Unbeknownst to myself (until this day and in writing this post) popular, long-standing, authentic Vietnamese restaurant: Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen has moved. They have shuttered their original, smaller location in lieu for this much newer and much larger space.
Although coming out of the experience, I can say with certainty that the elevated decor, didn’t quite match the comfort-style cooking. In comparison, the water feature at the entrance, and the staged bar with luxury bottles on display seemed out of place. Although I did like the red mural of life in Vietnam drawn in white.
If you are interested in visiting, I suggest doing so sooner than later, as in line with their Grand opening on May 5th, the restaurant is offering 10% off their entire menu, until May 19th.
The menu is hefty, making ordering a challenge. Do you stick with what you know and/or like? Or do you try something new? If leaning towards the latter, know that the first page of said menu highlights all new dishes, prepared for this new restaurant of sorts.
From the new, we went with the Banh Hoi. A platter that gives you a selection of proteins and sides to either build your own lettuce wrap with, or to have as a mouthful of noodles. The mains of this were sugar cane prawn, prawn skewer, and your choice of grilled pork, chicken, or beef. We would go for the classic lemon grass chicken, but found that we only got two pieces. Taste wise, they weren’t dry or juicy, just firm with a nice grilled char. It is the sweet and tangy fish sauce flavour that you gravitates towards anyways. The grilled shrimp was a little on the dry side, but as it was with the chicken, the fish sauce helped to inject some moisture and life into the skewer of prawns. But the best part of this dish had to be the patty of prawn wrapped around a rod of sugar cane. Although be warned, you don’t just bite into this one. You gingerly unfurl the prawn meatball, that has been sweetened by its time spent intertwined with the fibrous sugar cane. Once done, you then gnaw on the sugar cane rod for a flood of sugary water, interestingly flavoured like the savoury seafood before. It was a nice way to end on a sweet note.
And seeing as this was my very first time with the restaurant, at either location, we had to try one of their most popular specials. We passed on the Bun Cha Ca Dac Biet, after our server said this was the lighter of the two soup specialities. But we did pause because it is listed as being heavy on dill side, and both my guest and I are partial to the herb.
So instead of the special fish cake with vermicelli in soup, we went with the Bun Rieu. This is a vermicelli soup noodle with tofu, Vietnamese pork ham, pork leg, and shrimp in special crab soup. I have never had anything like it. Mouth salivating-let tangy with a hint of heat was what I got on the onset. It was so full flavoured and different, I was hooked spoon after spoon. Rich in everything, yet not heavy. The bits of crab ball added a unique bobbing texture, and there was plenty of meat balls and meat slices to fish around for. But the tofu puff was my favourite, given how much broth each carried. They ate like ,a “flavour bomb”, releasing a flood of soup in your closed mouth. In reflection, this could be in the running for my new favourite Vietnamese soup.
Especially with the generous heaping of beansprouts provided along with a different type of shisho, romaine lettuce, lemon wedge, and chilli peppers.
And of course we had to have some Vietnamese coffee, as one of my all time favourite types of coffee.
In conclusion, I liked what I had here today, and will definitely be back to try more cause of it.
Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen
5155 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC V5P 3V1