, we felt like we needed booster seats in order to get ourselves at chest level with the food to come.

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The menu had only a few photos and each dish only had a few ingredients in its name, you couldn’t be sure of all that you were gettin. Although the lone server was able to answer all our questions. Albeit a little abrupt and sharp with her tone.

We got the classic Vietnamese dishes to get a good assessment of the place.

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An order of “Shrimp salad roll” comes with two rolls, seeing that we were a group of three, our server instinctively put us down for two orders. Considering it was $6.50 per, we didn’t really notice. The ingredients were fresh and only slightly chilled, the wrap was still tacky, so they felt like they were made to order. But it was the peanut dipping sauce that stole the show, it was sweet and salty, and slightly crunchy. Together it was a hearty yet refreshing start to begin our meal with.

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We were also going to get an appetizer portion of spring rolls, but when dining with other food writers, there is often strategy involved. As is the case today, the goal is to be able to taste and try as much as you can. We ordered the lemongrass chicken main instead, as it also came with spring rolls over its vermicelli. The dark meat of the chicken was cooked tender with a nice char finish. The spring roll was crispy as its segments broke apart with our bites. And the fish sauce pulled everything together with its nice tang in conjunction to the lemongrass.

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And seeing as we had our spring roll in the dish above, we tried the “Deep fried butter chicken wings” appetizer instead. Considering the name, I expected something different. The emphasis was on the butter and I didn’t get much of its taste. The chicken looked and was crunchy, indicative of a even fry. But the pieces were skinny and often you were chewing more batter than meat. Plus when you read “butter” you think decadent, fatty, and succulent. These scrawny wings and mini drumlets were neither of those things. Overall they were a little bland, but helped along by the sweet and spicy chilli sauce that accompanied it. We surmised that the shredded salad on the side was more for visual contrast, as it was a little wilted and we left it untouched on the plate.

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And in true blogger fashion, we appreciate anything out of the ordinary, something unique just to the restaurant that we are visiting. And in this case it was an extra large bowl of pho, a serving larger than anything we have yet to see else where. There was a unison, “ohhh” in our awe of its size, as it landed before us. The typical side dish of bean sprouts and basil leaves came after. It was a $1 difference between the small, large, and xtra large sizes: $8.75, $9.75, $10.75. And considering the amount of broth and noodle we got, the price seemed fair. Although we could have used more meat. And sadly, seeing as this was the highlighted “house special noodle soup”, I figured our protein would be more than just rare beef and beef ball halves. It didn’t seem all that special. Overall the bowl was plenty tasty. Having shared it between us three, in conjunction with our other dishes; we found there no need to use the typical squeeze bottle of brown sauce to change the taste and rejuvenate the flavour mid way.

In total our bill came out to $38. Considering how full we were and how much variety we had, it was definitely a good deal.

 

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.
All our dishes were as good as we were hungry. But as delicious as things were, I also found them pretty standard. The place sits perfectly in the middle of amazing and poor, another strong option for pho in the area, with a price that anyone can appreciate. Just make sure you have cash, so unlike me, you don’t have to bum a $20 bill off of “Foodology”. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PHO XE LUA 24
3346 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V5Z 2W5
604-876-6618
Pho Xe Lua 24 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

House Special, modern Vietnamese

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I have been to the two reincarnations, prior to this new modern Vietnamese venue. I like the area. Located more on the out skirts of Yaletown, there is always plenty of meter parking, for that VIP pull up.

Walking to my destination, it was the lanterns showering the patio that set it apart from all the other restaurants flanking it. They haven’t been open for long, but the red paper orbs in small and large were already faded from the summer’s sunnier days. Still it added flare, and must be quite the sight, spotting the patio on a darkened night.

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This was a family friendly environment, where walk-ins are welcomed. It had the causal and cozy vibe of any pho place, but with a certain level of elegance that is expected from a business residing in Yaletown.

Walking in, it also smelled like every other pho place, the tell-a-tale scent of lemon grass, and a crispness in the air. But the decorations had a bit more panache than at your run of the mill pho joint, and with it a lot more culture. A bamboo woven canoe with wood carved paddles, and ornate bird cages laces with porcelain pieces, hanging from the rafters. They spoke to the history and inspiration of the place.

Just like the wall of family photos that hung enroute to the washroom. I suspect they belonged to the owners and the chefs, and were their way of paying respect to their family and loved ones that got them this far.

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Given the poofed up bangs and mullet hair, and the appreciation for wind breakers and shoulder pads, my guess is that many of these were circa the 1980’s. The washroom itself was a lot more decorative than the dining room. The walls were papered in a yellow with pink, blue, and white petaled blossoms. With blue birds and tea cups perched and balancing on their branches.

All the dining room wall had was a simple quote reassuring your choice: “house special is pho lovers”. However, given the warmer day, we actually didn’t try any of their pho. But this is reason enough to come back.

Our table was by the window, facing the kitchen, from the other side of the room. I got the view of an all Vietnamese team pivoting from stove to counter, bringing plates to order. But they really didn’t attract my attention until they turned up their music. I believe it was Ludacris and DMX, circa the 90’s. I appreciated the energy this gave them and the beat that flooded the dining area. But at the same time, I was worried for their all ages friendly dining room, which included a large party with an extended family and a separate, but together “kids” table. Though no one flinched at any of the uncensored f-bombs hit.

