Mr. Red Café officially opened in Kitsilano on 2680 West Broadway in April and serves Northern Vietnamese dishes. Owners Hong and Rose Nguyen just received a rave review from The Globe & Mail. Here’s why.
Alexandra Gill describes Mr. Nguyen as a perfectionist and his Cha Ca Ha Noi is one of Vancouver’s must-try dishes.
“The fish is basa, a mild catfish, marinated overnight and lightly seared until the unguent orange coating takes on a pale golden crisp. It is served in a relatively dry, hot skillet (not saturated in oil, as is Cha Ca La Vong), sprinkled with chopped bird’s eye chili – be cautious about those – and fistfuls of fresh dill and green onion, quickly sautéed to release the aromatic oils.
A basket on the side is filled with a tangle of vermicelli rice noodles, bunches of fresh herbs (cilantro, lemon balm, mint), a bowl of crushed peanuts and a dark, funky sauce – a table-side variation of the marinade, wherein lies the elusive secret ingredient: red yeast rice, also known as anghak powder, the fungus that gives Peking duck its deep-red colour.
The fermented flavour is fairly strong in the sauce. You need only a small dab. But it mellows beautifully in the flaky fish, exquisitely balanced with bright ginger, salty fish sauce, sweet shallots, tangy vinegar and all those wonderful crunchy dill stems.”
The review continues:
“Each dish has a story. The green papaya salad garnished with chewy beef jerky, for example, can be found only on Hanoi’s Cau Go Street near Hoan Kiem Lake. There is a black-and-white photo of the lake on the restaurant wall.
All dishes, right down to the condiments, are prepared with uncompromising standards. The basil and mint are handpicked so not a single wilted stem is brought to the table. The rice vinegar, which sits on the tables in jars filled with chilies and garlic cloves, is the highest grade available.
Several dishes will flip preconceived notions upside down. Be brave and try the mung bean sticky rice with durian sauce. The durian doesn’t taste anything like stinky socks, as most people fear. Fresh pureed and frozen with coconut cream, it smells like ripe pineapple and has the smooth, rich texture of avocado.
The service is so friendly and gracious you will naturally forgive any confusion at the front door, long waits between courses and the slow retrieval of dirty dishes.
“To our beloved customers,” the Nguyens write in an introduction to the menu. “Mr. Red Café is honoured to serve you … we have a simple wish of becoming a boat carrying the cultural values of Vietnam, and Northern Vietnam in particular, across the ocean to you.”
Dear Mr. Red Café, we are honoured to have you feed us.”
Have you been to Mr. Red Café yet? Tell us what you think and what you order below.
Last modified: May 9, 2016