Imperial Court Beijing Cuisine – Richmond, BC


Imperial Court Beijing Cuisine
6360 No. 3 Rd
Suite 6
Richmond, BC V6Y 2B3
(604) 270-6169

Imperial Court Beijing Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Richmond BC, as many people already know, is a great place to eat Chinese food. Chinese restaurants of varying quality dot the city – specially around the main drag of Number Three Road. When it comes to breakfast spots – it is a real challenge to find anything worthy to eat. The choices seem limited to chain restaurants such as the Whitepot, the IHOP, and similarly mediocre restaurants.

I was running errands early one chilly morning and I wanted to have breakfast….so I drove up to Imperial Court Beijing Cuisine, a restaurant that I knew served dim sum at 8:00 am. Nice.

tea

Dim sum for breakfast? Sure…why not? People in the West think of dim sum as a lunchtime experience. In China (Hong Kong in particular) and other countries in Asia, dim sum is most certainly a breakfast meal. Dim Sum restaurants there open very early and often stop serving at noon. Here in Canada (and the US) most places that serve dim sum often start serving at 10:00am or 11:00am and stop at 3:00pm.

Imperial Court Beijing Cuisine is a mid-sized restaurant situated in one of Richmond’s oldest strip malls. It is somewhat upscale – it is clean, the tables have nice linen  and they are set with nice white porcelain settings. Like most dim sum restaurants these days, Imperial Court uses order sheets instead the once ubiquitous cart service.

At little after 8:00am on a weekday when I walked in, the restaurant was well staffed – having two “captains” and about four servers. I sat down and ordered a small meal. The captain asked for my tea preference – jasmine, I said. Using the green order sheet, I ordered some Sou (flakey pastry) with Char Sui (BBQ Pork), Chao Fun (Rice Noode Rolls) filled with enoki mushrooms, and Congee with Pork and Century Egg.

The Sou pastry dish came first. Imperial Court’s rendition of this dish is coated with a shiny and sticky syrup – so sticky that with each bite, a bit of the pastry stuck to your teeth. I notice that some of their other buns were similarly coated with this shiny syrup. They looked beautiful…almost like porcelain orbs. The BBQ Pork filling tasted fresh and tender…and not as “porky” as the others I have had.

dimsum1

I didn’t get a picture of the dipping sauce, but now I wish I had in restrospect. In my opinion, dipping sauces are the unsung heroes of the dim sum universe. It can really make or break the whole dining experience for me. In this case, Imperial Court’s dipping sauce was a sweet, but thin soya sauce concoction. It was a nice balance between sweet and salty and it had subtle notes of spice (perhaps some anise or five spice).

dimsum2

The Rice Noodle Rolls came in quick succession. The noodles tasted freshly made – soft, tender, and still resilient. The enoki mushroom filling, while delicious, was a bit unwieldy as bits of it fell out as I tried to pick up a piece. (The kitchen had failed to completely cut through the rolls).

dimsum3

The last dish was the Congee with Cooked Pork and Century Egg. The rendition came with an embellishment of deep fried wonton skin and scallion. It was good and creamy. On a cold day, it was definitley hitting the spot.

congee-copy

All in all a nice meal for under $10 CAD including tax. Unlike a “regular” breakfast – I didn’t leave feeling bloated and greasy. I asked myself why I don’t eat dim sum for breakfast more often.

Imperial Court Beijing Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Ginseng II Korean BBQ Restaurant – Las Vegas, NV


Ginseng II Korean BBQ Restaurant
3765 South Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 891 8403

Ginseng II Korean BBQ Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Along The Strip, you can still find a proper non-hotel affiliated, family-run, ethnic restaurant… if you look carefully. One of them can be found in a building recessed behind a small mall housing some shops selling tacky Vegas trinkets, beside the MGM Grand and across the street from the Monte Carlo. Ginseng II Korean BBQ Restaurant is not visible from the street, and if it were not for the large digital signage that flashed Korean Hangul that I saw while driving by on the first day of my recent stay, I would not have know there was a restaurant back there. I noted it in my memory and revisited the area on foot the following day.

Once inside, I asked the waitress why the “II” was noted in their name; she remarked that they have their first establishment in Los Angeles, and this is their second venture. Being the entertainment city that it is, I immediately noticed that some of the handwritten autographs tacked to a wall near the front cashier were for some of the biggest names in Korean entertainment, such as one from the actor Jang Dong-Kun. A far cry from the B-list actors and singers you see on the same autograph boards in Vancouver’s Korean restaurants.

