I haven’t seen Huong for a long, long time. He used to visit our table on a frequent basis when we dined at the ‘Pho Huong Viet’ restaurant on Bow Trail but when he moved to 17th Avenue, we no longer ran into him. I think his family is running it for him so if you see him, tell him I said ‘Hi’.
His brother used to run the second location, next to the 7-11 on 37th Street between 16th and 17th Ave where I would see him in the kitchen sometimes.
But there was a time last year when they ran out of the soup stock. That went on for a number of weeks and I couldn’t really understand that. They were serving everything else but the bread and butter which for a Vietnamese restaurant, was the PHO.
Now in 2014, it is under new management. The first thing you will notice when you walk in, is the new expanded menu. The same noodle dishes and subs are available on the right side of the menu but now, there are Korean dishes. We ordered two dishes, Spicy Squid on Rice (pictured) and Sate Beef Noodle in Soup. The Spicy Squid was delicious and very Korean. However, I was disappointed with the Sate Beef Noodle in Soup. I found it to be more Korean than Vietnamese because it lacked the cardamon/ cinammon flavoured beef soup that usually comes with Pho. Also, the pho was replaced with very thin vermicelli instead of the flat thin noodles that I have grown accustom to liking.
When I was in Vietnam a few weeks ago, I had asked the tour guide ‘where to buy the best Vietnamese coffee from?’. He told me the best Vietnamese coffee to buy was the ‘weasel coffee’ which I had never heard of. Before visiting Vietnam, I had tried the Vietnamese iced coffee and liked the taste. I like the strong brew over ice and served with condensed milk.
He went on to telling me that the best coffee to buy was coffee that went through the digestive tract of a weasel. He meant ‘civet cat’ which has a liking for cherry coffee berries. The cat would consume these coffee berries and poo out the seeds (or beans). People would gather up the beans from the cat’s poop, clean the beans then roast them.
The end result is a highly prized, highly sought after coffee that is strong, smooth and unique. Our tour guide took us to the central post office in Ho Chi Minh City and introduced us to the owner of a little store on the right side of the post office. She had a shelf full of coffee containers and the one she recommended was in a wood barrel. There was even a picture of a civet cat over the cherry coffee berries. The price was rather steep but both the tour guide and the shop owner was raving about how good the coffee was. It was priced at 600,000 dong (about US$30) so we picked one up.
When we got home, I tried making a cup of coffee following the instructions of our tour guide in Vietnam. Three teaspoons with 8 oz of hot water in a french press. Let it steep for 30-40 seconds and mix condensed milk in it. I can tell you it was strong but very smooth. There’s nothing like it.
If you’re in the market for some civet cat coffee, let me recommend the Bean Stop in Eau Claire market. I heard a cup will set you back for $25 and 50g of the grinds will run you about $60. If that sounds high to you, don’t get tempted with eBay prices because there are a lot of counterfeit coffees out there.
I used to live in one of those towers near Southland Crossing when it was just a Safeway. Now there’s plenty of restaurants to choose from, ranging from Japanese to Chinese, to Vietnamese and Thai. One place that caught my eye was Saigon Bistro so we decided to give it a try. We walked in and was seated very quickly. It was dinner time but the restaurant was only a quarter full on a Saturday night.
We ordered the Sweet and Sour Chicken wings as appetizers because the photo of it in the menu reminded me of the tamarind flavoured wings served at other Vietnamese restaurants. When it came, I thought they made a mistake because the wings were dry and not soaking in sauce. They were like Salt and Pepper wings, the kind that you order at Chinese restaurants. I called the waiter over and said that it wasn’t the same as what we had ordered. He looked at it and said it was missing the sauce. The waitress brought a dish over with some Thai sweet chili sauce for us to dip the wings in.
For entrees, we decided to go with Crispy Fried Chicken and a Beef Cube dish. The Crispy Fried Chicken was served with the sauce on the side. It had a gingery taste to it and had green pepper and onions in it. It was fair. The Beef Cube dish was better but surprisingly, only one bowl of rice accompanied both dishes. Since there were two of us eating, we ordered an extra bowl for $1.50. The total bill came out to $34 without tip. (We did leave a tip but the service was so-so.) The food was nothing to write home about and we know we will not be eating here again.
If you’re looking for good and authentic Thai food, then you’ll be disappointed at Thai Tai in the new Aspen shopping centre. My wife thinks she recognizes the hostess at the cashier that answers the phone and takes your money. She may be the owner of Bagolac, the Saigon restaurant near Chinook. The menu certainly looks Vietnamese and they certainly have the experience and expertise to cook up some good tasting food but it’s not Thai as the name suggests.
If you’re just looking to have curries then you’re in luck because they do serve all three types of curry. Green curry, yellow curry and red curry are all available with your choice of meat, chicken, pork or beef. I didn’t see if tofu was available or not but I would suspect so.
I ordered the Sweet, Sour, Salty Beef and my wife ordered the Tropical Chicken. It comes with rice and vegetables. We chose brown rice over white rice but you can order special coconut rice for $1 extra.
I loved my dish but I was afraid that I would be hungry when I left the restaurant. The beef slices were thin but there was enough veggies to help fill the void. The Tropical Chicken looked like any stir-fry with pineapple, onions, red peppers, carrots and baby corn.
Would we recommend it? For authentic Thai food, go somewhere else. For Vietnamese food, yes because they serve Pho, vermicelli dishes and a few dishes that you would find in any Vietnamese restaurant including those tasty subs.