New Westminster isn’t exactly a mecca for Vietnamese food in Greater Vancouver. Until now, we’ve had only three fairly average joints to speak of. When I heard of a new one advertising “Authentic” Vietnamese cuisine, I dragged Darciberger down to Columbia St. to see if Le Saigonnais was the real deal.
Unfortunately, the previous occupants, Royal City Thai, closed their doors. They put out some decent Thai food but I guess not enough New Westers gave them a go. It’s always sad to see it happen but in this case, it made way for some pretty damn good Vietnamese.
Le Saigonnais‘ menu is chock-full of authentic Vietnamese fare…not your average joint by any means. The fact that they used Vietnamese titles in a very non-Asian area gave me great hope. Of the four Vietnamese restos here, they’re the first. Bringing authentic Asian fare to this area is always a challenge. Here’s to hoping that it’s the beginning of a trend.
Their version of Bún bò Huế was pretty solid…stacked with flavor and loaded with meat. The broth was spicy enough but it lacked the lemongrass kick. The addition of beef balls in lieu of the pork knuckle was unique. It dropped the authenticity level down a notch but didn’t detract from the bowl a whole lot. The ultra-tender beef slices, great broth and chewy round noodles made up for things quite well.
Normally, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside isn’t my first choice for grabbing some grub. That’s pretty obvious. Then, one day, I heard about Hanoi Phở and their excellent curried soup. Always on the lookout for this variant on Vietnamese soup, I made a point to scope it out on the way downtown. My first reaction was, “Wow. That’s one crappy location”. Two blocks from Main & Hastings, next to a methadone clinic. Yikes. Upon further investigation here, here, here and here, it became pretty clear that this is one of Vancouver’s better Vietnamese restaurants.
Despite it’s location and underwhelming signage, Hanoi Phở has one of the cleanest interiors I’ve come across in a Vietnamese venue. If your looking for immaculate restrooms, this place is for you! Just ask for the key at the front counter.
This is one impressive little joint. A burbling waterfall off to one side. All sorts of knick-knacks here and there. Soothing Andean panpipes on the stereo. Highspeed wi-fi is on offer as well as a fax/printer if you require it. A very colorful, warm and comforting space.
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.
As you may have noticed, I’m on a permanent hunt for all varieties of Asian soup. One version I had yet to try is Phở Gà (Vietnamese chicken noodle soup). Most versions of Phở gà incorporate pieces of cooked chicken right into the soup. At Mỹ Châu they serve a chopped, crispy chicken leg alongside your soup.