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