Phở 24 Express is Burnaby’s newest Vietnamese restaurant. It took a long while. Last June, this spot was Numero Uno Pizza. The new façade went up quite quickly when Numero Uno vacated. For a couple of months I waited and waited with baited breath for more phở in Burnaby. They teased me by wallpapering the windows with their menu. How cruel is that??! I’d drop by occasionally to check on the progress only to be teased yet again. Finally, around New Year’s, they opened their doors.
Phở 24 Express is a reincarnation of Gold Train Express II out on West 10th in Point Grey. Years ago it was my go-to spot before work at Provence. They made a killer bò kho as well as some great phở. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re still as a good as I remember.
I gotta say, this was a fantastic bowl. A solid curried broth jacked with lots of black pepper. Several big hunks of dark-meat chicken…nary a bit of gristle or bone. Plenty of roasted peanuts and chips of roasted garlic…great textures and an abundance of flavor. My only quibble was with the vermicelli. A bit too thin…verging on angel-hair…next time I’ll ask for the egg noodles. Can’t say enough about the broth, though. Great stuff…bowl drained.
Back in November of 2009, Ben from Chowtimes wrote about a phở joint in East Van. Not your normal phở joint, mind you. This is one that serves up a variety of Vietnamese fare not often found in these parts.
Since Ben’s post, Thiên Kim Vietnamese Restaurant spiffed things up with a new awning, some paint and a new handle. This is how it looked just over a year ago.
Thiên Kim’s menu, for a Vietnamese restaurant in Vancouver is quite diverse. From their specialty soups to a wide-ranging appetizer menu, there’s a whole bunch of discovery to be made. The one thing that grabbed my attention was Bánh Cóng.
Well, I guess it’s bound to happen. The more restaurants one visits, the better the odds for a bad experience. My recent visit to Phở Century isn’t what I’ve come to expect from a decent Vietnamese restaurant. Some of it I can put down to lack of staffing but the poor quality of beef is unforgivable.
When I arrived, shortly after they opened, there was one other table occupied. Soon the room filled up, leaving the solo server rushing from table to table. I placed my order, Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) and spring rolls. After a few minutes the condiment plate arrived.
The bean sprouts and lemon were both very fresh. Usually though, with Bò Kho, basil is served alongside. One time, at Green Bamboo, it was omitted. Therefore, not a problem…it can be optional. I requested and got a sprig of basil slightly past its prime. Why not simply remove the wilted leaves?
This is when the sinking feeling began to set in. It became obvious that an attention to quality and/or detail might not be part of the plan.
In my eternal quest for a great bowl of Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) I’ve come across some darn good ones, some fairly average ones and a couple of downright monstrosities. A lot of places take shortcuts leading to a big bowl of tough cubes of beef in a mild broth seasoned at the last minute with a spoon of chile paste.
Bò Kho should be full of tender, unctuous chunks of slow-cooked beef brisket swimming in a rich, spicy broth spiked with annatto seed, lemongrass, star anise, garlic and maybe curry powder or cinnamon. One could have it served on rice, with a loaf of fresh-baked French Bread for dipping or my favorite, a big, hot, steaming bowl with rice noodles.
I may have found the perfect bowl at Green Bamboo. OK. I can’t say “perfect”. That would end the quest. I’m willing to go with “exceptional”.