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Hai Phong: Viet in Vancouver deserving its own thread

Hai Phong on Kingsway has been our go-to place for a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes for the past several months. I love the beef "sashimi" here with its garnish of mysterious leafy herbage and dark dipping sauce. I have rambled about my addiction to the chicken wings here on other threads, which I much prefer to Phnom Penh's sweeter, MSGey ones. I crave the porc au caramel which comes out a little different every time, sometimes quite spicy. The banh xeo or crepe is perfect comfort food. The tamarind crab and the hotpots are a draw too. Pho is not one of them. I was talking to a friend last night who commented that if a place does other things well she often isn't fond of the pho. I concur. Here it has too much cookie spicing -- notes of cinnamon and clove, that sort of thing. I don't miss it though as I slurp up my delicious avocado shake (the best one I've found so far). And they have a licence so if your beverage of choice is alcoholic you are in luck. Service is always with a smile, even when they are busy. And they never seem to be full-on slammed which means you can walk in and grab a table -- I've even seen a group of 14 do that once!

A few pix to illustrate: chicken wings, porc au caramel, egg pie with lemongrass chicken and shredded pork (SO fave), bun with pork skewers and pork skin meat (sausage), avocado shake, another view of the chicken wings, banh xeo, water convulvulus, beef sashimi

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    1. re: vandan

      The price is consistent with other Vietnamese restaurants around town. It isn't any more expensive but the quality is definitely higher than other Vietnamese restaurants.

      Their lemongrass chicken (with rice) is my favourite in Vancouver (I always get it with an egg added). The tom yum hot pot is delicious - I also agree about the chicken wings and the crepes. I usually have a hard time not over ordering when I am there.

      I feel like driving there right now actually. I'm getting hungry after looking at the pictures you posted, grayelf.

      1. re: quddous

        We went with four adults and two kidlets recently and I believe it was $125 for way too much food plus drinks and several beers.

        1. re: grayelf

          It is usually about $25-$30 (and sometimes up to $40) including tip for 2 for us. We usually get either a soup or rice dish each and sometimes an appetizer.

        1. re: Susan_Vancouver

          Thanks for the link, S_Van. It never occurred to me to check if they had a website as it is rather a mum and pop place.

      2. if you get a chance their bbq duck lotus leaf salad and tamarind crab are to die for!

        2 Replies
        1. re: yuyu

          Thanks, yuyu! We tried the lotus root salad tonight and loved the texture but found it a bit bland. Also the shrimp were all a bit javexy tonight which affected the bhan khot (shrimp cakes) which otherwise were the best version I've had yet. Haven't tried any duck here yet, duly noted. Mum and dad loved the tamarind crab when we took them last year.

          1. re: grayelf

            We were there earlier today too. :)

            Great as usual.

        2. I love this place. My favourites are: banh xeo, canh chua (sour soup - so full of veg & fish!), banh khot, chicken wings, and lotus salad (thanks for the reminder of that, yuyu!).

          I actually do like the pho there - I find they are generous with the meat, and it's one of the few places where the rare beef stays tender even after cooking in the soup.

          5 Replies
          1. re: twinkienic

            I like the pho here too! One of the best in town IMO.

            1. re: fmed

              They also have some dishes with banana blossoms - small flowers with a very light banana flavour.

            2. re: twinkienic

              Haven't tried the canh chua yet, thanks for the tip, twinkie! The bo luc lac is also very good here and is served on a bed of watercress, the only place I've seen that touch (I gather it is traditional). We tried the oyster omelette last night too and found it rather bland. There are so many solid dishes here that I don't mind occasional slight misses.

              Re the pho, my SO is a fan of it here as well so of course it's just personal preference. I have noticed a tendency to overcook noodles here from time to time which has affected my response to the pho and even to the bun dishes.

              I was chatting with the friendly young fellow who is always there and he said they are looking for a second location further west (woot!) that would serve a much more limited menu so stay tuned.

