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Song Huong bo 7 mon: if this looks like code to you, come to Vancouver

Finally had the 7 courses of beef at the 1st and Nanaimo Song Huong. For once, something that lives up to the hype. And for $25.95. Mad props.

The seven-course part is a mite misleading, as three of the courses come on one plate and are basically variations on a sausage. But trust me, I am not complaining, because there would have been a couple of Mr Creosote impersonations had there been two more separate courses forthcoming.

As soon as the wait staff realized we were newbies they were most helpful in explaining how the various courses worked, especially the first one where you dunk your raw beef in a fondue pot and your rice paper circles in hot water and make a Vietnamese taco. The SO was on his game and immediately recognized one of the side veggies as raw, super underripe plantain sliced thinly (the light green dudes beside the cukes in the pic). He also worked out that the tiny circular slivers that I was so enamoured of were cooked/marinated lemon grass. The wee pickled onions were quite a hit also.

Of the seven courses, we each liked six, and the ones we didn't like did not intersect, so this was truly the perfect meal to share (I liked the "congee" and he didn't, whereas I did not care for the big ol' meatball and he scarfed that puppy down). Our favourites were the raw beef rolls, the beef jerky salad and the sausages with the herbs wrapped around them -- I should know the name of that leaf as fmed has posted on it, but I'll call it tasty :-). All the accoutrements were super fresh and abundant as you can see. We got pretty creative by the end and were wrapping all sorts of wacky combos in the rice paper, which BTW they supply you with loads of, to take advantage of the delicious dipping sauce, which was different (thick but not peanutty) than any other I've tried.

This was a stellar meal in a great setting (note the tiki stylings of the room we were in, which contrasted mightily with the adjacent diner-like room). We will be back to try some of the grill-your-own items, particularly #71 which was being enthusiastically ingested by the table of Vietnamese diners behind us.

Quality of photos is a bit off -- I think the camera may have been trying to focus on the marbly table, or at least that is my excuse :-).

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  1. And a few more fuzzy shots...

    2 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      And two more... plus the place link (note there is another Song Huong a few blocks south on Nanaimo)

      Song Huong Vietnamese
      1613 Nanaimo St, Vancouver, BC V5L4T9, CA

      1. re: grayelf

        The other Song Huong location (the original location, actually) has now been taken over by different Vietnamese restaurant. I think both locations operated for a while as the owners waited for a buyer.

    2. >.Our favourites were the raw beef rolls, the beef jerky salad and the sausages with the herbs wrapped around them -- I should know the name of that leaf as fmed has posted on it, but I'll call it tasty :-).

      That leaf is La Lot...and the dish is Bo (beef) La Lot.

      Song Huong is a rare gem...you can get great pho here but I often get their other specialties when dining with other people.

      5 Replies
      1. re: fmed

        BTW: The proprietors are ethnically Hue from the middle of Vietnam....so try thier Hue steamed /glutinous rice/tapioca dishes and their Bun Bo Hue....which comes with a cube of pork blood. Sounds ghastly, but utterly delicious, soft in texture (like soft tofu) and mild in flavour.

        1. re: fmed

          Ah so that's it! Glad we picked the right one, however randomly. I did notice the Hue spicy soup but we were locked in on the bo 7 mon :-). Now that I'm looking more carefully at the takeout menu, I can see the steamed/tapioca dishes under dac biet or specials (items 46 to 49 for those of you playing along at home).

          Thinking this would be a great place for a larger group (P2s? Another Chowdown?)...

          1. re: grayelf

            I'm game for a Chowdown...despite the fact I eat there about twice a week ;-)

        2. re: fmed

          Found some fresh La Lot at South China Seas...not easy to find this stuff fresh...and these particular bunches look really fresh.

          1. re: fmed

            Fabbo, fmed, I am heading to Tenderland Meats in GIsle in the next hour and will check it out. I wonder what else you could do with la lot? Must Google...

