Great find hole in the wall
This location at 789 Kingsway (near ICBC Claim Centre), has been around for the longest time as a tiny Vietnamese restaurant. I used to go a lot in the 90's but they have since changed hands many times over. Faster forward to a couple of months ago, when I was about to go to my usual spot Thai Hoa, I noticed a new neon light there, so I turned back and checked it out, and decided to give it a try.
And then I was very surprised. I have eaten Vietnamese food from San Diego to quite many here, so although I'm not an expert, I can tell the difference. But what impressed me most after going there a few times, is that I have decided to make a review on Chowhound, and not the usual Dinehere / Urbanspoon site. Does it mean this is a high end restaurant? Not at all, but what is a pleasant surprise is that they execute the food well, and use real ingredients as much as possible.
So far, after being there a few times, I have tried all my favourite dishes: pho (special with everything), bun (grilled pork and spring roll), "Thuan Fa" beef pho (spicy hot), and the grill pork + shredded pork + steam egg cake on rice. Every time they give a taro tapioca (hot) dessert after as a complimentary treat.
I talked to the proprietor couple there. The lady was trained at a hotel, probably in culinary related work like catering and kitchen (not specifically mentioned). She told me she used higher quality products, as possible, she'd use no chemical or artificial stuff, and she cut the meat herself to save cost, and keep higher quality.
Now down to individual dishes:
Pho: more ingredients than any other places I have been to. I was so full after! Broth has no MSG taste, or other artificial taste, also no fragrance taste that some places do (I don't like it, it tastes like fragrance you get from soap), very clean. So it's an A+ for this dish for me. Some who are used to denser / heavier soup might find this one a bit mild, but keep in mind this is not MSG bumped though.
Bun: Very good indeed, but spring roll tastes a little funny. So the next time, I told the owner, and she got one out for me to try, and that one tastes "normal", so it could be just a fluke. Otherwise it's very good. A for this dish (if taken into the spring roll, then A-). Again lots of ingredients.
Rice dish: very good, and what is surprising, well there are 2: the steam egg cake actually uses real crab meat (but at the same time, has some shell artifacts, haha), I have never had that anywhere else. At most, it has some black fungus etc. 2nd surprise, and this is a big one: the side soup at all other places, are 99% MSG, and 1% meat broth, usually a useless side. Here, they made a carrot chicken soup that it is 70% of a chicken soup basically! Never seen it anywhere else, and it is heartwarming to have a "home made" soup as a side. Now that is food made with the heart!
"Thuan Fa" beef soup noodle (Spicy hot): again, great dish, although a bit too much chilli oil for me. There is also a surprise: normally most places serve the pork hock bone in, which takes a lot of work to not waste the meat and cartridge around it. Here they use the boneless style, similar to northern / Shanghai Chinese dishes (the cold dish), so it's much less effort, but a little higher cost to them of course.
The dessert: every time they give (and to every other customer too) a small bowl of taro dessert, which is warm. Lots of taro, it's not fancy, but nice indeed.
Any cons? May be, the decor and setting is a bit on the low end side, and the place is a bit small. The kid in the family helps out there, but also puts the TV sound up quite a bit as he likes to kill the boredom obviously. So that is a little distracting, so do not expect a "romantic" dinner there of course.
If you are not the kind who is afraid of these little hole in the wall type eatery, and like Vietnamese food, then you should give this a try. May be you won't rate it as high as I do, but it is definitely much better than most, if not all the places I have been to in Vancouver, Vietnamese restaurant wise.
I bet you Good Eats!
Thanks for your reply and link. I checked it out and the menu is not the same. This ownership is new, only a few months old. Unfortunately they changed hands so many times I haven't been there since the 90's, so I cannot compare anything there between the early 90's to just now. (In other words, I missed some of the ownerships in the middle).
They kept the same name Thuan An, but it's not the same. For those who haven't been to the new one, then it is probably worth trying. I really hope they do well. The owners there are also very charming people also, very warm and nice!
Tried the cha gio and pho tai nam bo vien today. The cha gio was excellent and the pho was quite good, although for me the noodles could have been firmer (kim phung is still my fave). I liked the addition of sliced jalapeno to the herb plate. The dessert today was tapioca with coconut and chunks of fat/short banana sprinkled with sesame and roasted peanut. Tasty.
The woman who was serving and possibly also cooking said they've open 9 months.
I'll be back to explore the menu soon.