Today we were at Hai Chi Em for their modern Vietnamese. However, little did we know that stepping in, we would fall for the place, declare that we would come back to dine in, only to learn that they are permanently closing this, their Fraser location. As of November 14th Hai Chi Em Fraser will be shuttering their doors, not to reopen until Spring of 2024, but on Kingsway by the newer T&T Supermarket. The owner declares that the new decor will help depict their focus on modern approaches, peppered with traditional Vietnamese culture.
If you decide to see what they are all about, so you can miss them in the months to come, do so soon. Currently the space echos their modern Vietnamese cuisine well. Two row of tables facing booths on either side of the restaurant. Non-descript decor, outside of their bespoke neon lights and an art piece that features rice fields and mountains made from moss with the restaurant’s name and logo in the corner.
We began with Vietnamese Iced Coffee. Here, it comes already mixed and ready to drink with no need to drain and stir for yourself.
The Beef Salad came recommended and I can see why. This actually ended being my favourite dish of the meal. A cold salad of beef slices, carrots, onions, raw banana, peanuts, and sesame seeds. Cold, tangy, refreshing, and light. It ate like a lot more loaded papaya salad and fresh coleslaw combined, but with meat for substance and peanut for crunch. I probably am bias, as I do love pineapples and they were plenty in the mix. Plus the inclusion of thinly sliced plantains was unexpected. This is one I would not advise packing to go or keeping for leftovers, as the rice cracker chip, meant a base on the side does get soggy.
I liked the idea of the Crispy Garlic Butter Wings, topped with loads of crisp garlic chips, however it felt dense and heavy with said garlic, and gave things a one toned taste. The Crispy Chicken Wings in Fish Sauce, (which they also offered) would have probably been better suited to my tastes. The sauce on the side here did help to add some interest, but I found it overwhelming salty, so advise to use it sparingly.
We found that the Crab Fried Rice made with real crab meat, tobiko, mushroom, and cilantro a little too similar in flavour profile to the above. We ended pairing them with one another, as we felt that as is, the rice was missing something; making it a great base, but in need of a main. I did appreciate the highly visible, larger chunks of crab meat peppered throughout.
My guest and I were both excited to see “Bun Bò Huế” on the menu, and that their version of Spicy Beef Noodle Soup included blood on top of beef shank, ham, pork balls and hock. This was a clean serving, a wonderfully fragrant soup that did not feel greasy on the lip, prepared with plenty of flavour from quality ingredients that came through with each mouthful. We tried to compare it with our current favourite BBH and realized it was apples and oranges, that the refinement of this bowl made it something unique on to itself, and a flavour profile we would order and crave again.
It is just a shame that this craving will not be satiated until 2024.
Having liked everything so far and seeing blood on the menu, I wanted to try their shrimp and pork tapioca dumplings, and their bánh mì with pate. Sadly, neither were available and I guess that is reason enough to visit the new location, in the new year.
And for those who didn’t make it out before their last day in the Fraser Street neighbourhood, please note what you’ve missed.
Hai Chi Em Modern Vietnamese Cuisine
6181 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5W 3A1