Restaurants · Sandwiches · Vietnamese

Thi Thi – Chinatown Institution

Divine Offering met me in Chinatown for lunch. She has an obsession with sandwiches and was craving a banh mi from Thi Thi. We arrived at 12:00 p.m. and waited in line for 23 minutes. Sometimes the line doesn’t move because a customer orders five or ten subs for their friends. Personally, I think Thi Thi should ban this unfair practice and enforce stricter rules when ordering.

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Even though I haven’t eaten at Thi Thi for three years, the owner’s son still recognizes me. He asked me why I haven’t been coming around. I told him it was because I bring my lunch to work. What I didn’t tell him was that when I was a frequent customer, I put on too much weight. The owner interjected and suggested that I should walk more. He observed that the Japanese are so slim because they walk everywhere and don’t drive. He pointed to my sub and asked me if he should make it slimmer. I wanted to say, “Hell no! Leave my banh mi alone! It’s been three lonely years!” Instead, I pursed my lips and indignantly shook my head. For this post, let’s listen to “Let it beby The Beatles.

I ordered the Thi Thi special ($7) – cold cut meat combo with a sprinkling of sate beef. I asked for pate and no mayonnaise. The owner toasts the sub with all the meats before topping it up with vegetables.  I asked for all the toppings but no cilantro. I always request two chili peppers. The owner cuts it up fresh for each order.  In every couple of bites, you get a spicy mouthful.

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The sandwich is the size of Subway foot long. The bread is warm and crusty. The secret to Thi Thi’s deliciousness is the pate mayonnaise – the sauce is both light in texture but rich in flavour. I love how the pate oozes through the air pockets in the bread.

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The vegetables are fresh and crunchy. The cucumber is cut into long thin ribbons. The carrots are pickled and add a contrasting tartness to the savoury flavours of the meats. I like how the bread and meats are warm but the vegetables are cool.

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I tried to munch as slowly as possible because Divine Offering is a leisurely eater. She says it usually takes her half an hour to eat a sandwich, and that’s fast for her. When she realized I had to get back to the office, she started cramming the last quarter of her sub into her mouth. She looked uncomfortable but even when she was scarfing down her food, she was still really slow. At one point I thought she was going to choke. I should have told her to take her time, but I remembered how my colleague once jokingly referred to me as Cratchit. Thanks Divine Offering for making sure I got back to work on time.

Note: Cash only.

Thi Thi Vietnamese Submarine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

The Submarine

Divine Offering informed me that after work she was heading over to Red Shoes’ parents restaurant – The Submarine – for a bánh mì. She said their subs were yummy. Divine Offering and I have similar taste so on Saturday, I asked L if he wanted to drive to Highland Park for lunch. For this post, let’s listen to Business by Eminem.

I hemmed and hawed when I saw the menu.  I had a hankering for pho but I read that the subs here reign supreme. One of the owners – Sue –  told me that everything on the menu is good as she picked and designed the recipe for each dish.

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L ordered a Sate Chicken sub ($9.25) and I picked the Sate Beef sub ($9.25). Sue asked us if we liked spice. We responded in the affirmative. While we waited for our subs I could hear the something sizzling in the kitchen. The meat is cooked fresh off the grill as you order, unlike other places where the protein sits all day in a warming container.

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Sue is outgoing and chatty. When she found out we know her daughter, she brought out complimentary teas and four pork spring rolls to our table. I find at some Asian restaurants, spring rolls are mostly wrapper with little filling. It’s the opposite here. The spring roll was packed with a juicy, meaty filling. Very good.

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L noted that the white chicken breast meat was of good quality. He could taste the freshness of the cilantro and vegetables. The spiciness of the sub was pleasant – enough to feel the heat but not hot enough to overpower the other ingredients.

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The beef in my sub was also of good quality. The warm toasted bread offered a nice crunch. The bread was light and not too soft or hard enough to scrape the roof of my mouth. That sate sauce is killer – a heady mixture of sweet, salty and garlic. I liked how the sate sauce and homemade mayonnaise intermingled and drip down onto my napkin.

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How good were these subs? He said The Submarine destroys all the other places I’ve taken him to and he would be happy to drive me here again. L was pissed off the last time I made him drive across town for an underwhelming banh mi. He still complains about that sub. He believes that other sub shops use low quality meats and gristle.

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The subs are a dollar or so more than competitors but what you get in return is more than worth it. L said he would gladly pay for The Submarine’s banh mi all day long. The subs are filling. I was full all day, which is unusual for me.