The perks of arriving early before my guests are, not only being able to write my notes in guilt-free peace (picking up my phone to take food description as I eat is already bad enough, I don’t need to be any ruder to my dining companions, by feverishly texting myself even more messages to remember.), but treating myself to the occasional drink as well.

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The special of the day was the “Hoi-Ann fruit stand”. This is a gin and beer cocktail with Noteworthy gin and a sour German wheat beer, garnished with compressed watermelon. The fruit is vacuum sealed, and the process gives it a more fragrant flavour. It was the watermelon that sold me. When it arrived, our server recommend that I drop the fruit in for a boozer finish. It was a light drink, as fruity as the tropical name promised.

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One of my guests later tried their “Plum smuggler” made with plum wine, cassis, martini dry, and egg whites. Like my drink above, this too was on the sweeter side, especially with the egg white foam on top.

The menu was strapped to a wooden board. Within its front cover was a cloudy black and white photo, three men stood shoulder to shoulder. Based on their attire and the placement of the photo, I assume this too was of the head chef and/or the restaurant owners. It really spoke to their roots and what they hope to offer with their menu. Authenticity.

I liked how the listing included daily specials, and daily retellings of a popular dishes. This too, made for a reason to come back; and to come back earlier in the day, given some of their limited availability, per service.

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Today the “Daily fried bread” was filled with duck confit. This is made from scratch, fried bread, loaded with pulled pieces of tender duck and fresh leafy greens. The sweet hoisin sauce and the tangy creamy mayo pulls it all together, in a pocket of sesame seeds.

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The “Coconut shrimp cakes” were my favourite. I have never had anything like it. These are coconut rice cakes topped with shrimp, pork, and a nuoc Cham drizzle. It was a starchy and chewy rice cake cup, with a centre of half solid half liquid coconut cream. The shrimp was spicy, and the raw vegetable added a complimentary freshness to it. The red lettuce and shredded carrots were helpful, but the sprigs of mint only over powered. The curls of cucumber were an especially nice decorative touch.

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The “Hi phong squid” is deep fried drunken calamari; served with pickled ginger, jalapeños, and plenty of sauces. This was your run of the mill fry job with a thin batter that flaked off each ringlet. You expected a kick from the “drunken” part, but it never came. The sauces actually made the dish sweeter.

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The “Shaken beef” was similar to a Korean bibimbap, where meat or seafood and rice is served in a cast iron pot, and continues to cook at your table. You allow it to sit, and later mix things up for crisper rice. The end result as a similar texture to fried rice, and is just as hot. The tender cuts of beef was the best part, full of flavour and easy to chew down, it’s texture ran parallels with the well moisten rice.

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“Uncle Hing’s chicken wings” was their family recipe for spicy nuoc mam chicken wings. The menu joked it originated from “the remote village of Houston Texas”. The wings came to the table piping hot, generously coated with a good crackling and crispy crunch.

 

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.
These were definitely my type of flavours. Everything I had I liked, and it only left me wanting to try more. The pho would be one thing to go back for, especially as the weather cools. They had specific flavours and unique combination to them. And if I had a craving for anything again, it would be so exact that I could only find it here. In conclusion, I hope this version of this restaurant space stays, as they are a great addition to Yaletown, and an all around stand up restaurant. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HOUSE SPECIAL
1269 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6K3
778-379-2939
housespecial.ca
House Special Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bao Chau

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Today my mother decided to bring me to her favourite Vietnamese restaurant. She frequents the place at least once a month, ordering take out for herself and my father.

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The photos online were a little deceiving. I could tell that they were taken a while ago, given the setting we stood in now. It was clear that they haven’t spent money on the upkeep of the place. Tables with their varnish worn off, scuffed floors, neon signs that no longer worked, and paintings faded from natural sun light. I have said it before, I can’t help but judge a restaurant by its decor, as it often relates to the kitchen and the hygiene of the place. Especially with browning plants by the entrance, clutter on the bar’s counter and desk, as well as a full garbage bag sitting by the register. But that at aside, the food was solid.

With many pages to filter through, I asked my mother what she recommended from the menu. She typically orders her “regular” so we expanded on that. She usually gets their grilled and barbecued meat dishes, instead of any pho or noodle soup.

A table got their meal before us, after coming in after us. I gave them the jealous glance wanting my food first, as we were here first. But we ordered dishes that came with multiple elements, requiring multiple preparations. That and the lone woman working the front seemed swamped with the six tables that came and went during our stay.

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“Combination A” included one chicken skewer, one shrimp salad roll, and two deep fried spring rolls; served over a raw salad and rice vermicelli.

I am a big fan on the battered Vietnamese spring roll, especially when freshly fried and dipped in to some fish sauce. This over the wrapped Chinese spring roll served with plum sauce. I enjoy the chewier, crunchier texture of the Vietnamese version more, and the contrast between the savoury pork filling and the tang of the fish sauce. My mom described its texture as being rugged. I enjoyed it most with a mouthful of fish sauce coated vermicelli.