              1. re: grayelf

                Man, if they set up a small place with a limited menu that looked like Meat & Bread, that would kick ass.

                1. re: grayelf

                  Hai Phong has expanded to Chinatown! They have a spot on Keefer Place with a more limited menu that opened two weeks ago. I will be in to check it out soon. They are taking resos at both places which is handy. Still our favourite Vietnamese in town.

              2. Just came back from a solo lunch at Hai Phong. Chicken wings were stellar and the Bun Rieu I had was pretty darn tasty too. My first ever bun rieu though, so can't really say whether or not it was a good version of it. Balance was nice between the shrimp paste and the porkiness from the trotter and blood.

                2 Replies
                1. re: peter.v

                  Good to have a recent report on their bun rieu! Agree that the wings have been better even than usual lately. So good last Tuesday we wished we had ordered the large, even though we had a ton of food for two people. Drat, now I want some for dinner :-).

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Yeah, I was tempted to order a second round... but decided I shouldn't always be a glutton.

                2. Thanks for the information about this grayelf! I just checked and it looks like it is accessible by public transit from our hotel on Burrard. I'll add it to our list for places to try when we get to Vancouver in October!

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: dimsumgirl

                    If you are taking SkyTrain eastbound from the Burrard Station (doesn't matter if the train is the Expo Line or Millennium Line), get off at Stadium-Chinatown Station and you're practically there :-D


                    1. re: LotusRapper

                      My pleasure. As LR says, very Skytrain-adjacent. It's in the same plaza as T'n'T in case you fancy some pan-Asian groceries, decent chasiu or Chinese baked goods. If we make it there before you come I'll post. Parking is a bit of a bear in that area and as we usually drive, I suspect we'll mostly continue to go to the original.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        You think T&T has decent chasiu, GE ?

                        1. re: LotusRapper

                          Okay maybe decent is overstating it: they HAVE chasiu ;-). Just remembered that Taishoken the new outpost of a Japanese tsukemen/ramen chain recently opened on Abbot which is v. close to the new Hai Phong as well, in case dimsumgirl's group wants to double down on Asian soups!

                          1. re: LotusRapper

                            HK bbq master and Leeloy are my two favourites for chasiu. I had amazing cha siu fan at Kam gok yuen once but it was mediocre during my second visit. #9 is my idea of decent (and sometimes good). Most other places I have had cha siu are disappointing.

                            1. re: quddous

                              I may be out to lunch but I could swear the name has changed on Kam Gok Yuen. I made a mental note of it today as I went by but obviously that was not successful :-(.

                              HKBBM is my favourite by a fair piece. Next best for me is Parker Place BBQ. I like Dollar Meat best in Chinatown, though Le Loy is also worthy. But they are all lesser than HKBBM, especially the one-two punch of roast pork and half-half chasiu to go!

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Money's charsiu is pretty good, and I like their Fraser St's store's more than the Chinatown one on Gore.

                                Master Hung (yeah yeah I know it's funny) in Richmond has good charsiu and roast pork:



                                Sorry for the Chinese BBQ derailment of this thread. Back to Hai Phong ......

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Daisy Garden is the new awning. Haven't popped in to see if it's the same folks.

                                  1. re: peter.v

                                    Daisy Garden *is*, and always has been, KGY's name, in English:


                                    kam gok = 金菊 = daisy
                                    yuen = 園 = garden

                                    Maybe just a new awning "rebranding" themselves in English, to embrace the Hipsters ? ;-)

                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                      I definitely wondered that. Sad to see the old awning go... But at least I can keep calling it Kam Gok Yuen.

                          2. re: LotusRapper

                            Thank you for the specific directions. We are trying to do this trip without rental cars. So mostly public transit. I need to print out what you sent me so I have it. Thank you.