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The location is not close to my house or place of work, but since L is so keen to return, I know we’ll be back often. Hitting the Sauce gives The Submarine two fat thumbs up and this gem makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

The Submarine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Saigon Deli

I’ve been meaning to check out Saigon Deli for ages. Asian Persuasion told me she’s been eating here since high school. She recommended the beef or chicken bahn mi (Vietnamese sub). Asian Persuasion and I both love cold cut subs, but she told me to not order it at Saigon Deli because they put too much pate in their subs and the metallic flavour is strong. For this post, let’s listen to Yellow Submarine by the Beatles.

Saigon Deli is a tiny store in a strip mall. Cash only. This place is busy! There was a constant stream of customers. We only had to wait about five minutes.  Three employees assembled subs in the front while two employees prepped vegetables in the back of the store. L was surprised to see the butter jiggled like jello. I informed him it wasn’t butter, it was mayonnaise.

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The flavour of L’s chicken was cold and it tasted off. The texture of the chicken was hard and dry. We thought the mayonnaise didn’t really add much flavour to the sub. The meats in both our subs were minced up. He gave his sub 2.5 out of 5.

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The cucumber, carrots, and onions tasted fresh but they weren’t pickled like Thi Thi (Chinatown location). The jalapeños added a juicy, non-spicy crunch. The nuttiness and dryness from the crushed peanuts contrasted with the sweet, sauciness of the beef. I would give my beef sub 3.5 out of 5.

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The baguette was light and chewy. I prefer the toastier and airier bread at Trung Nguyen. I also prefer the mayonnaise from Thi Thi and Trung Nguyen over Saigon Deli. The vegetables at Saigon Deli taste fresher and crunchier than its competitors – possibly because the vegetables aren’t pickled? Saigon Deli wins in the price department – six bucks for a meat sub is cheap. Plus, the portions of vegetables and meat are generous.

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The reviews on Saigon Deli are high, so I think we might have come on an off day. L and I agreed that we wouldn’t come out of our way to get subs from here again. There are too many other restaurants I want to hit in Forest Lawn. Next on my list – La Cay Subs, Noodle World, Noodle King and Pho Dau Bo.

Saigon Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Vancouver/Richmond · Vietnamese

Banh Mi Très Bon – Richmond

I was sick after Beep Beep’s birthday dinner. I knew it wasn’t from the dinner as I was nauseous much earlier in the day. When I woke up on Sunday, I hung out with Naomi until Beep Beep picked me up to visit my father Ludwig and then to the airport.

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On the way to see my father, I received an email from him saying not to bother dropping by because he wouldn’t be home. Ludwig wanted to go to the mall instead with my brother Jacuzzi. Alrighty then. Beep Beep suggested we eat something nourishing before my flight. I picked Banh Mi Tres Bon in Richmond because I felt like pho and Banh Mi Tres Bon’s version is MSG free. For this post, let’s listen to Fever by Peggy Lee.

The cafe was busy. We were given a number and waited until a table opened up. Customers were also ordering take-out. The employees were working as hard and pleasantly as they could, though you could tell they were in the weeds. Our orders were messed up twice, but fixed immediately with a smile and a sincere apology.

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Beep Beep and I shared the Banh Mi Jambon ($7) – a cold cut baguette with warm slices of pork belly and creamy pate. The filling is sparser than I’m use to in Calgary but the intense flavours made up for the sheer quantity. The baguette was light and airy on the inside and crusty on the outside. I would order this again.

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I tried one of Beep Beep’s Salad Rolls ($6). I liked the quality of shrimp – it was bright orange and actually had flavour. The sauce was mild tasting, crunchy from the addition of crushed nuts and spicy from the pool of sriracha sauce.

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The showstopper was the Pho ($12). The golden broth was slightly sweet and felt so nuturing, like it was breathing life back into my body. The beef meatballs tasted clean and when you bite into it, you could feel the bouncy texture. I could tell the slices of  beef tenderloin were high quality. The best of the bowl was the addition of bone marrow. The marrow was this rich, mellow decadence that melted in my mouth. The noodles could have been more al dente, but that’s just my preference.

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I witnessed a little drama. The customer next to me threw a nasty hissy fit. The server dropped something and then picked it up and replaced it. The customer insisted that the server did not replace it and after arguing back and forth, hissed with pure venom, “Just remove it. Remove it. Just go.” Her eyes narrowed and her face contorted with such ugly rage, she looked like she was going to have a ‘nut fit’ like Heather Cho. It made me think of workplace mistreatment and the abuse servers face in restaurants. I wish I said something to the customer but instead I told the owner in front of the Heather Cho wannabe that I loved her restaurant and the pho was amazing. If that girl gets so upset over a napkin, I shudder to think how she would handle a real life problem.

Unlike the other reviewers on Zomato and Yelp, I did not find the prices expensive. Yes, it’s a bit more than the hole in the wall on Main Street, but the quality is so much better. The portions were generous and I didn’t get that thirsty feeling I sometimes get after eating pho. Hitting the Sauce gives Banh Mi Tres Bon two fat thumbs up.