Seated in a comfortable booth that could easily seat six people, we ordered from the menu a pair of dishes. Yes, I decided to continue my hunt for my most favorite edition of Soondubu outside of South Korea. At Ginseng, their creation was surprisingly good. I’d say I would rate it up there with my current favorite (from Insadong in Coquitlam, BC), with its depth of seafood flavor in the rich spicy broth, and plenty of delicious soft tofu adding that delicate texture to the mix. The only factor that would take them down a notch in the rankings would be the volume of various seafood bits inside, Insadong has a slight edge here.

The Yukejang (spicy beef soup) comprised of a watery and slightly sour but mainly spicy broth that included shredded beef, tang myun (clear noodles) and an assortment of vegetables such as gosari namul (bracken fiddleheads), and green onions was as expected. A relatively straightforward dish, that is less fiery in comparison to the Soondubu, begins to taste overly “beefy” if eaten to the very last drop. For me, this begins to be a turnoff towards the end of the meal, as the meatiness of the dish just lingers on my taste buds. No complaints though on how it was prepared, as there was nothing out of the ordinary from versions of this that I’ve tasted in Seoul.

Should you ever find yourself on Las Vegas Blvd., looking for a reprieve from all the casino buffets, and having a craving for barbecue meat Korean-style, Ginseng is your place as well. The table of tourists next to us were cooking up a flaming storm and the aromas were very enticing. Meat on a grill though, how could you go wrong? I am aware of other Korean restaurants off the Strip, but I have not visited any of them. Perhaps I’ll save that for another trip…

Ginseng II Korean BBQ Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Café Gelato – Las Vegas, NV


Café Gelato (Ice Cream & Sweets)
@ Bellagio Las Vegas
3600 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
1 888 987 6667

Café Gelato (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

You’d think that in December in Las Vegas, one would probably avoid cold sweets, especially when we actually had snow in the city – a rare occurrence for Sin City. But after a lot of walking around in heated buildings, something cool was highly sought after. Café Gelato with its large glass display case showing an assortment of tantalizing gelato flavors, appeared like an oasis in the massive Bellagio hotel.

I have to admit, ice cream and gelato are probably my most favorite dessert. As bad as it is for you, I have a hard time controlling my cravings when it comes to this stuff. I even have a bad memory of attempting (and finishing) the legendary “4×4″ at Baskin Robbins back in the day – which included four scoops and four toppings in one single serving. So I surprised myself by just asking for a single scoop ($4.75) of the refreshingly cool mango flavor.

For me, the balance of just how soft gelato is makes a big difference to me. Too soft and it reminds me of a slightly runny milkshake, too hard and its just ice cream. Thankfully Café Gelato had it down pat. Still solid enough that it wasn’t like soft serve ice cream, and a strong intense natural flavor that reminded me of the ripe mango fruits that I have eaten in places like southern India and Thailand this past year. Despite its appearance, the single serving cup was more than enough due to the richness and density of the gelato. Either that or I am slowing down in my ice treats consumption as I get older – there is no way I could even face that 4×4 today.

The Raspberry Brownie ($6.00) was pleasantly not overwhelmingly sweet as if often the case. Again, as with gelato, I am a bit fussy when it comes to how “thick” brownies are. Here, it was pretty good in terms of that contrast between the sticky moist goodness of the inside and the crumbly exterior. For those who don’t like their brownie way too sugary, this is a good option.

Being that it is Vegas and in one of the more expensive casino hotels, the price point was a big high. The small latte I had also went for a generous $5.50, making me think I should have gotten my caffeine fix at the better looking café across the hallway at Palio. But for those fortunate to have some winnings at the tables, I suppose it really doesn’t matter what you pay in this town.

Café Gelato (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

IHOP Restaurant – Las Vegas, NV


IHOP Restaurant
7490 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 617 0077

IHOP on Urbanspoon

I recently read that approximately two-thirds of American adults are considered obese. That’s a pretty striking statistic.

I know that Las Vegas cannot seriously be considered an accurate sample of a population, given that a good part of it that you see in public, are visitors from out of state, or out of country. For anyone who’s ever been there, you know that the availability of large quantities (and varying quality) of food in “America’s Playground” is a 24/7 proposition. Being responsible, meaning not overeating, can be a challenge with the never ending temptations from the numerous restaurants and all-you-can-eat buffets especially along Las Vegas Boulevard. And with most people staying awake for longer hours each day, it also leaves the possibility of sneaking in a few more snacks than usual. All a deadly combination for those who want to avoid gaining significant weight during a vacation.

