I first started going to the Cambie Vietnamese Restaurant for pho when it was still actually located on Cambie Street, in a strip mall just before King Edward Avenue (I lived in a house only a couple of blocks away at the time). They had to move to a new place once the RAV line was starting to go up, as the building had to be torn down to make way for a skytrain station. The restaurant had already been on Cambie for over 8 years at that point, and they then moved over to Main Street, just South of King Edward. I’ve still been a loyal customer ever since – it’s more than worth it to make the drive over whenever I have a craving for pho, or really any other Vietnamese food.
Richard owns the place, and runs it with his family. He’s always provided excellent service, and you feel like he’s known you all his life whenever you walk in. Upon stepping in the door, he’ll usually yell out to you and say, ‘Oh hey, my friend is here! Come in my super friend!’ Basically, it feels like you’re visiting old family when you enter, and they haven’t seen you for ages or something – it really feels like you’re walking into their home.
They make their own version of hot chilli oil, so one thing to keep in mind when you’re looking for some hot sauce with your meal is to definitely ask for some of this. It’s ten times better than the more vinegar-tasting bright red hot sauce that’s on the tables, plus it’s a lot more spicy as well.
I always start with an order of the Vietnamese Roll Dip – note that there is also a vegetarian option, should you need it. Add some hoi sin sauce in a dipping bowl, and cover it with some hot chilli oil, then dip in a piece of the roll into the fish sauce and vinegar dipping sauce, and you’ve got yourself a great appetizer. I actually learned today that the owners of this restaurant are probably from Southern Vietnam, because they tend to serve their dipping sauce and other food items a bit more sweet than they do if from Northern Vietnam.
The other item I tried today with my girlfriend was the Steamed Crepes. It was served with a peanut sauce, which I normally don’t like, so instead we used the fish sauce and vinegar dressing that we got with the roll dip. My friend that came with me is actually from Vietnam, so it was probably a little bit like taking me to a Thai place – she was a good sport about it though! Apparently, the crepes are usually rolled a lot more thinly and tightly, and are actually a bit longer than these ones.
The P12, or Won Ton Soup with Egg Noodles is what I’ve been stuck on the most lately. You can also order it with rice noodles as a substitute if you prefer those, but I just can’t get enough of the original version. It’s served with broccoli, fish flakes, green onion and large won tons that are filled with prawn and pork.
My other favourite when I’m feeling more like a regular beef pho, is the P6, or the Rare Beef, Cooked Beef and Tendon Pho. I’m a huge fan of tendon, and when compared to that I’ve had at other restaurants, this one is much thicker and way more delicious. I know it’s not something that the average person might want to eat, but I’ll have fantasies about the stuff served at this Vietnamese restaurant. They also make their beef pho broth daily from scratch in huge pots that boil overnight – the flavour of the broth is sooo delicious.
I swear I’ve also got to find out where they get their basil from that they serve with the pho – it’s so fresh and large and healthy looking and I just want to grab a bunch and take it home so I can cook with it, each time I go! They also provide the other standards – lime wedges, chilli peppers, and all the bean sprouts you could ever want!
So we went a little crazy today – I was starving and hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet by the time we got to the restaurant – so we also ordered the Lemongrass Pork Chop on Rice. Seeing as the plate was pretty much empty by the end of the meal, I think we did okay.
Make sure to get the Rainbow Drink for dessert. It’s basically coconut milk, with mung bean paste and red beans, along with some pandan jellies that you mix altogether with ice and drink (well, you kind of need to eat it with a spoon)! It reminds me of some of my favourite desserts you can get in Thailand as well, and I have random cravings for this every so often and have to come by just for that.
This place will always be an old favourite of mine, and I know I will continually return for life. The atmosphere is kind of what you expect for any other small pho place, where there’s two CDs on repeat (for the past 8 years!) and the standard decor you’d expect to see. No matter what I’ve ordered at this place, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ve managed to make a few of my friends lifers as well ever since.
Cambie Vietnamese Restaurant (no website)
4136 Main Street (South of King Edward)