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Aug 5, 2014 11:33 AM

Any Intel on Mr. Red?

Just saw a couple of blurbs in the twitter-verse and curious to TOFTT tonite. Any recommendations?

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  1. I remember seeing a sign at the counter saying that they are closed today (Aug 5).

    Went Sunday with a friend and we had the Chicken Pho, Crab Spring Rolls and Bun Cha. Everything was fresh and a very sizable portion. The biggest thing I noticed was that the flavours were more understated and balanced. For example, the dip for the Crab Spring Roll was sweet but not overwhelming. You actually taste the other elements of the dip.

    The lady that runs the show, is very sweet and very proud of their food. She will explain how to eat everything and answer any questions you have.

    I actually plan to return as there later in the week. There were a few items that I wanted to try like the sticky rice and steamed crepes.

    Some things to be aware of:
    -Some of the menus have not been updated to include the Bun Cha dish and other dishes. The Bun Cha is #46. Updated menus have white labels with the new dishes.

    -Bring some patience if it's busy. It's a family run business with only the lady greeting, serving and cleaning up. So when it gets busy like the night I went, the service was very chaotic.

    However the lady felt so bad not being there to personally explain our dishes to us and not seating us right away, she gave us a discount on a bill.

    I feel that's the only area they need to work on. They probably need to hire one more person to help out on the floor as I think they are going to be swamped with customers because of their tasty food.

    3 Replies
    1. re: moyenchow

      That's my impression of Northern Viet flavours. It is more subtle.
      The Bun Cha and Crab Spring Rolls are defo on my list to try. Was the Chicken Pho noteworthy?
      I did call, no reply, will try again before heading out. Thanks for the heads up.
      FWIW, would you personally recomend this over Hai Phong crosstown?

      1. re: betterthanbourdain

        My friend had the Chicken Pho and she thought the broth was cleaner and lighter but still flavorful in comparison to other chicken phos she had. They use dark meat with skin attached. So a little different.

        One more thing to note, the Lady (should of asked for her name) was very emphatic that they do not use MSG or too much sugar in their food. I would tend to agree as I felt fine after our meal there.

        Regarding the New Hai Phong, yes I would recommend it and specifically the Bun Rieu. Also a small space, but very nicely decorated; felt more like a cafe than a Vietnamese restaurant.

        However not sure if could say one is better than the other since one is Northern food and the other is Southern food. If open, I would go Mr. Red as Northern Vietnamese is not as common in the city.

        1. re: moyenchow

          The non usage of MSG is a big plus IMHO. I'm still thirsty after dinner at Amigo last nite. The problem is most resto use the cheap msg. And many cooks lack the good sense in building flavors which take time and skill.
          Bun Rieu!, thanks for the recommendation.
          According to the inter-webs the owner's are Rose in the front and husband Hong cooking.
          Would prob order and item something with their pate, most like the the sticky rice.
          And their fresh rice roll....

    2. I have become a bit of a regular at Mr. Red lately. No complaints about any of the items that I've tried so far. A few of my favourites are the sweet & sour mango salad, the Bun Bo Hue, the spicy pate banh mi, the sticky rice with pate and chicken, the deep fried crab meat rolls, and the bun cha.
      The actual menu seriously needs a rewrite, and as moyenchow mentioned, there are many handwritten additions and deletions, as well as some items are now being offered as either an appie or an entree (the crab rolls). You really need to have a discussion with your server before ordering.
      Also, have to agree with moyenchow on the service - they really need more staff up front whenever it gets busy, which has been quite often this last month or so.
      Here are a few reviews that have been posted lately:

      11 Replies
      1. re: Scoffier

        Thanks for the update. Can you elaborate on the appie or entree sizing option? I was quite surprised that my crab meat spring roll was an entree.

        Which dishes have you been able downsized to appie portion? Can they all be downsized? Curious if that can be done for the sticky rice.

        Also have you had the dish that looks like a small mound of sheets of rice flour noodles? I didn't have chance to ask the poor lady what the dish was, as it was super busy.

        1. re: moyenchow

          Hey moyen, I just posted a pic of the app sized crab rolls -- the entrée comes with noodles I think. The sticky rice seemed to come in only one size, which was not giant but not chintzy either. I'd be curious to know what the dish you couldn't ID was as well!

          1. re: moyenchow

            As far as I know, it's just the crab spring rolls and the chicken wings that are available both ways, however I've never asked whether any of the other dishes can be had in both sizes.
            Sorry I can't help you on the mound of sheets of rice flour noodles query. I wonder if it might be the the pyramidal rice dumpling mentioned below by grayelf? I've never seen this dish, so it's just a wild guess.

            1. re: Scoffier

              The pyramidal rice dumpling is very definitely a pyramid! No sheets, it's a solid mass about 3.5 inches tall.

          2. re: Scoffier

            We went on Saturday, calling ahead a bit to secure a 6:45 reso, which was a good idea. Our table and one other were the only ones available when we arrived, and there was soon a lineup outside.

            Armed with some notes from this thread and the Flavortown blog, we ordered several dishes and enjoyed most of it, though were not blown away. I did notice that the menus we were given weren't updated at all, so it was lucky I'd done a bit of homework. One thing to note is that they have a number of banh mi, not just the two listed in the menu.