With that in mind, on my recent trip to Sin City, I tried to keep an eye on what I was eating. For some reason, during my whole stay, I didn’t feel like having more than two meals a day – which was probably helped by my getting up a bit later each day than I usually do at home. I had in mind some potential places to eat during the time I was there, but in the end, I completely ignored my list and just ate when I was hungry, someplace close by at the time, and I tried to keep it simple and affordable. I can hear the Foodosopher groaning at me already for passing on some of his suggestions (although the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay was shut down due to lack of power). (SMILE)

The International House of Pancakes (better known as IHOP) has been in business for fifty years and according to their website, they have 1,375 IHOP restaurants located in 49 US states, Canada and Mexico. 14 of those are in Las Vegas, and I was surprised to learn that 12 exist in British Columbia. Until this trip, I have never stepped foot in any of them. In fact my only exposure to it was probably seeing it appear in the feature film staring Sean Penn, “I am Sam”. My breakfast choices, when I even choose to have this morning meal, is usually a combination of some toast and coffee. Not since my high school days have I really had a huge appetite in the morning, and thus this bare bones combination tides me over til lunchtime. Driving up the Strip at the noon hour in search of some caffeine to start my day, I spotted the distinct sign and decided I’d make my virgin visit to the place that boasts serving up “700 million pancakes per year”.

Believing that the crepes at least would be on the lighter side, I chose something off the “international crepes” section of the menu in the Danish Fruit Crepes. I should have stopped it right there, but when asked for what topping I wanted, I looked down and said “cool strawberry”, with the warm blueberry, and the cinnamon apple being left aside. What was a light meal turned into a heavily sugar coated mess, as the strawberry compote just overwhelmed the more delicate crepes. I wish it had come in a separate pouring container rather than lathered on top by the kitchen. Add in the squirts of cream cheese, and the dollop of whipped cream, it was a sucrose bonanza that I would have preferred to have avoided.

Also at our table was the Double Blueberry Pancakes, which I had a taste of and frankly don’t see what the fuss is about. If this place is known for pancakes and this is their offering, I am puzzled by the apparent success of this franchise which uses this as their flagship dish.

Lastly, the simple combination of eggs and hash, was the most comforting dish that I had some bites from. Perhaps its my advancing age, but for breakfast, I am into more savory items rather than anything sweet anymore. And will remind myself of this the next time I am having my morning meal outside. IHOP sure was a popular place though, as the room was packed with people, and with all the other breakfast/brunch places in town, this was pretty surprising. I suppose its capitalizing on its strong name value in America, and the de facto choice in some households for their breakfast fix. With the size of servings, heavy influx of sugar in many of their dishes, I think this is working to contribute to that obesity figure that is plaguing modern day society in this part of the world.

IHOP on Urbanspoon

Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe – Vancouver, BC


Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe
2095 W. 4th Ave
Vancouver, BC
(604) 732 6810

Sophie's Cosmic Cafe on Urbanspoon

It seems to me that over the past several years, especially in food-related media, good old fashioned comfort food has achieved a heightened status as a style of cooking. Perhaps its the back-to-basics movement that has taken root in many aspects of our lives amid all the growing interjections of technology, busy work/life schedules, and the sense that the world is becoming too fast too soon for many of us. With the progression of time through generations though, there are always some things that remain constant, and for a lot of people when it comes to food, it is simple, home cooking that reminds us to enjoy our lives to the fullest and try to be happy in the process.  We all have our personal favorites.

This new found respect for comfort food stretches across cultures. I was re-watching a television documentary that followed the journey that Ryori no Tatsujin (Iron Chef) Masaharu Morimoto took before opening his New York outlet of his restaurant “Morimoto”. In the months ahead of their opening, for his prime investor Stephen Starr, Morimoto presented a sampling of some menu items he was planning to put on the menu. Surprising to me, this test run included a version of Nikujaga (literally translated as Meat-Potato) – a sweet broth flavored dish that combines thin slices of beef with rough cut potatoes and other vegetables, and is a common Japanese home cooked meal that differs from household to household (based on the recipe passed down through a family over generations). Whether this incorporation of home cooking into more formal restaurants translates into an actual trend in other high end/fine dining establishments, remains to be seen. It was interesting to hear Morimoto say that he feels this dish will go over well, given its sweet properties, and the history of dishes such as sukiyaki and teriyaki-flavored creations being popular in North America. Some interviews with day one customers confirmed this impression.

