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.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Hue Thuong – Date 5 of 19

L and I were running errands on Sunday. Since we were already in Inglewood, he suggested we go on banh mi date #5 of 19. Hubba hubba, he sure knows the way to my heart. For this post, let’s listen to “Can’t Remember to Forget You” by Shakira and Rihanna.

I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Hue Thuong in Forest Lawn. When I checked the online menu, I noticed Hue Thuong offers banh mi. I’m glad I called ahead of time because the restaurant was packed with customers enjoying steaming bowls of bun bo hue. The person who answered the phone was polite and customer service-oriented. When he realized I was in a rush and I was hesitant to wait 30 minutes, he said he would ask the chef to bump my order up. I ordered the Grilled Beef Sub ($6.55) and the Grilled Chicken Sub ($6.55). Currently, Hue Thuong is offering a promotion – each sub comes with a complimentary can of pop.

Despite the twenty-minute ride, both subs were warm when we arrived home. The baguette took on some condensation from the bag, but the bread was still good – light and chewy.

The chicken was tender, cut into nice meaty chunks. The pickled carrots and daikon were sweet. I could taste butter on the bread. I noticed both subs were lacking cucumber. No biggie, as I didn’t miss it with the addition of the sauteed white and green onions.

The beef was soft with a bit of a chew to it. I read Hue Thuong uses a homemade soy and hot sauce. We really enjoyed the spicy sauce in the meat as it reminded me of sate beef in pho. L preferred the beef, but I like both subs equally.

What Hue Thuong has over other banh mi shops is the meat taste like it is freshly prepared for every order. Pricewise, the sub with a pop is one of the best banh meal deals in Calgary. Sizewise, I found Hue Thuong more filling than Trung Nguyen but not as big as Thi Thi, To Me Subs or My Tho BBQ. Tastewise, Hue Thuong’s banh mi has more a restaurant flavour to it, similar to Pure Modern Asian Kitchen. I’m think this has to do how the meat is made in a restaurant kitchen compared to the heavy prep work involved in a banh mi shop.

I want to go back and try the bun bo hue, as well as the other dishes Miss Foodie recommended – the dumplings, rice cakes and baby clams. I have a feeling the food is similar to Song Huong, another of my favourite restaurants in Calgary. To be continued.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Obanhmi- Date two of 19

L wanted to knock off number two of the 19 banh mi dates he promised me. Since I was already in Inglewood getting a dermal infusion, I suggested he order our dinner from Obanhmi in Dover.  I specifically asked L for the classic assorted sub ($5.50) and not the deluxe assorted ($7.50) sub. The deluxe version has pork belly and that would put my Noom app in a tizzy. For this post, let’s listen to “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.

When L picked me up, he asked me if I knew banh mi means bread in English. I said no, I just assumed banh mi was a Vietnamese sandwich. I asked him how he knew and he said there are informative signs posted all over the shop. He smugly added that while I asked for an assorted sub, it was actually called a cold cut. I bit back the urge to tell him no one likes a know-it-all but then I realized it actually turned me on that he knew more about Vietnamese subs than me.

L relished his Beef Sate ($7.50) sub. He thought the beef was flavourful, and not in the generic peanutty way. He noted the beef wasn’t evenly distributed, so one side of the sub had lots of beef and the other side had barely any. We both liked how the carrots, daikon, and onions were pickled. Each vegetable was crunchy and wet, tart and sweet at the same time.

My cold cut contained four layers of assorted meats. The baguette was delightful – the interior was light and fluffy and the outside crackled when I bite into it. The pate was subtle and buttery. I liked how the cucumber was sliced into thin, crisp ribbons. This is a saucy sub – the juices from the pickled vegetables mingled with the mayonnaise and pate.

How does Obanhmi compare to all the other banh mi joints? Obanhmi gives more meat than Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi, but not as much as Saigon Deli. However, Obanhmi is more generous than Saigon Deli with the butter, pate and vegetables. Size wise, Obahmi subs are bigger than Kim Anh and Trung Nguyen but not as stuffed as To Me Sub or My Thou BBQ. Personally, I thought the pickled vegetables and crusty baguette give Obanhmi a slight edge over some of their competitors.

Note: L said I was going to drop the subs taking this picture. I didn’t, but I took this picture over the counter in case the subs fell out of my hand.

I’d rank this banh mi up there with all the other heavy hitters – Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y, Trung Nguyen, My Thou, and Thi Thi. Pro tip – sign up for the point system. Accumulate ten points and you get a free sub. Hitting the Sauce gives Obanhmi two phat thumbs up.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Vietnamese

Trung Nguyen – Banh Mi

I found out Banh Mi Girl’s aunt owns Trung Nguyen in Chinatown. I used to eat here all the time, but for some reason (Thi Thi), I had forgotten about it. On Sunday, L and I were picking up frozen dim sum from Chuen May, so I stopped by next door to pick up some banh mi. Since I’m feeling celebratory, let’s listen to “Party Up” by DMX.

Trung Nguyen is cash only. Trung Nguyen is on DoorDash and Skip the Dishes, but if you can, come by to pick it up. Better yet, call ahead of time so you don’t have to wait around.

Trung Nguyen offers non-traditional subs, such as the Buffalo Chicken ($8), Curry Chicken ($8), Pork Riblet ($9) and Ginger Beef ($9). L ordered the Beef Sate ($9) and I stuck with my usual – the Cold Cut Combo ($6.50).