        3. Great discussion and delicious photo's! Nice work

          1 Reply
          1. re: raidar

            Thanks, raidar -- BTW, love your photo :-).

          2. Love the 7 course beef here... I find myself craving the sauce constantly. I asked if they were willing to sell it to me (I like to prepare the ingredients at home myself, to my specifications) but unfortunately they declined, haha.

            There's also a grilled beef course that comes with all the veggies... it's not the same variety but the thin slices of beef, when grilled, is incredible. Yum!

            18 Replies
            1. re: dimples_323

              >> I asked if they were willing to sell it to me (I like to prepare the ingredients at home myself, to my specifications) but unfortunately they declined, haha.

              You can get bottled Mam Nem at Asian food marts (if that is the sauce you mean - the brownish, salty, fishy one). I do think the augment it with garlic, oil, etc.

              1. re: fmed

                That sauce is so addictive -- quite thick but not nutty/hoi sinny like the dipper for the salad rolls. As I noted above, we were basically dipping everything that didn't move in it by the end of the meal just to be sure not to waste any of it, as they give you a really generous bowl (side note: I hate it when places are chintzy with dipping sauce; no worries about that at Song Huong). I think the grilled beef item you are referring to is #71, dimples, which is the one we were ogling at the table next to us.

                We are heading to San Francisco on Thursday where we are hoping to try bo 7 mon for the second time at either Pagolac or An Huong -- will be interesting to compare it with our one experience here.

                I really need to get a portable second stomach, like the mobile backup drives you can get for computers...

                1. re: grayelf

                  Is the sauce mam nem? I think it's anchovy something but it's not quite like the anchovy sauce I've had at my friend's house before, which is anchovy paste in a bottle done up with crushed pineapple and sauteed lemongrass.

                  There's a place on Fraser that serves that type of anchovy sauce, the name escapes me right now. I'll try to find it and get back to you guys. They serve something similar but with big chunks of grilled beef wrapped around onions.

                  grayelf I was reading about Pagolac, I'm so jealous! For those who go down to Seattle often I think a place called Tamarind Tree also serves the 7 course beef.

                  1. re: dimples_323

                    >> Is the sauce mam nem? I think it's anchovy something but it's not quite like the anchovy sauce I've had at my friend's house before, which is anchovy paste in a bottle done up with crushed pineapple and sauteed lemongrass.

                    You can make the sauce by puree-ing pineapple and mam nem together then adding oil, garlic, chili, etc. The stuff you are describing sounds like a pre-bottled version. I should look for it next time I'm at a Vietnamese grocers.

                    (edit: found a recipe here: http://www.recipesource.com/ethnic/as...


                    >>For those who go down to Seattle often I think a place called Tamarind Tree also serves the 7 course beef.

                    I've been...it's great....but not cheap. (It's an "upscale" sort of place). The closest place we have to an upscale Vietnamese place is Chau on Robson.

                    1. re: fmed

                      True dat, fmed -- Pagolac is definitely not upscale, though as you know there are a couple such in SF, most notoriously Slanted Door. I haven't been to SD and am not sure it's my cup of bun, since we are so spoiled with value Viet food here (and in SF too from my limited experience). I think I have a bit of a mental block for certain "high end ethnic" for want of a better descriptor, which I probably need to get over.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        The SF hounds have ID'd a few places they feel equal to or even better than SD:

                        The House
                        Le Colonial
                        Bong Su
                        Bodega Bistro
                        Turtle Tower

                        and a number of others for specifice dishes. Sadly, I've yet to get around to sampling them.

                        1. re: PolarBear

                          I've been to Le Colonial...excellent.

                          1. re: fmed

                            I think I read Bong Su just closed -- the only one I've tried was Bodega Bistro and I'm still thinking about their shaking beef. I'd love to try the pho ga at Turtle Tower, or at one of the places here in Vancouver that specialize as I've only ever had pho bo...