For comfort food in Vancouver, a popular spot in Kitsilano is Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe. Celebrating their 20th year of business in 2008, this business managed by the Dikeakos family is located on busy 4th avenue and is well known even for non-Vancouverites when visiting the west coast. On weekends, lineups out the door are commonplace – though I often wonder just who is in that que: devout neighourhood loyalists, curious tourists, or a mix of both? For those that know me, waiting in line is not something that I enjoy doing, so every opportunity that I’ve had to try this place out and its had a wait, I’ve kept walking/driving by. But this winter holiday season, I managed to pick a late afternoon weekday to swing by and get a seat inside without a great deal of waiting (no lineup outside but standing in the entranceway, it still did take a while to get noticed and given a table – more thoughts on the service later). With an interesting decor, I suppose I kept myself interested by scanning the walls of old school sports pendants, lunch box pails, etc. that were strung up on the walls. I don’t get the “cosmic” naming though, as there was nothing really “space-age” about the decorations.

As it was approaching four in the afternoon, I figured at this hour I wasn’t interested in their breakfast items. My dining companion did however give the Spanish Omelette a try. Filled with classic ingredients such as diced bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, the layers of egg were nice and light, and it came out hot. No complaints from the bites of it that I had, and the side potato hash was well seasoned and crispy, though overall it wasn’t that “OMG, this is amazing!” kind of food that you can get with some diners putting out home cooking. Should I come back, I will surely give the breakfast offerings a more thorough investigation, to see if there is anything that I could come back for, time and time again (which I suspect some customers must do).

My own selection of the house Steak Sandwich was less than comforting. Under-seasoned, tough, and cooked all the way through (though I had asked it not to be done as such when I ordered), it was fairly thin as well, and thus overwhelmed by the three times thicker slices of bread it was served on (one side had been garnished with slices of lettuce, tomatoes and red onions). The side salad which I chose was quite poor – the green leafy vegetables felt like they’d been sitting on the kitchen counter all day as they were really dried out, and the dressing just squirts from some Kraft bottle.

In joints like this, I have this stereotype in my head of really robust, fast, engaging staff who are quick to seat you, take your order, make sure you are refilled with coffee without prompting, and a true sense of wanting to make sure you’ve had a satisfying meal. Our waitress was jovial and fast when asked for items (e.g. extra cream, etc.) although the food coming out of the kitchen was slower than I had hoped. Without a really full room, I wondered what happens when its one of those really busy brunch servings with people out the door. Or perhaps that explains the lineups? I’m also thinking that part of the “popularity” arises from really strong competition in the neighborhood for good solid comfort food. Other than Joe’s Grill up the street, I can’t recall any similar establishments, that could steal away customers. Are people buying the long standing tradition, the unique sounding name, thinking that if there is a lineup that it must be good eats? All of these I’ve tossed in my head, as frankly, I was left with a disappointing experience and was glad that I hadn’t lined up outside for this meal…

[Apologies for the poor picture quality with this post - all images taken with a mobile phone in really bad lighting]

Sophie's Cosmic Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant – Richmond, BC


Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant
#102, 4940 No. 3 Road
Richmond, BC
(604) 876 1638

Sun Sui Wah (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

Go to where you know.

In this case, it could apply to one’s stable consideration set of restaurants when heading out to have a meal. It may be formed by factors such as proximity convenience, local knowledge of the geographic area, familiarity with the chef/cook/menu, or just simply knowing that you or your dining companions have had satisfying eating experiences there in the past. With this latter point, just how far back should one go back in time? One month? A year? Perhaps more?

I recently had a reunion with an old college friend. With the convenience of email, we’d managed to keep in touch off and on, and I had a general sense of his whereabouts and his mine. Given my often crazy global travel schedule, and his much more family-centered sedentary lifestyle, it seemed we could never meet in person over the past ten years. When we found out that we’d both be on the west coast at the same time (as he was coming up from the States for a holiday), it was easy to arrange a date to meet. But where?

During his youth, he had told me he had spent some years in Richmond, BC. It also seemed to be convenient for my friend given his planned accommodations in the nearby area, but with my limited knowledge of the restaurant scene there and no friends who could guide me (especially of the Cantonese speaking/reading variety), I was hesitant to name a place (and was subconsciously thinking of not selecting any place I’d previously reviewed on Foodosophy.

