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Mar 15, 2010 09:17 PM

Visiting Vancouver in May - request for Indian and SE Asian suggestions

Hi all, I'm going to be in Vancouver for a few days in early May and I have been doing a bit of research on where to go for Indian and SE Asian foods. Saravana Bhavan and Vij's are definitely on the list. I would like to also check out some Vietnamese, Thai, and/or other SE Asian restaurants as well. I'm not really as familiar with these as I am with Indian, so I'm somewhat unsure what would be best.

The challenge: what restaurants would you recommend I check out for Vietnamese, Thai, and related (Burmese, Cambodian, Lao, etc) cuisines? I am looking primarily for vibrant, fresh flavors of tamarind, lime, thai herbs, and hardcore herbs like rau ram, etc. I think the VN term for the plate of herbs and garnishes is rau song. Places serving herb and garnish plates to accompany signature dishes would be good in this regard.

I'm reasonably sure of where to go for Indian food, but if anyone can recommend any hardcore south indian (tamil nadu, kerala, andhra pradesh, karnataka, etc) places, that would be much appreciated.

Any and all recommendations will be greatly appreciated!

The difficulty: I'm not down with pork.

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  1. Some quickies:

    North Vietnamese: Truong Tranh
    South and Hue Vietnamese: Song Huong (The Bo 7 Mon has a great herb plate)
    Cambodian: Phnom Penh
    Burmese: Bo Laksa King (Not a full restaurant - it's a counter in a grocery store and have a limited menu. Larger Burmese menu for delivery.) Other than that - no real Burmese here.
    Lao: None here really. Some Thai places serve some Lao food.
    Thai: Maenam
    South Indian: House of Dosa; Chutney Villa; Nooru Mahal

    House Of Dosas
    1391 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5V3E3, CA

    Phnom Penh Restaurant Ltd
    244E Georgia St E, Vancouver, BC V6A1Z7, CA

    1938 W. 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1M5, CA

    Noor Mahal Restaurant
    4354 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5V4G3, CA

    Truong Thanh Vietnamese Restaurant
    2096 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5N2T3, CA

    Chutney Villa South Indian Cuisine
    147 Broadway E, Vancouver, BC V5T1W1, CA

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

    Bo Laksa King
    4910 Joyce St, Vancouver, BC V5R, CA

    19 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      Thanks fmed!

      Good call on Chutney Villa, it looks very promising! Definitely going there at least once. Also definitely checking out Song Huong and Phnom Penh. Looking forward to it!!!

      1. re: jasongogal

        I am a fan of the Song Huong's Bo 7 Mon but it's not a great choice if you are eating on your own. If you are travelling solo and want to try Bo 3 Mon, check out Pho Linh (just east of Main on Broadway). We watched the proprietor and her colleague separate out the la lot leaves, steam them and then roll up the beefy filling inside. Can you say fresh? The other two "sausages" were really tasty too -- I actually preferred them to the 3 sausage course that is part of Bo 7 Mon at Song Huong -- and you can get #V10 which is all three on a bed of rice vermicelli for $8.95 taxes in. Not a herb plate I know but definitely an option for dining alone...

        Truong Tranh which fmed mentioned has rau song for one as well, alongside certain of their signature dishes. Maybe not totally hardcore but some different herbs and very fresh also.

        I love the Burmese dishes at Bo Laksa King, and not just because there is no other Burmese in town. Bo does a great job, especially with the salads. Worth the schlep, and there is a nifty South American bakery right next door if you have room for dessert or want to grab some empanadas for later :-).

        If you can get to Saravana for their weekday lunch buffet, go for it. I think that is the best value and you avoid the things they don't do so well (I've not been impressed by their deep-fried appetizers, for example) while still getting fresh dosa etc which they bring out to order.

        1. re: grayelf

          Must add My Chau's Pho Ga with a side of deep fried chicken leg.

          My Chau Restaurant
          1715 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5N2S4, CA

          1. re: fmed

            True dat! My Chau is a must but remember only open M-Sat 10-6

          2. re: grayelf

            Thanks grayelf...I had hoped you and fmed would chime in. I definitely have a short list now. The pho ga sounds promising, but I'm also searching for the best possible pho for a lunch slot.

            I basically have 4 days to hit the scene. Lunches will probably be Indian for the most part, except I'd like to get a pho in. Evenings will probably be, in no particular order, Song Huong, Phnom Penh, BLK, and Vij's? It's hard to narrow it down though! Truong Tranh sounds promising. The one main herb I'd like to have served is rau ram. I use it at home but have never seen it in a restaurant. In this regard, the pho ga at My Chau sounds like a good ticket.

            Again, thanks for your recommendations, much appreciated.

            1. re: grayelf

              Does BLK offer a ginger salad ala Burmese Kitchen in SF?

