Kim's Restaurant (Vietnamese Treats From the North and South)
I was headed to the "shack", a.k.a. Que Ling today, not clue-ing in that Tuesday is the one day of the week it is closed. Instead, we decided to throw caution to the wind and try Kim's Restaurant, which is located at 710 Gerrard St. East. It's very pleasant inside. There is a bar with high stools in the front window, plus a couple of high tables, then there are a handful of regular tables up a few steps. We received a fairly small menu (for a Vietnamese restaurant), but what a menu it is! There are 44 items on the menu and I'm glad I didn't look for too long or I'd have been there forever, trying to decide what to order. Being a big fan of Hanoi 3 Seasons, I was tickled pink to find Bun Cha Ca La Vong (grilled marinated fish on vermicelli noodles with a plethora of fresh herbs) and decided to order it as a comparison. My SO ordered Pho Ga La Chanh, which is described on the menu as chicken rice noodle soup with lime leaf. He wasn't ecstatic about the chicken soup. It was a fairly standard pho ga and nothing to write home about. My Cha Ca La Vong, however, kicked Hanoi 3 Seasons' butts (both locations). I hate to say that, since I'm generally a big fan, but I've noticed over the last year or two the the herb quantity has drastically diminished, as has the quantity, while prices have risen to $11 for the dish. At Kim's, I paid $8 for more fish, more noodles, and a heap of fresh mint, cilantro and dill sprigs. It was delicious.
On to the rest of the menu. I am eager to return to try other appealing menu choices. Some I haven't seen on menus since I traveled throughout Vietnam a few years ago. That said, I haven't tried all of the highly recommended places around the GTA, so I am NOT claiming that they are impossible to find on other menus around town. Aside from the standard pho and com options, they offer wonton noodle soup with BBQ pork, bun bo hue, vegetarian pho, seafood rice noodle soup, spring rolls and cold shrimp rolls. Now, on to the funky sounding choices: fried quails, Bun Thit Oc (snails with vermicelli), Bun Cha Ca Cha Muc (fish sausage, squid sausage and vermicelli soup), Bun Thang (vermicelli soup with chicken, shrimp, sausage and egg), Bun Cha Hanoi (Hanoi style BBQ pork with vermicelli), Goi Ngo Sen Tom Thit (lotus salad with shrimp and pork), Goi Du Du Bo Kho (papaya salad with beef jerky), Banh Cuon Cha Nong (steamed rice roll with sausage), Pho Dac Biet Sot Vang (beef well cooked with wine and rice noodle), Pho Ap Chao Bo (stir fried beef with celery, carrot, garlic with rice noodle), Pho Chien Phong (stir fried beef with crispy rice noodle), Bun Bo (beef and pork with vermicelli soup), Bun Cha La Lot (beef wrapped with mint leaf and vegetables), Bun Mang Vit (duck with bamboo shoot and vermicelli soup).
Notable com (rice) dishes include: grilled salmon with garlic on rice, stir-fry shrimp with coconut milk on rice, fried fish with lime leaf on rice, chicken curry on rice, chicken with lemongrass on rice, satay chicken or beef on rice, grilled ginger chicken on rice, sweet and sour shrimp or pork on rice and a basic stir-fry of beef or chicken with vegetables on rice.
Have I overwhelmed you yet? It's not the typical 250-item Viet menu at a standard pho house. In fact, there are only a few pho options (rare beef, flank and beef balls, or well done beef). There seems to be no tripe option, but they might have it if you ask. Obviously, pho is not their major focus.
The most expensive item on the menu is the grilled salmon with garlic on rice, at $9.00. A handful of items are $8.00, but most items are in the $6-7 range. Note that nothing is offered in multiple sizes, though I suspect if you wanted an XL pho, they'd charge an extra buck or so and make it happen. They're eager to please ... and they're licensed!
There were only a couple of other people there at 11:30 am on a Tuesday, but I have a feeling that people are creatures of habit and might not discover this place without a little nudging. Here's my big fat nudge! Try it and let me know what you ordered and how it tasted.
Thanks for the find! Sounds so interesting!
I watched this last Monday's "No Reservations: Vietnam" episode. Anthony Bourdain has been there some many times, and on this trip I was really inspired to find a Vietnamese menu featuring Bun Oc and Banh Cuon. I'm definitely gonna check this place out, and if any CH out there know of other menus featuring the more interesting side of Vietnamese cuisine, please let me know too!
What used to be Pho 88 (also on Gerrard), touches on some of these items too. If you search through all the pho threads on this board, you'll find a few other places that offer some of the items I've outlined. I recorded that episode of No Reservations. Can't wait to watch it. I remember when Bourdain was in Vietnam and Cambodia for his A Cook's Tour show several years ago -- awesome! Made me want to go myself.
Update: I satisfied my snails craving tonight at KIM restaurant. Went to 2nd Chinatown area on Gerrard with gf. Ordered the Bun Oc for myself. Generous portions, more than 12 snails, substantial earthy broth with fresh tomato and herbs. All for $6! GF ordered the fried fish with dill on rice (recommend too).
But they ran out of 2 other items (1. papaya salad -w- beef jerky, 2. Banh Cuon). Afterwards, we wondered around to see if we can get Banh Cuon for takeout, but Hanoi 3 Seasons didn't carry it on menu and Que Ling was closed... Will have to visit this area again soon!
P.S. This is my first Bun Oc experience. With no previous reference, I don't mind if you take what I say with a grain of salt. :)
Hanoi 3 Seasons
588 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M1Y3, CA
Good for you for being adventurous. I balked during Tet in Hanoi which is when Bun Oc is most popular. I look forward to trying it at Kim's. As for the AWOL items, that's a bummer, but I can't say I'm surprised that they don't keep absolutely every ingredient fresh and on hand when they appear to be hurting for business. Like the much adored and now defunct Manna Korean restaurant in Etobicoke, I'd love to see people give Kim's a try. I was so surprised at how fresh and delightful the Cha Ca La Vong was, I'm willing to give it another try and branch out to sample other options. If everyone is as gun-shy as I tend to be with new places, when my faves are nearby, nobody will try this unassuming little gem.