So in asking my friend if he knew any place or recalled one from his past, the first one that came out of his mouth was Sun Sui Wah. Not a big surprise I thought in my head, as its been around for a long time and has a strong name awareness among anyone who’s been to Vancouver (refer to Foodosopher’s earlier post on the Dim Sum offering at their Main St. location). I agreed, given I knew where it was, and he was comfortable in getting there again after spending the earlier part of the day in downtown Vancouver with his family, and it would be easy for them to get back to their hotel after our dinner.

After meeting in the restaurant lobby, we were led inside and I was immediately struck by how busy the place was, and how we were fortunate to get a table without a reservation. I am not in a position to say this is always the case, but with a 6pm seating, there was an ample crowd already dining. Most of the parties were larger groups of six or more, which looked like large extended Asian family gatherings as several generations were represented at virtually every table. While going through the menu at our table, I noticed several servers bringing out big baskets of fresh fish and Alaskan King Crab which were then shown to diners before being carted away back to the kitchen for preparation. How much bait and switch is going on, is unknown to me. But whenever I see this practice, I can’t help but think of used car salesmen and back alley electronics dealers.

With a pair of children under ten years of age at our table, I left it to the family to order knowing how fickle some children can be. To my surprise, the little one of three years of age, is a big seafood fan, especially scallops, which we had in a stir-fry with broccoli. Big plump scallops and the accompanying vegetables were just as large, and a vibrant green color. Perhaps a touch on the oily side (as can be seen from the shiny appearance from the image) though. I always try to match a dish like this with some kind of starch that can aid in covering up the oily feeling in your mouth by just eating something like this on its own, or with cups of hot tea.

The idea of trying some of their popular roasted squab came up, but in the end we declined. In its place, we chose the Peking Duck (two ways) with the first course of just the skin served with Chinese pancakes, sliver thin spring onions and a thick sweet Hoisin sauce. The skin had that nice filmy and crispy crunch texture and given that I haven’t had it in a long time, I found that I still liked it – but I don’t necessarily crave it on a regular basis.

The second course of the duck meat was served with lettuce leaves and was probably my favorite dish on this evening. Not overly seasoned and just the true flavors of the duck meat came through. Again, my liking this dish was no doubt due in part to the fact that its been so long since I’ve last had it. But I am sure there are other places that readers will say is better, and would love to hear from you for the next time I have the craving for Peking duck two-ways in the GVA.

The other dishes we had, a chicken and red/green pepper stir-fry and a basic fried rice were both quite pedestrian, but also kid friendly. I was really disappointed in the fried rice, as it was so bland and seemed overdone (eg. too many brittle/broken kernels of rice).

The decision to dine at Sun Sui Wah was based mainly on ease of access and familiarity. I asked my friend if his thoughts of this place had changed after many years away and he said it was quite as he remembered it. I didn’t want to press him further with my rather ordinary impressions of our meal, aside from the feeling I had on the duck after a long break in time since last eating it, and with that we parted ways. If I were asked to go again with other friends, I would probably try to convince them to check out other places along the same No. 3 road.

In other words, go where I don’t know.

Sun Sui Wah (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

Song Huong Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


Song Huong Restaurant
1613 Nanaimo Street
Vancouver, BC V5L 4T9
(604) 251-1151

Song Houng Vietnamese on Urbanspoon

Beef Seven Ways (or to use the wonderfully semiotic term: “Bo 7 Mon“) is a truly celebratory meal. In Vietnam, Bo 7 Mon is often served at weddings and any other special occasion where the overt display of largesse and bounty is important. The Vietnamese people’s love of beef is of course famous: Vietnam’s most loved contribution to our gastronomic scene – pho bo –  revolves around beef. Bo 7 Mon is something all carnivorous aficionados of Vietnamese food will appreciate. The best examples of this experience can be found in and around the Los Angeles area…and of course, Vietnam.

Song Huong is one of the rare Vietnamese restaurants in Vancouver that offers Bo 7 Mon….actually, it could be the only one. The other two that I know about are now long gone. The last time I had this dish in Vancouver was at a restaurant which has now been annexed to become a part of Les Faux Bourgousie , the new, hip, and oddly located French restaurant on Kingsway.