                            1. re: grayelf

                              A quick post to say that Song Huong reigns supreme (to quote that Iron Chef guy) in my incredibly limited sampling of bo 7 mon. Pagolac's version just didn't measure up (to quote Iman) -- see here for my thoughts on it if you're interested http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6133...

                              We went back to Song Huong in early April to take some friends to try it and once again it rocked. No pix this time as there were too many of us with our elbows in the air to get a clear shot :-). We added an order of #71 which is the grilled beef and the six of us ate like royalty for $14 tax and tip in. Yes you read that right. And I even got one of their white bean desserts to try. This is quality and value for sure. Can't wait to go back for another fix. My only regret is that I keep hearing how great the pho is at SH but I can't see opting for that over the b7m. Really need a backup stomach...

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Song Huong is a sleeper for sure. They seem to be much busier these days...a very good thing.

                                I do get to have their pho once in a while as I often tend to lunch alone....on a splurge I sometimes have the bo la lot which is my favourite part of the bo 7 mon.

                                1. re: fmed

                                  We hit Song Huong with the express purpose of trying their pho last night, and it did not disappoint. I think it is the best pho thai of the places I have tried. Noodles were nice and firm, beef did not have any hint of javex/soap and was nice and rare, broth was relatively light but full flavoured with just a whiff of what I think of as "baking spices" (cinnamon etc) which is how I like it. Sprouts and basil were fresh and plentiful too.

                                  The other big success was the rice roll (I really must find out the Vietnamese name for this) which is one of the SO's faves and consists of ground pork wrapped in a big ol' rice noodly thing, topped with home-made deep fried onions and served with that lovely Vietnamese bologna. The dipping sauce was delightful with a sniff of garlic in it. Song Huong really knows how to do sauces, what? Add a limeade for me and that's dinner for $18. Fantastic.

                                  The only funny thing was that they were having a hard time landing orders on the right tables for some reason, but that didn't affect our meal and I've not noticed it before. I'm going to say that SH is now my favourite Vietnamese resto, with extra points for never having served me a dish I didn't like. And it takes no longer to get there from Kits than it does to get to the Kingsway Viet strip...

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Glad you like the pho there...one of the best in the city, IMO (it is probably my fave pho tai too). As you know, I'm there a lot since I live so close...and I still have problems choosing a favourite dish from their extensive menu. I think it's a toss up between the bo 7 mon, bo la lot, bun bo hue, and their pho.

                                    That rice roll dish is banh cuon....have a look here for the one that I think is my favourite in the city: http://foodosophy.wordpress.com/2009/...

                                    Another thing about Song Huong...their servers are super friendly and efficient.

                                    1. re: fmed

                                      Thanks for the link to the two reviews that featured banh cuon -- I have noted and will try both. We haven't seen it that often on the menus of the places we've been to but since we're relying on translations it's likely we've just been missing it. I like the look of the pork floss. I'm still missing a rendition of that on a fried rice dish at a Thai resto that closed a few years ago. Wonder if this is similar...

                                      I didn't realize it was a breakfast dish either which is interesting. Also will refer to the sliced meat item as pork loaf rather than bologna from now on :-).

                          2. re: grayelf

                            slightly off topic but you definatly need to get over this mental block if anything just to try Maenam (if you haven't already) a.k.a. old Gastropod. Best meal I've had in ages! (even for my friend who lived in Thailand for two years) and extremely reasonable. 60 bucks for the 3 off us including a bottle of wine, cocktails, a 25% tip and wayway too much food..the three flavour fish is to die for!

                            1. re: yuyu

                              Hey yuyu, just posted on our recent trip to Maenam here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/623041 if you're interested. Cheers!

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Bo 7 mon confirmed at Thai Hang 2122 East Hastings on specials menu and only available after 3: http://thefridaylunch.wordpress.com/2...