              ETA: Sorry grayelf, tried to attach this to your Mar 16 4:26 PM post.

              1. re: PolarBear

                If you are looking for a lunchtime pho option, you will actually have more choices because so many of the "mom and pop" Viet joints are only open till 5 or 6. You might want to factor Pho Linh back into the equation for lunch -- they do a really tasty pho as well which I didn't mention because I went off on a sausage tangent :-) They are open 10-10 7 days, I believe (352 E Broadway 2 blks east of Main, 604-875-6443).

                I'm almost positive I remember rau ram being on the plate at Truong Tranh when we had banh cuon (rice rolls) which are excellent here but I fear they have pork in them. Has anyone tried the pho here? We had some comforting chicken soup (not pho). Bear in mind it is a lunch place too, only open till 5 or so. I do believe that you get rau ram with the pho ga at My Chau also but it is not as diverse a herb plate as at say Song Huong.

                Your dinner lineup looks good but just reminding you that BLK is literally a card table in a convenience store, so having dinner there would not be ideal IMHO. I've lunched there whilst chatting with Bo and Tiffany but it is definitely utilitarian. I also don't know how late the store is open, especially now that they have the more extensive delivery menu that is ONLY available if you have it delivered. Might want to drop them a line or call...

                And PB the ginger salad is along the lines of the BK in SF for sure. Don't know who'd win in a smackdown though as they are both v. good :-). I'm most partial to the tea leaf salad at both places, however. Just have to eat it with a lot of rice and not too close to bedtime to avoid insomnia...

                Song Huong
                2408 Nanaimo St, Vancouver, BC V5N, CA

                My Chau Restaurant
                1715 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5N2S4, CA

                1. re: grayelf

                  Yeah I was planning on getting takeout or delivery from BLK.

                  If you think that Pho Linh has the best pho, I'll do it for lunch one day. Anyone feel free to chime in on the "best" pho in town.

                2. re: PolarBear

                  I've had a Ginger Salad at BLK but I don't know if it is similar to Burmese Kitchen's.

                  1. re: fmed

                    BLK's tastes similar to BK's. Don't remember the chilis at BK though. With grayelf on this: both are great.

                    1. re: el_lobo_solo

                      Good point -- no chiles in BK's version that I recall either. With any luck will confirm this next week when we hit SF again, this time with Parental Units in tow.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        After one of the many visits to BLK, it hit me that every Burmese dish and drink I had at either BK or Burma Superstar in SF last year, I've now had at BLK, except for a tamarind fish dish at BK. Still can't believe it's all so closeby now.

                3. re: grayelf

                  Now I'm curious, you mentioned Pho Linh, where would I find a really explosive pho in Vancouver? A busy pho with lots of goodies?

                  1. re: jasongogal

                    I'm not the person to ask about "explosive" pho by which I take it you mean dac biet with the tripe, tendon and other unmentionables. I like plain ol' pho tai with good broth, fresh beef and a nice herb plate, which Pho Linh delivers. We've also enjoyed Hai Phong a bit further east on Kingsway, whose broth is more star anisey but there are just so many pho places that "best" is even more subjective than usual. Try googling Knightafter, a local pho fanatic who likes the gnarlier version...

                    Hai Phong
                    1246 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5V, CA

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Yeah I'm not down with the tripe and greeblies. Maybe I'm thinking fantasy or thinking of the crap I make at home, but I meant busy with stuff like crisp fried onion and various seasonings and accompaniments. Thanks for the tip on Knightafter! I realize "best" pho is a totally subjective thing and that's fine, but having almost zero experience on Vancouver's food scene puts me at a disadvantage in terms of comparative vocabulary...

                      1. re: jasongogal

                        If you want an explosion, maybe you should look beyond pho (which is usually quite a minimal soup). You can try the Bun Bo Hue (w blood cubes, pig foot, an herb plate that comes with banana flowers), or Bun Rieu (crab paste, banana flowers, Vietnamese celery), etc.

                        1. re: fmed

                          You have a point. I really do want to have some good pho though. In Calgary I had some spicy "pho satay" which had definite potential, and I have had other phos with potential, but to my thinking a little more garnish or som'n som'n is desirable.

                          I think with what I've gleaned here, I can make some pretty good selections for pho places.

                  2. re: grayelf

                    went to pho linh and had the bo 3 mon, great dish , very generous with the meat, friendly staff/owner, waitress gave me the heads up that the menu was gonna change, i asked her how so, she said they were raising the prices but didn't mention when, i assume it will sooner rather than later

                    1. re: vandan

                      Hey, we were there on Tuesday night, vandan! The owner served us and was so pleased we had returned with friends. Her granddaughter came in with a friend and had a great time playing with my niece. Everyone enjoyed their meals (two bo 3 mons, 1 lemon grass chicken and a pho tai). I have no problem with the prices going up a bit as they are pretty reasonable now.

