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.
Before heading off to Vietnam my goal was to experience as much of the local cuisine as possible. On my first day, after a somewhat hearty breakfast and a lengthy walkabout, it became painfully obvious that big eating was out of the question. The extreme humidity literally sucks away a great chunk of your appetite. That’s probably what accounts for the locals eating small, light meals throughout the day. With that in mind I headed off to Ben Thanh Market for a nice, light snack.
Chợ Bến Thành (Bến Thành Market) is Sài Gòn’s main marketplace. Normally a vibrating hive of phrenetic energy, at 8 in the morning, not so much. Kind of perfect for someone who just wants to scope the place out without the onslaught of arm-tugging vendors.
After spying out a stall with some favorite items, I settled in for some refreshment.
One thing I’ve always been meaning to try is Young Coconut Juice. Actually, it’s green coconut water. The liquid is nature’s sports drink. Slightly sweet, mild-tasting and an excellent source of potassium. A great revitalizer in this climate.
A couple of years ago, there was a restaurant in North Burnaby called China Express. When the food fair at Brentwood Mall was being renovated, they relocated their stall to an actual restaurant on Hastings. Along with table service, they had three large steam tables brimming with almost mediocre Chinese food. You could get a huge, three item take-out serving for about five bucks. The only problem was, you got what you paid for…about two pounds of Chinese mall food. Then one day, when I was about to get a panino from Cioffi’s, I noticed a bright yellow awning just down the street. China Express had turned into the brand new and uniquely named Triple Coconut Tree Vietnamese Restaurant! Oh, joy!!
Not having much time left on my lunch break, I grabbed a Grilled Lemongrass Beef Bánh Mì to go. It was OK…a bit lacking in beef but full of flavour. I also grabbed a take-out menu and saw there was a whole lot of other great Vietnamese fare to check out. Here’s the dine-in menu:
Between that first visit and the ones for this post, I must of had thirty or forty meals here. Most of them varieties of Phở as well as some darn good Bò Kho. For my last few visits I’ve tried to check out the other parts of the menu. One item that stood out was Bún Nem Nướng, Chạo Tôm, Chả Giò (Grilled Minced Pork on vermicelli, Prawn Supreme and a spring roll).
When I started this blog, about six months ago, I decided to make my first post about Bò 7 Món (Seven Course Beef) at Sông Hương. Since that lunch I’ve been on the hunt for another restaurant that offered this bounteous feast. My friend Wendles, after reading my post, told me Thai Hang on East Hastings also has it.
As I had been there for phở and had seen no mention of it on the menu, I told her she was nuts. Of course, she was right and I was a stubborn fool. Thanks for the tip, Wendles!! Sorry I doubted you!
The thing is, it’s not on the regular menu. They have a separate “Specials” menu available only after 3 pm.
Originally, I had contacted Sherman from Sherman’s Food Adventures about a possible blogger meet-up at Sông Hương for Seven Course Beef. Upon hearing Thai Hang also had it, we switched venues and Sherman was good enough to round up a few other hungry foodies. So, on this night, Sherman and I were joined by Kim from I’m Only Here For The Food, Jessica (and Mark) from Yum-O-Rama and Anita from La Petite Foodie.
On to the feast!
Phở Saigon is the very first place I tried phở…it was where my addiction began. About eight or nine years ago I was mesmerized by a hot, steaming bowl of Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup. The amazing fragrant broth, tender rice noodles, coriander, scallions and thin slices of rare beef were a combination I couldn’t get enough of. What really intrigued me was being able to add in all the various ingredients and sauces. It simply made dining so much more interesting. To this day, phở is the one dish I crave more than any other.
Back in those days, Phở Saigon was as consistent as a place could get. Over the years the management changed as did the level of quality. I’d visited once or twice but it was never the same. This recent visit, however, has made me a believer, once again!
The condiment plate arrives! Good, crunchy bean sprouts, lemon and very fresh basil.
Another rainy Saturday afternoon, another chance to check out a different Phở restaurant. This week’s pick is Le Do Vietnamese on East Hastings. What makes Le Do a bit different is their unique Le Do Spicy Roll. Plus the fact that they serve both Bún bò Huế and Bún Chả Cá, a rarity amongst most phở joints.
Aside from being really clean, the condiment selection is much better than normal. Along with hoisin and Sriracha, there’s chile oil, pickled jalapeñoes and sambal. Everything neat and tidy…a good signal.
Another sign that you are about to have great phở is the freshness of the basil and sprouts. Right away I knew I was going to be a happy customer.
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.
Due to the lack of Vietnamese restaurants in New Westminster, it is always intriguing when a new one opens up. Recently, Purple Lotus Viet-Asian Cuisine took over the spot once held by Young’s Cafe on 12th Street. By all accounts, Young’s was a popular Chinese/Canadian greasy spoon. Purple Lotus still offers up burgers and breakfast but with a variety of Vietnamese and Thai dishes on the menu.
So, on one of those chilly, wet Sunday afternoons, I got a major hankering for soup. Not wanting to go on a major excursion, I stayed local and decided to check out their phở.
A little while back, I trekked out to Kelowna to catch up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in twenty years or so. The weather reports promised brilliant sunshine the entire weekend…perfect conditions for a short road-trip. When I hit the first snowfall up on Highway 97, I started to think “Maybe I ought to have brought a jacket.” When I finally pulled into town I was greeted with a cold, stiff wind and pelting rain. Of course, in a situation like that, there’s only one thing on my mind. Soup!
Luckily for me, the street my hotel is on is lined with numerous restaurants and a good variety of Asian places. The hunt begins. The first place I come across is a run-down, seedy Chinese-Vietnamese joint…dirty windows, filthy tables, tattered awning. You know. Like in Whalley. Surely I didn’t just drive 400 kilometres through sleet and snow for this. As I turn around, directly across the street, I see this.
I literally blinked several times. Could it be? Upper-end Vietnamese in Kelowna? It used to be, not long ago, special meals in the Okanagan meant Mr. Mike’s or, if you were lucky, White Spot. I wasn’t exactly prepared for this.
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”.
Over the last few years I’ve been searching throughout Vancouver for excellent Phở, the best Vietnamese Beef Stew and a killer spring roll. When you embark on that kind of mission, invariably, you will discover all the other amazing delicacies. So far the most intriguing has been Bo 7 Mon. Bo 7 Mon is Beef 7 Ways. Not many places offer it. The only one I know of is Sông Hương. If I’m wrong, let me know. Please!
Sông Hương is an authentic Vietnamese restaurant in East Van. Their cuisine is from the city of Huế in Central Vietnam. I went there initially to try their Bún bò Huế, a spicier version of Phở loaded with a pig’s knuckle and congealed pork blood . But that’s another post…
I had a pretty good idea of what we’d be feasting on but it was pretty cool to see it all laid out before us.