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  That's a great report. They mention that they will try Song Huong's version next for a direct comparison.

                2. I just noticed the West Ender Readers' Choice Awards placed Song Huong as #1 in the Vietnamese category.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: fmed

                    Thanks for the headsup -- I can't find it on the website. Will pick up a copy...

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Well I made their evening. I brought a copy of the WestEnder with me tonight. They didn't know they won top spot. They were just beaming. They had no idea they had such a following.

                      1. re: fmed

                        That was nice of you fmed! Glad they were so happy - must have felt good to let them know!

                        1. re: ck1234

                          It did feel good. The staff there work very hard and the food is good. Well deserved, I say.

                  2. I would like to recommend an other joint as possibly the best pho in town, and if anyone is still reading this thread, I'd like to hear what you think. The place is called pho Tam. It is in surrey in a little strip mall in a sort of alley behind the safeway at 108th ave and King George Highway. Heading south on King George, hang a right at 108th, then a left on the notorious City Parkway. The strip mall will be on your left just after the Safeway parking lot. There are 2 pho places in the little strip mall, so make sure you go to Pho Tam.
                    Anyway, the menue does not feature any of the specialty items you would find at Song Huong like bo 7 mon. It is just the regular pho house standards, but dam it if it isn't the best in town - just as the sign brags! And that's a tough call, because most pho is at least decent. I think the rice and noodle dishes are better than Song Huong too. I don't know, more depth to the flavors? Cleaner tasting? Fresher? I don't know, I can't put my finger on it, but I think it is better. I haven't had the salad rolls in a while but I think I remember them being not so great. The spring rolls pass but are nothing super special either.

                    Pho Tam Restaurant
                    10302 135 St, Surrey, BC V3T4Y8, CA

                    King George Restaurant
                    13588 88 Ave, Surrey, BC V3W3K8, CA

                    Song Huong
                    1613 Nanaimo St, Vancouver, BC V5L 4T9, CA

                    1. - believe i know the answer to this one already. however: aside from a shrimp roll and / or salad- are there any ' vegetarian ' options on the song huong's menu ? this place does not sound like a ' typical ' pho house.
                      - cube of pork blood: one word- gag.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: slugsunderfoot

                        This place is run by Hue (the Vietnamese people from the "middle" of Vietman) so they have specialties from Hue cuisine (eg Bun Bo Hue - the soup with pork blood - it's an acquired delicacy. I love it, personally.). Most of the pho places here are run by Southern Vietnamese....so Song Huong is a relative rarity.

                        As far as Vegetarian options...no not really a lot. It's fairly typical of pho shops though. Song Huong excels in their meat dishes.

                        Song Huong
                        1613 Nanaimo St, Vancouver, BC V5L 4T9, CA

                        1. re: fmed

                          - going to stop by there regardless. have a look. yeah, DOES sound fairly pho- typical after all. nonetheless......

                          - as far pork blood- i lived with a filipino gal for 2 years so i am familiar with the stuff. it repels me like you have no idea. when in rome, etc....

                          1. re: fmed

                            had the bo 7 mon, good as it usually is.
                            was hoping to only get maybe the 3 meat, the raw beef and jerky coleslaw/salad.
                            ended getting all 7. i dont mind the congee or meatballs. but they're not all that unique or special.
                            tried the bun bo hue. and thought the broth lacked depth of flavor though my dining companion really liked it.
                            it's only a tiny little piece of pork blood, and it's added after not cooked into it often. pretty sure you can order it without the pork blood. lol

                            anyone tried the ox tail or hot and suor beef/seafood hot pot?

                            1. re: kfed

                              The oxtail was great the one time I had it. I'm a big fan of their Bun Bo Hue since I prefer the broth lighter.

                              1. re: fmed

                                yes agreed with the BBH comment. its nice light and just slightly spicy. will try the oxtail next time.

                                wonder if hot and sour is tamarind based?