              2. adding links:

                Saravanaa Bhavan
                955W Broadway W, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1K3, CA

                Pho Linh Vietnamese Restaurant
                325 Broadway E, Vancouver, BC V5T1W5, CA

                7 Replies
                  1. re: grayelf

                    I see them. Random technical weirdness.

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Sorry grayelf - I was eliminating triplicate listings for Song Huong - now reduced to one. The flakiness should be over.

                      1. re: rosetown

                        Oh for Pete's sake, now I can see them... the linking thing is such a drag in the new version.

                    2. re: rosetown

                      Thanks rosetown.

                      BTW my SO is from Rosetown. Small world.

                      1. re: jasongogal

                        Although, I've only purchased gas there, my chow name derives from that Saskatchewan town - a bucolic name don't you think? :)

                        1. re: rosetown

                          Ahh OK. I figured you were from there.

                    3. OK! The trip has come and gone, and here is my report.

                      Day 1: Chutney Villa for brunch. Being a fan of all foods South Indian in nature, I of course greatly enjoyed my meal here. The thali came with pongal, a thin tangy curry (puli kolambu?) rava upma, sambar, 2 spiced idlis, 2 dosas, and a hastily fried omelet. Plus 4 chutneys on the side, and some banana. It was all tasty but you could tell most if not all of it was premade and simply reheated. Still, all enjoyable and unique meal with some outstanding flavors. Would visit again.

                      For supper I went to Hai Phong and attempted to get a brisket and rare beef pho, and some spring rolls. What I ended up getting was pho with meatballs and rare beef. Those errors aside (maybe I butchered the VN terms too much), I must say the pho itself was really tasty. What puzzles me though is, going around to asian stores that day, I saw tons of herbs at pretty much every store in various states of limpness. Why aren't they used more in restaurants??? Also wish I had known what else to order at HP besides pho.

                      Tried to go to Bo Laksa King for roti canai after, but they had just closed :/

                      Day 2: Saravanaa Bhavan for lunch. I loved it. I would go to this place all the time if I could.
                      Nooru Mahal for supper. Not very impressive. Wouldn't go back.

                      Day 3: SB again for lunch buffet (had to bring my buddy). Just as awesome as the day before, and I could drink the Vatral Kuzhambu by the glass.

                      Song Huong for supper. SH was awesome. I very much enjoyed the Bo 7 Mon, although I could have done without the congee and even the salad was a stretch as my dining compatriots didn't seem to understand that it was a shared thing and each got buns of their own. My favorite parts of the Bo 7 Mon were the nhung dam roll-your-own salad rolls, and the little sausages. Very tasty, nice staff, neat restaurant, would come there regularly if I could. I wouldn't ever like the fish mint though.

                      Day 4: Pho Linh for lunch. I had spring rolls and the Bun 3 Mon, which was three kinds of little sausages grilled and served on a bun bowl with mam nem. I got to chatting with the proprietress and she brought out some rau ram and mint. The herbs plus the bun plus the mam nem were exactly what I had been looking for in terms of asian food this time. Absolutely delicious, I loved all of it. I must must must learn how to make those sausages at home. The spring rolls were great too, and her nuoc cham sauce was excellent. Oh, the proprietress also makes a VN style sate sauce that is served at each table. It was a little fishy for my liking, but I definitely have to give her props for the extra effort. Pho Linh is awesome.

                      I went to Vij's for supper and absolutely loved both the yam paneer koftas and the lamb popsicles. I also liked the little appetizers they kept bringing by. Vij's is really something else. It was the best restaurant meal I have had in a very long time. I could go on and on effusively but to sum it up briefly, I give the restaurant very high marks and enjoyed the food immensely.

                      Thanks all for the information, it was very helpful! I would have gone to SB and Vij's anyway but your other recs were much appreciated, especially the amazing Vietnamese experiences I had.

                      On another note: buy yourself a piece of jackfruit at San Lee's a very tasty fruit.

                      Vij's Restaurant
                      1480 11th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6H1L1, CA

                      Hai Phong
                      1246 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5V, CA

                      Bo Laksa King
                      4910 Joyce St, Vancouver, BC V5R, CA

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jasongogal

                        Great report! Happy to hear you had good eats.

                        1. re: el_lobo_solo

                          Really great to have you report back in such clear and useful detail. We were saying at a recent Chowdown that it is always so nice when people who have asked for reccos let us know how it went :-).

                          1. re: grayelf

                            agreed. always appreciate reports back. thanks!

                            1. re: betterthanbourdain

                              My pleasure...if you have any further questions I'd be happy to elaborate.

                              You guys and you guys alone helped me discover mam nem and some outstanding beef preparations at VN restaurants. Thank you!