Bánh Mi Très Bon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bakery · Restaurants · Vietnamese

The Bake Chef Co

I visited the U of C recently to see my optometrist. It’s weird to go back to my old university. I forgot how slowly students walk, unhurried and without any gumption. For this post, let’s listen to something that puts more pep into my step.

When I studied and worked at the U, I would frequent Noodle and Grill Express, Opa and The Bake Chef. The Bake Chef was my go to spot for hot dog buns and Vietnamese subs. For around $5.00 I would get a vegetarian sub that was way tastier than Subway. I remembered how light and crusty the bread was, slathered with butter and other sauces, heavy with carrots, cucumbers and shredded lettuce. I had a hankering for a sub so I stopped by after my appointment.

The selection of subs have expanded. Before you could choose between sate beef, sate chicken, and vegetarian subs. Now you can get tuna, pizza, traditional cold cut combo and some other types too. I ordered the cold cut combo. The price was $7+.

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I thought the sub was doughy and yeasty. The vegetables were tired and sparse. There was only one layer of meat. My cold cut combo lacked the flavour explosion I get at my new go to sub spots – Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi – in Chinatown. Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi charge $5.50 for their assorted sub.

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I posted my disappointment on my Instagram account. As you can see, several people defended Bake Chef. Lol – I love the love that the Bake Chef gets from its fans. Based on the comments, I must have gone on an off day. That or perhaps my taste buds have changed over time. I’ll  suspend judgement until I get another chance to try it again.

The Bake Chef Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Rau Bistro

It was Richie Rich’s last day at our office. To celebrate his new job, Office Dad, Richie Rich and I planned to visit Ho Won for their famous salt and pepper squid. Asian Persuasion said she didn’t want Chinese and she’d rather go to Charcut. Office Dad suggested that Asian Persuasion and What’s up Hamsup do their thing and we continue to have our lunch at Ho Won. Richie Rich, the diplomatic foodie in our office, asked if we could compromise. I suggested Rau Bistro. For this post, let’s listen to Mary J. Blige – Family Affair.

Unlike some Vietnamese restaurants, the food at Rau Bistro doesn’t come minutes after ordering. We were the first in the restaurant and it took about 15 minutes for our dishes to arrive. Rau Bistro is popular. By the time we left, the entire restaurant was filled with regulars.

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What’s Up Hamsup and Richie Rich went for the traditional A Lot Beef ($9.99) with spring rolls. They didn’t say much other than that it tasted good. A Lot Beef is served as a Monday special.

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Office Dad ordered the Combo ($12.75), which came with large shrimp, grilled beef and chicken. To his disappointment, no spring rolls were included in his entrée. Office Dad enjoyed his dish so much that he complimented the taste of the meat and seafood several times throughout our meal.

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Asian Persuasion ordered the Beef Vermicelli while I ordered the chicken. My chicken was tough and dry. Personally, I would have preferred if the carrots in my bowl were pickled or if basil leaves were added. The beef was delicious, with a hint of char from the grill and wet from a sauce. The spring rolls were made from rice paper and had a chew to it.

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The beef and pineapple banh mi was yummy. The homemade bread was soft. The sauces, pickled vegetables and beef were jam-packed with flavour. The combination of ingredients was not the standard stuff I get in Chinatown.

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We will miss you Richie Rich. I’m not sure how future lunches will happen without your tactful diplomacy. All the best for your future endeavours, including the success of your product Lam Jam.

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Rau Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants · Sandwiches · Vietnamese

Green Cilantro- Banh Mi

I purchase my wine and beer at the Highlander at Richmond Place. One of the staffers there told me that she’s addicted to Green Cilantro, a Vietnamese take-out shop a few doors away. I’ve been before and I wasn’t impressed, but after being informed that new management took over, I gave Green Cilantro another chance.

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The new manager is a real sweetheart and he likes my dog, so big bonus points right there. He took over Green Cilantro since January 5, 2017. Business has been growing too. He had to open up later that day because of a large catering order. I learned that if you order a certain amount, you get 10% off the bill and Green Cilantro will deliver too.

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I ordered a chicken sate sub ($7.50) with cucumber, onions, peanuts and carrots. The bread was airy and fluffy. While it was toasted, it didn’t scratch the top part of my mouth. The vegetables aren’t pickled like at Thi Thi in Chinatown. Also, I don’t think Green Cilantro offers pate mayo.

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I appreciated the care that went into making my sub. The result was a tasty and light sandwich, still warm after a 10 minute walk in the freezing cold. The sate sauce and mayo soaked nicely into the bread.

If you live in the hood, check out Green Cilantro. This is one business that deserves our support. Besides subs, pho and vermecelli dishes are offered here as well.

 

Green Cilantro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato