Mr. Red Café
2234 East Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V5L1V4
Reviewed & Photographed by: Grace Cheung
Food: Service: I’ve been hearing great things about Mr. Red Cafe and I finally had a chance to try it for brunch. Every review I’ve read says how different they are from your everyday pho places…and they were so right!
We started with Pho Cuon, a delicate rice noodle roll filled with stir-fried beef and basil. The rice noodles had the cutest pattern on them, and the filling inside was even better. The beef was cooked perfectly and not chewy, and the herbs really added a level of freshness to the roll. Instead of dipping the rolls into the sauce, I spooned it onto the roll in my bowl so as not to miss out on any of the fillings. Oh, and it’s a great deal for just $5!
Before the next “food” dish came, we decided to check out the various sauces they had available on the table. They have the usual Sriracha sauce and the chili seed oil, both favorites of mine. The new one for me was the vinegar with chilies and garlic…spicy, tangy and so tasty.
Next up was another new item for me, (boy, have I been limited in my Viet food culture), and it was like nothing I’ve ever tried before in a Vietnamese restaurant. It’s called with Pate Ga. It’s hard to understand at first, but when you mix all the textures and flavors together, consisting of a layer of sticky rice, topped with mung beans, layered with some chicken chunks, pate, and deep fried shallots, it sort of dawns on you…it’s an open-faced Chinese “jong”. The flavors and fillings are similar, just in a brand new presentation! Despite my need for heat, I actually didn’t feel the desire to put any sauces on this item. I wouldn’t recommend it as a main course for one due to the mildness of the flavors, but it’s definitely fun to share as an appetizer.
We also tried their Chef’s Special, Bún chả giò thịt nướng, (yes, I had to take a pic and transcribe it). But it’s amazing, albeit a little more pricey at $13.50. However, it is LOADED with stuff. Atop a healthy serving of vermicelli, there is a crab meat spring roll, deep fried tofu, grilled and crispy pork, not to mention the usual culinary suspects of cucumber, sprouts, mint and cilantro. Add a bit of the nuoc nam, give it a toss and it will make your tummy happy.
The noodles get a salty flavor when you add the sauce, and still have a nice bite to them. The tofu and spring rolls both maintain their crunch, and the pork provides exactly the chewiness you’re craving.
Another dish that is often bastardized is the Bun Bo Hue. I have to admit, I do like my pork hock and am always disappointed when various establishments serve theirs with
Vietnamese ham, pork tendon, flank and the occasional beef ball. They just make the soup base hot with chili oil and serve it with “spaghetti-style or lai-fun” noodles versus pho noodles and hope you’ll be happy. But this place is 100% authentic…complete with pork hock and pig’s blood! I had to pass on the pig’s blood, it’s a bit too foreign for me, but every other ingredient of that dish was devoured happily, even though my lips were burning just a bit from the heat of the soup. And I only put three of the vinegar chilies in my soup!
I guess after all that, it’s best to cool off with a nice Iced Vietnamese Coffee…too sweet for me, but I could do a sip or two. Next time, I’ll ask for half the condensed milk. Service here is great, very patient, friendly and super helpful if you’re not sure what you want. Best tip? Take a look at what other people are eating and if you think you’ll like it…just point and order! I’ll be returning soon to try their dumplings, as well as other goodies, like their chicken wings!
Stop in soon and tell them that Grace Cheung with DinnerReveiws.com© sent you!
Grace Cheung has always had a fork in one hand, and a pen in the other as she eats her way through Vancouver’s restaurant scene with a discerning bite. She spends her day scouring the best eateries and racking up frequent dining points. In between meals, she works as a marketer for a financial firm and also has her own company, providing social media services to local restaurants and entertainment venues. Must haves: Blackberry, iPad, and a nice Barolo. Monitor the feasting at GraceCheung604.com or in real-time on Twitter @gracecheung604.