Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Xích Lô Street Food – Date 6 of 19

For banh mi date #6, I checked out Xích Lô Street Food (pronounced sic-low). I’ve been wanting to check out this Vietnamese food stand in Eau Claire ever since John M posted it on Instagram. For this post, let’s listen to “Sick Love” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I ordered a Beef Sate Sub ($9) and a Cold Cut Sub ($9). While I waited, I chatted with Rick, the co-owner of Xích Lô. I learned the pate Rick makes is made from chicken liver and cognac. Everything in the subs is homemade except for the baguette, which Rick buys daily from a banh mi distributor. I noticed Xích Lô sells an assortment of steamed buns, which he informed me is one of his most popular dishes. 

These subs are bigger than the norm. I can tell because I could barely hold all the subs in my hand. During my photo shoot, I lost some of the daikon and carrot garnish. What I won’t do for my blog.

Xích Lô’s cold cut sub is a cut above the norm. How good is the cold cut sub? This banh mi is so phenomenal that when I was eating my sub, I felt like I was making love to it. There’s something special about the cold cut sub and I think it’s the combination of the meats, pate and sauces. The pate is silky smooth, with a rich mellow flavour. The homemade mayonnaise is thick and decadent, and only adds to the richness of the pate.

I was impressed with the freshness and quality of the three meats. I counted four layers of cold cuts. The amount of meat to bread and vegetables was proportional. I noticed the drizzle of Rick’s soy based sauce permeated throughout each bite.

The daikon and carrot are finely minced, so you got all the pickled flavour but none of that trademark crunch. I still got that satisfying chomp from purple onions, jalapeños and dry peanuts. The sriracha gave a warm heat that countered the tartness of the pickled vegetables.

I tried a bite of L’s sub and I noticed the fragrance and flavour of lemongrass. The beef was sliced thin, and each piece was soft and tender. L usually only eats sate beef subs but he after tasting my sub, he prefers the cold cut.

How does this cold cut compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters? Xích Lô subs are more filling than Trung Nyguen and Hue Thuong but not as densely laden with meats as My Tho BBQ, To Me Sub, or MyMy Sub.

For the smooth texture of cucumbers and crunch factor of the vegetables, I like Thi Thi and Obanhmi.  Xích Lô baguette is light and crusty, but the soft chew of Saigon Deli‘s bread and the buttery crustiness of Trung Nguyen win by a margin. In terms of taste, Xích Lô cold cut meats tie with Saigon Deli and My Tho. Without a doubt, Xích Lô offers the best pate I’ve tried in Calgary.

Hitting the Sauce gives Xích Lô two phat thumbs up and this food stall is making it on my list of best restaurants in Calgary. Pro tip – note that due to all the sauces and the minced carrots and daikon, these subs are best eaten immediately. Xích Lô is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Cuty Restaurant

Mai informed me that she doesn’t dine at many Vietnamese restaurants because almost all are too westernized for her taste. One place she does frequent is Cuty Restaurant. She told me not to get anything but the grilled wrap combo. For this post, let’s listen to Harry Nilsson – “Gotta Get Up.”

For a lack of a better adjective, Cuty is cute. You can see the effort the owner put into the decor, like the professional photographs and hanging bicycle planter basket. The tables were spotless. The washroom was clean and warm, despite the -27 weather. A pet peeve of mine are Asian restaurants that purposely keep the room cold to save money on heat. This happens a lot in Vancouver and Richmond.

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L and I ordered  the grilled platter – Banh Hoi Chao Tom Nem Nuong Bo La Lot ($19) and despite Mai’s advice, I ordered Pho Sate Bo Hoac Ga ($11.99). I looked around and noticed all the non-Asian customers ordered pho or bun. The customers speaking Vietnamese ordered the grilled combo platter. I texted Mai to tell her what I observed.

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Our server brought out a container of rice paper wrappers that also serve as a dipping vessel. The wrapper would curl in my hand from the heat of my hands. You insert the rice paper into the hot water and rotate it until it is soft.

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Our platter contained three types of protein – Banh Ho Chao Tom (grilled shrimp paste), Banh Ho Nem Nuong (grilled pork meatball) and Bo La Lot (grilled minced beef). This portion would suffice for two small appetites or be a very filling meal for one.

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You pick your protein and then fill the wrap with a mixture of lettuce, basil, mint, carrot, cucumber and vermicelli sprinkled with nuts and green onion.  The dipping sauce – nuoc cham –  was salty and sour with only a touch of sweetness. Fishier than most Vietnamese restaurants, as my hands smelled strongly for hours afterwards. Mai said there is also hoisin and satay sauce, but I think you need to ask for them.

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Of the three fillings, we enjoyed the shrimp paste the most as it was tasty and sweet. The shrimp flavour wasn’t very shrimpy.

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The pork meatball reminded me a bit of a hotdog because of its bouncy texture. The minced beef was more delicately flavoured and I found the betel leaves were soft and pliable. Bo la lot reminds me a Mediterranean dish – dolmades.

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The pho ($12) was tasty –  tangy and spicy with tender slices of beef. The broth wasn’t as hot as I would have liked. After I dumped in all the sprouts, the temperature cooled down.

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Next time, I wouldn’t mind trying the Banh Hoi Gia Truyen Cuty Quan  ($31) – a traditional platter of spring rolls, imperial rolls (taro, pork, and onion), tiger prawn rolls and pork sausage rolls. Or I’d order the grilled shrimp platter and then add the tiger prawn rolls or the imperial rolls.

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I’m a fan of Cuty restaurant so much, it makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. I’d recommend the grill roll and wrap combo. Thanks Mai for the inside tip.

Cuty Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato