Last night, my brother and I decided to go for dinner and I was wracking my brain for a place to go super last minute (it was already 7 pm and we wanted to try something new). I remembered that someone had recently mentioned on my Facebook page that I should give Chau a try – a new Vietnamese restaurant located on Robson Street (at Nicola) in the downtown Vancouver core. I’ve also heard about it randomly through the grapevine, and gave them a call to make sure we could get it – they don’t take reservations unless it’s for more than six people, and the girl on the phone assured me that it shouldn’t be a problem to seat two on a Wednesday evening.
When we walked in the door, I was already liking the place. The bar is front and center when entering, and the restaurant is split with dining areas on either side. I also noticed the brick wall on the one side, and really liked the more modern feel to the place. There was a small patio outside, which I’m guessing they’ll start to use during the warmer summer months (Chau just opened a couple of months ago back in December).
We sat down and read the menu – I noticed that it was quite small, and the first page was the story behind the restaurant. The one online is a lot more thorough, and I wonder if there are different variations they provide depending on what they have available for that day/week/meal. We decided to share a variety of items, and were in for a treat!
Starting off with drinks, I got the Hanoi Heaven, which is vodka, asian pear (along with a thin slice of the fruit in the glass), sugarcase, and some Thai basil and jalapeno. It was quite strong (which is a good thing for a drinking pro like me!), and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t overly sweet, and I definitely could’ve had more than one.
The one my brother ordered was the Star Apple (vu sua), which was really sweet. It actually reminded me more of a Thai dessert I’ve had in the past, as it basically was coconut cream, banana, and butter ripple, with some vodka added. Next time, I would get this as a drink to finish off my meal more as a dessert, and make it virgin. It’s also quite rich, so probably not the greatest way to start off dinner!
The first dish that arrived at our table was the Crispy Pork and Prawn Wontons. They came with a sweet chilli sauce for a dip, and were delicious – I love the type of wonton wrapper they used, as it was light and crispy in texture, and deep fried just the way I like it, with a very tasty filling.
The Chau fried rice was next up, and it had a yummy fried egg on top! As I’ve said numerous times on this blog I’m sure, I love it when anything that has rice in it also comes with an egg – the soft yolk is great when mixed over top. This also had pork sausage (house made), along with some green onions, prawns (although I didn’t see many of those), and other veggies.
The Spicy Chicken Wings came shortly afterward, and we actually took some time to pick these of the three options available. They also come served in a ‘Sticky’ and Sweet Sauce, while the last type are the Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper. Since I’ve just recently had some wings at the Cactus Club, I wanted to try them out to compare. Whereas a lot of hot wings come with the spice within the sauce coating itself, these ones had a hot soy-honey chilli topping poured over top. While this led to inconsistency across the dish, it was great when you couldn’t handle quite so much of the heat and could just scrape some of it off.
Of course, being a Vietnamese place, we had to try some pho. We ordered the small portion of Pho Bo (the option that comes with rare beef and beef balls), and shared it. The broth was quite aromatic and it came with the jalapenos and basil already in the soup, with the lime wedge on the side of the bowl. I do still have to say that I have had better pho before at other places, and this serving was quite a bit smaller for the same price ($6). I think that the large bowl, which was $11, was likely the same size as you would see at your basic hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
Now on to dessert. There wasn’t a specific dessert menu available, so it probably changes on a regular basis – our server came over and told us the selection for the evening. We picked the classic Deep Fried Banana with Ice Cream. This version was excellent – it came with lychee (instead of vanilla or coconut) ice cream, and the best surprise? Condensed milk on the plate. Yes, that part got me the most excited. If you too enjoy condensed milk, you will understand how I felt.
I thought that Chau was a great, inexpensive place in terms of having a modern atmosphere and really tasty Vietnamese food. From everything we ordered last night, the drinks were actually more expensive than the dishes that we shared (except for the $10 fried rice). This would be a great restaurant to go to for a birthday dinner or something similar, and I know I will be back!