We weren’t sure what the chicken skewer was marinaded in to turn in red, but could taste the excess salt and over seasoning with lemon grass. We would have liked the skewer more if it had spent some time on the grill, giving it a crisper texture and a nice ashy char.

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The salad roll wrapped up a slice of ham and a handful of bean sprouts, along with the traditional shrimp, lettuce and noodle. It was made ahead of time and refrigerated. The rice wrapper kept moist by being tightly bundled in Saran Wrap. The thick and salty brown sauce is what gave it is flavour.

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“Steamed rice with BBQ pork chop, shredded pork, pork hash, and ham. Over all everything was on the saltier side, but that’s what made it taste as good as it did.

The BBQ pork chop came a little over cooked in bone, but had the exact grill we wanted for the chicken above.

The shredded pork was reformed in to a pink pork patty. With its sweet honey-like glaze, this was my favour element of this plate.

The pork hash looked like noodles or potatoes, but was shredded pork skin severed with minced pork bits. It had a unique rubbery texture to it like a cross between jelly fish and cartilage. Not for everyone, but a treat for someone who likes the chew.

The ham was in a circular chunk. Like a cross between cold cut and spam, but not as salty. Instead, it had a nice mild flavour to it with a chewy fishcake-like texture.

 

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.
This was your average Vietnamese restaurant serving its community. It was easy I get to with free parking in the back. The prices where fair and the food was good.
Don’t deny your cravings.

 

Bao Chau
2717 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 1Z8
604-251-6956
Bao Chau Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thai Son

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After all my rich Chinese dinners as of late, I was in search of a different taste, something more light, something healthier? So I gravitated towards the refreshing flavours of Vietnamese food, often prepared with with basil and lemon.

The destination we choose was one link in a chain of five. Given its location along a busy road, just before the bridge, on route to Richmond; this is one of those places you come to specifically. With residential homes surrounding the area, it isn’t really on the way to anything.

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It was brightly lit with its windows attracting just as much attention as its signed name. Given the fluorescent hum of the place it felt like a fast food restaurant. It was minimalistic with simple chairs and tables over a tiled floor. A caddy of utensils at each table offered less human interaction with the staff. Chopsticks, spoons, napkins, and sauces at your disposal. They did brighten up the place with a flower at each place setting and a vase full by the counter. All in all it felt like a place for a quick meal, especially given the speed of food delivery.

The menu was a list with photos spelled out in traditional Vietnamese phonetic and English description with ingredients list. It was easy enough to order off of.

Watching a glass of their “Special rainbow jello drink” with red bean and coconut milk” pass by our table, I found myself exploring the drinks menu for the same. However resisted the pull of familiarity for something more unique on paper.

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The “Egg yolk and condensed milk with soda in ice” was a practical title. I was curious how the egg yolk would fair in such a beverage; completely forgetting that various cocktails enlist the practice of blending a raw egg until foamy, then adding it to a drink. It appeared like a tall glass of milk. White and creamy, but with a refreshing and fizzy quality to it. Definitely more of a dessert drink, like a Vietnamese egg cream.

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When having Vietnamese food, it is almost obligatory to order pho. We went for the one that sounded the most exotic, with the most ingredients. A dish of raw bean sprouts, fresh basil, and lime wedges proceeded it, to add as we saw fit. “Rare beef, well done beef brisket, and tripe with rice noodles in soup”. We ordered a large serving to share. There was an equal ratio of meat to noodle. With large chunks of beef and tendon and not enough tripe.

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I typically eat half my portion of pho, before needing to add in any of the table side brown sauce to rejuvenate its flavour. However this was on the blander side, and several squeezes of the bottle was necessary even before I started eating. All an all I pretty average bowl, not bad, but nothing worth remembering.

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Similarly were the “Deep fried spring rolls” filed with ground pork, shrimp, and assorted vegetable. Crispy rolls, best dipped into the side servings fish sauce. This was a clear and soup-like, tangy and sour, vinegar based sauce.

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The presentation alone for this one set it apart, as the most impressive. Though I wished there was a version that included more items and various meats, like a sampler platter. Though this did leave me wanting to try the others. “Special steamed vermicelli, grilled skewered pork, and minced shrimp wrapped in sugar cane”. I was drawn in by the creativity of noodles. They were squares with each individual strand still visible, adhered together as a sheet. This construction made them easy to pick up and dip into the fish sauce. They also made a great base for the perfectly grilled pieces of pork. I liked the meat a little burnt on the edges, giving it a great char. The shrimp was spongy like fish balls, they didn’t gather much sweetness from the stick of sugar cane. However the sugar cane tasted like shrimp. You don’t swallow the fibrous bark of the sugar cane, but instead gnaw on it, drawing out all its sweeter juices. Or in this case savoury fishiness.

 

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.
The restaurant was pretty basic. Fair prices, fast food, and a good meal. I wouldn’t drive all the way out for it, but wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid it either. But be warned, unlike most fast food chain, this one only accepts cash. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THAI SON
1450 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, BC
604-559-6436
thaison.ca
Thai Son Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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