            We were not offered any tea which was a shame as I understand they have pandan tea which I like very much. The room was quite cool which was good to note on a warm day with no a/c. I knew enough to order the app size of the crab roll even though it was not on the menu, and this dish was the highlight of the meal for me. The wrapper is sort of like phyllo as Sean noted, and the filling was delicate and tasted of crab. Even better than the dipping sauce alone was the sauce mixed with some of that fantastic vinegar, chile and garlic on the table. Ima hafta try and recreate that concoction at home as it made everything we had better. I also liked that they included what tasted like lemon balm leaves along with the mint and other herbs -- haven't seen that before.

            The SO wanted to try their pho, and I talked him into the Bún Gà Dặc Biệt (special combination of vermicelli, chicken, pork balls and dried mushroom in soup). The noodles are much thinner than the typical southern offering, and the broth was clearer, though it had a significant layer of fat on the top that my beloved wasn't crazy about. I thought the flavour was excellent, nice and "round" with lots of depth. I didn't try any of the meaty bits but I loved the addition of cilantro and the lack of white onions. No fried doughnut arrived, alas -- I love the Chinese version, yao tiao, and was looking forward to comparing.

            I think I must have had my first pho at a Northern Vietnamese resto without realizing. It was many moons ago at a place on St Denis in Montreal, and it had cilantro. Took me years to get over the disappointment of not finding my favourite herb on pho at home, and having to make do with that upstart, basil ;-).

            Another of the SO's usual faves, Bánh Bột Lọc Lá Chuối (tapioca dumplings wrapped in banana leaves) was a bit disappointing as the pieces were too large and the filling less tasty than others we've had. Much improved by a dip in the vinegar!

            We tried to order another of his go tos, the banh cuon, but they were out of it. So I got the sticky rice with chicken and pate. Neither of us were excited about this dish -- it had a hint of a spice I associate with east Indian food, and I don't like liver, so not ideal for me. The SO found it a bit bland, which again was helped by the vinegar. This is the one dish we didn't finish. I did like it better with the carrots and daikon.

            My durian and coconut milk drink was tasty if a little light on the durian.

            One newish thing they have is the pyramidal rice dumpling, which looked worthy at the table next to us. It's only listed on acrylic table cards.

            Service was very pleasant if scattered and diminishing as it got busier. There was a second person providing FOH support, but the owner still commented on how busy they were, so not sure what the answer will be with only seven or so tables. Three servers would be silly.

            1. re: grayelf

              Nice write up, GE!

              LOL, nice "that upstart, basil"

              I was actually wondering if that wrapper for the Crab Spring Roll is not a rice wrapper but something else like a bean curd sheet since it has a different text and appearance.

              1. re: moyenchow

                I wondered that too but didn't think to ask. It was so light and crispy it's hard to imagine it could be bean curd (which I love but have never had done so thin). I'd go back for that dish and to find out!

              2. re: grayelf

                I wonder if this sudden success will be bad for them in a way...

                1. re: dennisthefoodie

                  Bad for me, lineup wise :-)
                  I hope they will be able to cope with the increasing number of customers - I wish them a well deserved success.

                  1. re: dennisthefoodie

                    You mean like the "Groupon" effect, people rush there and it overwhelms the business leading to poorer experience than the restaurant can normally execute, which ensues a backlash?


                    The "Bo Laska" effect where all these people show up because of the buzz and the owner gets a false sense of the demand for their food. They expand but the people move on to the next trendy food item and they are left with an empty restaurant?


                    The "Kimura" effect which Scoffier mentions below, they get the buzz and manage to retain the large customer base. As a result, the people who discovered it get shut out because it becomes impossible to get a table anymore?

                    It's a tricky balance: you want them have the publicity so they can thrive but hope for the best it doesn't overwhelm them.

                    We going to find out if they can cope, with both fmed putting them on his Eater Banh Mi list and Eater having them on their heat map.

                    To be honest, the lady is so nice and food is tasty, so I do hope they succeed. I do hope they get an extra person to help out in front.

                    1. re: moyenchow

                      As I mentioned, there were two people FOH on Saturday night.

                      I checked out fmed's banh mi post of today on Eater Van which looks great. Alas, the link to his website is spelled incorrectly so doesn't work.

              3. Mr. Red just got written up in the Globe and Mail. You guys are good!


                4 Replies
                1. re: dimples_323

                  Thanks for the linkage -- some good details in there: rice vinegar in the jars, and fresh turmeric (not tumeric!) juice in the sticky rice.

                  Sounds like they may indeed be having some consistency issues as she complains of the wrapper on the crab roll and that was a highlight when we were there.

                  I need to go back for the bun cha, the stir-fried beef rolls and of course another order of the crab rolls and another durian shake.

                  Glad to be reminded of nearby Tamam, which I still haven't made it too. Will have to wait till after Aug 28 as their website says they are on summer break till then.

                    1. re: dimples_323

                      It may not be as bad as we feared it terms of the "hungry hordes" descending onto the place. I went by the place both Saturday and Sunday in between 2 - 3 pm and it wasn't busy. I think dinner service maybe busy but I'm thinking afternoons might not be bad.

                      Also if we going to point out issues with Gill's piece the veg in the Bun Cha dipping sauce is carrots and papaya, not daikon. Texture seemed off for daikon so were asked the lady and she told us it was papaya.

                      1. re: moyenchow

                        Oh, cool, I thought it was a bit different but just put it down to another kind/length of pickling (not exactly up on my canning processes, LOL).

                        Really wish I'd thought to ask what they used for the wrapper on the crab roll. Phyllo is what I thought of too.