A life consumed by food. A lifetime consuming food.
It can be a daunting task trying to figure out which places in the cluster of Vietnamese restaurants on the Kingsway strip are truly worth trying and which places have rodents who saw Disney’s Ratatouille and are trying to follow in Remy’s footsteps. Luckily, I don’t have to decide on a restaurant by playing pin the tail on the donkey, instead I have Yelp to do the work for me.
I decided to try Green Lemongrass which has two locations, one in the Kensington-Collingwood area of Vancouver, and the other in Richmond. When I walked, in I noticed that plants were placed throughout the restaurant. I think the purpose of the plants is to give the restaurant a tropical feel, but it didn’t work for me. After taking my seat, I glanced over the extensive menu which included a lot of specialty dishes that aren’t found at most other Vietnamese restaurants around.
I was excited to try the ‘Green Papaya Salad’, so when our waitress informed us that they didn’t have any green papayas I was a little disappointed. Instead, we ordered the ‘Traditional Vietnamese Chicken Salad’ at our waitress’ recommendation. I also ordered one of my favorite dishes, ‘Bun Bo Hue’ number ‘T26′ on the menu, except with the regular rice noodles and not the vermicelli. Is it only at Vietnamese restaurants that people always order by number? I’ve noticed that people order by number even if they speak Vietnamese. Yet, this phenomenon doesn’t seem to happen at Chinese restaurants. Strange.
Before our food arrived, the bean sprouts and herbs arrived at our table. We double checked that the sprouts had been cooked to eliminate as many germs and bacteria as possible. I don’t normally put any sprouts in my soup, not because restaurants might reuse them from another customer, but I just like my pho to have a high noodle to topping ratio.
When my order arrived, someone at the table asked, “Are you really hungry?” looking down at the huge bowl. Actually, the Bun Bo Hue only came in one size, otherwise I would’ve ordered a smaller bowl. Even though the red lemongrass broth pictured in the menu looked like it would be sweat inducing, it was pretty mild. The noodles were topped with shredded cabbage, onions, trotters, and pork blood. Although I like pork blood now, I haven’t always been a fan. I liked it as a kid, but somewhere along the way I conformed to the pressures of society and withdrew from the pork blood fan club. Now I don’t blink an eye when those rose colored tofu-like cubes are placed in front of me.
Surprisingly, the Vietnamese chicken salad was a hit. I enjoyed the crisp freshness of the sliced cabbages and carrots along with the chicken, herbs, and crushed peanuts. In addition, the salad was garnished with a crispy chip that I had never seen before. The texture and taste of these chips reminded me of prawn chips usually served with peking duck, but they looked like they had black sesame fried into the them.
Another dish I’d never had before was their ‘Pressed Noodle’, which was served with minced pork skewers, herbs, and lettuce. I’m not sure if we ate it correctly, but we took the noodles, pork, and herbs in lettuce, topped it with fish sauce, and bundled it all up like a burrito. The noodles were the best part of this dish because they had a very fine, dense texture and absorbed all of the sauce.
Spring rolls at Green Lemongrass were so crispy they would’ve made someone go deaf if I didn’t chew with my mouth closed. The pork filling inside each roll was tender and flavorful.
After a bit of research, I learned that authentic spring rolls, ‘Cha Gio’, are made with the thin rice paper sheets that are dipped into warm water before using them. These rice paper sheets are easily torn and will get bubbly and flaky when they’re fried. Many recipes for cha gio have substituted the rice paper for Chinese style spring roll wrappers which are less delicate and more crunchy than crispy.
We were too stuffed to even think about dessert, but I left completely satisfied. I think we took the safe route and ordered pretty ordinary items that night. But, now that I know what to expect I will be prepared when I return to Green Lemongrass.