While the North Burnaby area still shows much of its Italian roots with its various delis and cafes, it is getting increasingly multicultural. From Hakkaku Ramen to Bombay Beat, you’ve got a pretty good variety of places to eat. And one of the newest to open is a restaurant called Broken Rice. There has been “opening soon” signage in front of this place for months, leaving us to wonder when it would actually open. At long last, I was able to have lunch there last week.
One of the first things that will strike you about Broken Rice is that they have paid attention to decor. The wood tables are decidedly higher-end than what you would find in a regular pho place and they’ve invested a fair bit in decorations and accessories. Oddly enough, though, we were handed some photocopied sheets of paper, stapled together to serve as the menu. I imagine this is temporary, but it’s a startling contrast to what they’ve attempted to achieve with the decor.
Grilled Pork Salad Rolls – Grilled pork patties wrapped in rice paper with lettuce, cucumber and a crispy egg roll. Served with nuoc cham.
The menu is actually quite varied, offering the usual pho, vermicelli, and rice dishes, as well as a few specialties. Under the appetizer section, you get your usual deep fried spring rolls and such, but there was also this interesting gem.
Since it had a “crispy egg roll” on the inside, I thought it would be similar to the combo roll they have at A Taste of Asia. That’s not really the case. Instead, there’s some pork in there along with what is essentially an “empty” egg roll. I think I prefer this, as it provides just enough warmth and crunch, while still providing the balance of meat and cool lettuce.
Pho Tai Sach – Rare round steak and tripe with pho noodles in soup.
You could say that this is my benchmark dish when it comes to Vietnamese restaurants and it’s usually what I order when I go to Dot Com Pho. While I appreciate the presentation (the bean sprouts are provided on a serving dish, rather than on a separate plate to share with everyone else), the actual pho wasn’t as good as it could have been.
What was supposed to be rare round steak was more like medium rare brisket in consistency. It didn’t fan out into nice wide slices; I got some clumpy chunks instead. The broth, while flavorful, was quite one-dimensional. It just tasted “beefy,” lacking in the usual “herby” element that you’d get from ingredients like the star anise. I did appreciate the the pho noodles were cooked to a nice al dente though, which is better than what I usually get from Triple Coconut Tree Restaurant down the street.
Bun Suon Bo – Lemongrass beef short ribs with vermicelli noodles.
When you order vermicelli from a Vietnamese restaurant, most places serve it to you in a relatively deep bowl. That’s not really the case here. You get more of a slightly deep plate. I did like how they expanded beyond the usual lemongrass chicken and pork chop, though, also offering these almost Korean-style beef short ribs.
You could definitely taste the lemongrass and I’d say that I preferred this bun over the bowl of pho.
There are better pho restaurants out there and given how long it took for Broken Rice to go from “opening soon” to actually being open, the anticipation may have elevated my expectations unfairly. Even so, at this point, I feel that for the area I’d still prefer A Taste of Asia or Triple Coconut over Broken Rice.
That said, I don’t think it would be completely fair for me to pass final judgement until I’ve had the opportunity to try the dish that is their namesake. There is nearly an entire page on the (photocopied) menu dedicated to broken rice and I intend on returning to at least give that a try. I just hope that, by then, they’ll have a proper menu ready.