Located in the same area as Hoi An Cafe, a restaurant where we hosted Dot Com Pho some time last year, CHAU is unsurprisingly a vegetarian restaurant. The cuisine is mostly Vietnamese-inspired, except they’ve put a few spins on things and removed all the meat.
There isn’t all that much in terms of seating. There is a central communal table in the center that will fit about a dozen people, plus a wraparound counter will seat six or seven more. You go up to the cashier to order and to prepay for your meal, but they do provide table service in that they will deliver the dishes to where you are seated. You are responsible for your own water, cutlery and sauces, however.
The unique spin on the dishes is accompanied by a unique spin on the names of the dishes. You get such items as Golden Temple Prayers, Candlelit Lantern Down the River and Soft Tropical Rainstorm. I suppose they are going for a bit of a spiritual, exotic sound, but it just comes off as kitschy to me. Most sides are in the $3-4 range, while mains are in the $8-10 range. It helps that the menu is very visual with amble descriptions.
Rickety Rickshaw Ride $8.25 – This is essentially a vegetarian take on the vermicelli bowls (“bun”) that you would find at most other Vietnamese restaurants. The pork spring roll has been replaced by a mung bean spring roll, which certainly had a different texture than what I’m used to having.
It’s accompanied by shredded beancurd, peanuts, crispy shallots, pickled vegetables, greens, and herbs on a bed of rice vermicelli. The crispy shallots were particularly tasty and, despite not having any meat, I found it to be quite filling. There was a lot of stuff in there!
Diving for Pearls $9.25 – Here’s what Susanne ordered. It’s a savoury lychee and date broth, served with assorted tofu, seasonal vegetables, greens, kale and rice noodles.
This didn’t look nearly as filling as my lunch, but the broth here was positively delicious. I’m not normally a big fan of mixing sweet and savory, but it really worked here. Although the description called for lychee, it seemed like the bits of fruit floating in the soup were more like longan.
Iced Vietnamese Coffee $3.50 – Unlike everything else on the menu, this was exactly like what I get at every other Vietnamese restaurant in Vancouver.
My overall experience at CHAU VeggiExpress was a positive one. I avoided CHAU for a while because of its vegetarian nature–if you know me, then you’ll know that I love steak and other meats–but I’m glad I gave it a try. You really shouldn’t confuse CHAU with a conventional pho restaurant, though, because it is something completely different. It’s also interesting how they’re fully licensed with a wide selection of alcoholic beverages.
Now if only I could get that lychee soup with some chicken or pork…