Song Huong - The Spread

Bo 7 Mon traditionally starts with Goi Bo a course of thinly sliced grilled beef served on top of shredded fresh vegetables.  Then the meal progresses through a series of beef dishes which usually includes Bo La Lot, a Beef Sausage wrapped in La Lot leaf. The individual beefy items are wrapped, along with condiments, herbs and vermicelli, into a rice paper roll. Finally, you dip this little parcel into a selection of sauces prior to eating it. Other courses could include Beef Wrapped Scallion, Beef with Rice Crackers, Beef Satay, and whatever else the chef decides to present. The meal traditionally ends with a Chao Bo – a type of Vietnamese Beef Congee.

Each time I have had Bo 7 Mon, some of the beef dishes that comprised the meal varied significantly… but it always started with Goi Bo, it always included Bo La Lot and it always ended with the Chao Bo. Song Huong’s rendition of this meal is fairly typical in this sense.

Song Huong’s Goi Bo course is served on a mound of daikon, carrots, and cabbage. The cooks added crushed, toasted peanuts which added a nice crunch.

Goi Bo

Three of the next courses came all at once as our waitress set a dish of three different types of grilled beef sausage: the  Bo La Lot, another sausage which is strongly lemongrassy and yet another which is sweet and garlicky. This is where I believe Song Huong had taken a shortcut by serving three sausages instead of varying it up a little. I would have preferred just the Bo La Lot and two other types of beef dishes to provide more contrast and variety. Perhaps a Beef Wrapped in Scallion and Beef with Rice Cracker would have been perfect here. As it was served, I thought that the three dishes were far too similar in flavour and texture to be truly considered three seperate courses.

Bo La Lot et al.

The next course is yet another dish made up of ground beef. I believe this one is supposed to simulate the commonly served course of Ground Beef Wrapped in Beef Caul (the fat surrounding the intestines). I would have loved to have a real version of this dish, but alas….

Pseudo Beef with Caul

The next course, the Hotpot, consists of a tender Beef Carpaccio which you dip into a simmering broth. The beef has been drizzled with a garlicky vinaigrette prepared with Nuoc Nam, the pungent Vietnamese Fish Sauce.

Carpaccio of Beef

The broth is a light concoction of water, Nuoc Nam, herbs, onions and spices. I like to cook my beef to just rare.

Hotpot

To begin assembly of a roll, you first reconstitute the dried rice paper by dipping it very briefly into a bowl of hot water. This quick bath will turn the brittle disk into a soft, pliant crepe. Leave it in the water too long and the rice paper will be too soft and will tear when you attempt to use it. Luckily, the waitress gives you more than enough of the dry rice paper so you can practice and perfect the timing of this water bath.

seven

On the rice paper goes vermicelli, some herbs, the current course of beef….

Beef Parcel

…Voila!

Rice Roll

One area that Song Huong  differentiates itself from other Vietnamese restaurants in town is in the quality and variety of their herb plate – Rau Song in Vietnamese. Those who have eaten in Vietnam will be familiar with this sight: the big mound of wild herbs and leafy greens on a platter placed in the middle of your table at the start of your meal. Over the course of the meal – the diners incorporate the various herbs into the dishes in varying proportions to add flavour and to vary the experience.

To me, the Rau Song provides Vietnamese cuisine  with much of its appeal: the food is at once intensely savory and crisply fresh….and it is highly interactive. Song Huong provides you with an abundant selection of unusual greens such as Rau Ram, Fish Mint, Spearmint, Vietnamese Balm, sliced Plantain, sliced Banana Heart, Vietnamese Pickled Scallions – along with the usual Mung Bean Sprouts, Lemongrass, Leaf Lettuce, Tomatos,  Cucumbers and Purple Basil.

Herb Plate

And finally the last course: Chao Bo…Vietnamese Beef Congee. The congee had a nice rich flavour and texture rivalling the best Cantonese congees in town. I can detect some spicy notes which probably means that the chef used some of the Pho stock. And the meal is now nicely rounded off.

fourteen

Overall, it was a very satisfying experience, despite the shortcomings I had mentioned. It is a great deal for about $25 CAD – the meal could have easily fed three of four diners (…there were only two of us).

As an aside, I should mention that Song Huong is a very good Vietnamese restaurant. The proprietors are ethnically Hue – from central Vietnam – an region known for its distinctive cuisine. If you aren’t feeling so carnivorous, you can try their Pho or Bun Bo Hue.

Song Houng Vietnamese on Urbanspoon