                        2. Gonna check out the new Hai Phong. What are their best dishes, in all your humble opinions?

                          10 Replies
                              1. re: grayelf

                                Moyenchow might post about it, but here are some of my thoughts:

                                - it's new and clean! (they've only been open 3 weeks)
                                - the most comfortable I've been in a Vietnamese restaurant ;)
                                - the condiment spoons have a cool shape so they don't fall into the chili and get all sticky.
                                - they don't have bun xeo, and will possible trim down the menu a bit more to help expedite things in their smaller, electric-only kitchen.
                                - we had the Hu Tieu (dry noodle with both rice noodle and egg noodle), Bun Rieu (shrimp & crab paste noodle soup), Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) and the Garlic Butter Chicken Wings.
                                - Hu Tieu was good. Nice having both kinds of noodles in it. Saucing is good. I prefer Green Lemongrass' version a bit more than this one cuz GL gives that prawn fritter thing and also fried lard bits, and is saucier too.
                                - Bun Bo Hue wasn't anywhere near my mother-in-law's rendition, but that's to be expected in a restaurant. It's just too intensive a dish to do well in a restaurant that also does a bajillion other dishes too. Soup lacked lemongrass and pig's feet. MSG a bit too much imho.
                                - Bun Rieu was the best soup noodle dish we had. Moyenchow can comment on that one ;)
                                - Chicken wings were good but as far as chicken wings go, I prefer Longtail Kitchen's wings. Although in a group setting, if someone ordered these, I wouldn't pass on a wing or two.

                                Here's shots of the menu. Hope it's readable.

                                1. re: dennisthefoodie

                                  Thanks! I'm glad they are thinking of paring down the online menu a bit more if they have limited cooking space. I much prefer to have fewer items better done. I'm a sucker for their wings at the original location and find them much better than Phnom Penh's but haven't tried Longtail's yet.

                                  1. re: dennisthefoodie

                                    Hey Dennis, how does their Hu Tieu compare to Phnom Penh's ? (who is in close proximity)

                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                      I actually haven't been to Phnom Penh for years ^_^'

                                      I have had Cuu Long's Hu Tieu though...Cuu Long's has more protein stuff in it but a bit less sauce. In a mental Hu Tieu showdown, Hai Phong and Cuu Long are tied with Green Lemongrass a bit higher.

                                    2. re: dennisthefoodie

                                      The Bun Rieu is an umami lover's dream. The soup was complex with many flavour elements yet it was very light and easy to eat.

                                      When it arrived, you can smell the aromatic shrimp paste wafting up from the soup; very appetizing.

                                      They use many traditional ingredients such as banana blossoms, morning glory, the globs of crab meat that's enhance with dried shrimp and cubes of pig's blood.

                                      However they have made one concession on the dish; they use cubes of hock meat (it least comes with pig skin attached) I think instead of a piece of pig feet.

                                      I think it's an understandable adjustment given its downtown location and potential customer base.

                                      Chicken wings were good with a good taste of butter.

                                      I'm giving them props for trying to make Bun Xeo but then taking it off the menu when they realize they couldn't make it properly. For me that shows commitment to serving good food.

                                      1. re: moyenchow

                                        If bun xeo is the same as bahn xeo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A1n... then I'm sad because I like that dish a lot at the other Hai Phong (going on Tuesday and that is in my crosshairs!). Maybe they have gas burners there though...

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          Yes we are referring to the same dish.

                                          The new Hai Phong in Crosstown across from the Chinatown T&T is working on an electric stove top and a small kitchen. They have a much smaller and pared down menu in comparison to the mothership location on Kingsway.

                                          The main Kingsway location has a gas powered kitchen so that's why you can get Bahn Xeo there.

                                          Same family runs both, so it should be happy eating for you on Tuesday despite the absence of Banh Xeo.

                                          Report back, especially if you have an Avocado shake.

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            GE: So looking forward to Tuesday's meal here (Kingsway)! Every time I look at your photos I drool over those wings & everything else for that matter...