When I unwrapped my sub, I immediately noticed the bread was different from other banh mi shops. Trung Nguyen’s bread actually tastes like a French baguette. The exterior of the baguette has a dark gloss to it and crackles when you bite into it. Out of all the banh mi shops, Trung Nguyen is my favourite for the bread.

The sate beef is a light brown colour. L noted the peanut flavour was prominent. He thought his sub was really good. When I took a bite of his sub, the flavour of cilantro overwhelmed my tastebuds.

I like the proportions in my cold cut. All the ingredients blended in to create the perfect explosion of flavour. There was no dominant ingredient that stood out. For me, pate in a banh mi a must. I’m a fan of Trung Nguyen’s pate – it was saucy with enough earthiness to satiate my tastebuds.

The vegetables are perfect. The cucumbers were so fresh. I loved the tang of the pickled carrots. The rawness of the onions and jalapeño peppers gave the sub texture and a pungent bite.

Size wise, Trung Nguyen subs are smaller than Thi Thi, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Y and especially My Tho BBQ. However, the perfectly balanced flavours and proportions makes up for what it lacks in size. The portion is ideal for a light lunch or a heavy snack.

The female owner is a real sweetheart. When I asked if they still sold their duck banh mi, she gave me her business card and told me to call her beforehand. She makes the duck herself, but it takes considerable prep time for her to prepare. I’ve tried the duck banh mi before – it is delicious and worth requesting.

If you are a die-hard Thi Thi fan like me, you can get around being disloyal. It’s not cheating if you visit Trung Nguyen on a Sunday because Thi Thi is only open Monday to Saturday. If you haven’t been, check them out.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Deli · Restaurants · Vietnamese

My Tho BBQ – Banh Mi

Until the COVID numbers go down, L and I are only doing takeout. One place that has been on my radar is My Tho BBQ. When we drove up to the Vietnamese deli, I was so excited that I squeezed L’s thigh. For this post, let’s listen to “You Need To Calm Down” by Taylor Swift.

I wanted to try three subs: Sate Beef ($6), Roasted Pork ($6) and Assorted ($6). I specifically asked for pate in my assorted because I read online that you have to request it. However, I was informed by the staff that pate automatically comes with the assorted sub.

My Tho has been a family-operated business since 1989. Even though there was a big order in front of me and customers after me, great care was put into making my subs. I noticed that compared Kim Anh Sub, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y and Thi Thi, My Tho gives the most vegetables.

I was surprised to see the generous amount of roasted pork in my sub. The meat was still warm and the crunchy skin was caramelized. I found the roasted pork rich and heavy, and it reminded me of Chinese BBQ.

FoodKarma tried both the assorted and the roasted pork, and she preferred the latter. One thing to note – the heady flavour of the roasted pork dominates the entire sub. If you like roasted pork and a lot of meat, you’ll enjoy this sub.

The sate beef reminded me a little of roast beef. I’ve never had a beef sate with the meat sliced so thin. The beef wasn’t heavily coated in a sauce, but it was still really tasty. L liked the addition of peanuts, which were dry and sweet. The portion of homemade butter mayonnaise was generous. If you don’t like mayonnaise, make sure to tell the staff.

L prefers My Tho’s sate beef over Saigon Deli’s version but not as much as Thi Thi sate beef or Kim Anh’s lemongrass beef. I liked the simplicity of My Thou’s sate beef. I would order this again, but the assorted sub is my favourite.

The meats in the assorted sub look artisanal, with some slices so delicate, it reminds me of prosciutto. Out of all the places I’ve tried so far, My Thou’s cold cut meats are the most unique. Saigon Deli’s cold cuts are the thickest, and the most hearty.

I’m a big fan of My Thou’s pate. For me, this was a Goldilocks moment. The pate wasn’t metallic or too subtle, it was just right. I like the creamy texture and peppery notes.

The carrots tasted like they were lightly pickled, and the onions looked like they were marinated. The bread was more flaky than Saigon Deli, and more akin to Kim Anh’s drier sub. My Thou’s cucumbers were cut into quarters, unlike Thi Thi’s dainty ribbons.

Another thing that sets this deli apart from the others is My Tho sells Vietnamese charcuterie platters. I plan to pick up a platter for make your own banh mi. My Tho is open seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Check them out! The assorted sub ranks up there with all the other banh mi heavy hitters in Calgary.

Taken without permission from My Tho BBQ.
17th Ave · Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Sandwiches · Vietnamese

Kim Anh Vietnamese Submarines

L and I were out running errands when he suggested we pick up something for dinner. I suggested either banh mi or a shawarma. Since we were already on 17th Ave, we stopped by Kim Anh Vietnamese Submarines. For this post, let’s play “Cool” by Gwen Stefani.

I’ve eaten here at least six times and each time I find the service fast and friendly. Kim Anh sells a variety of Vietnamese dishes, such as vermicelli, spring rolls and salad rolls. I would recommend sticking to what their are known for – banh mi.

I’ve tried the Lemongrass Chili Chicken, Lemongrass Chili Beef, Cold Cut, Korean BBQ Pork, and Satay Chicken. My favourite is the Lemongrass Chili Beef ($8.75, + .50 cheese). However, I ordered the Assorted Cold Cuts ($7.45, +.50 cheese) for myself in order to do a proper comparison to Saigon Deli and Banh Mi Nhu Y. Pate and cheese are an extra charge.

When we arrived home, I cut up our subs in half and took my obligatory pictures. As I finished squeezing L’s sub together for a shot, I looked up and caught his expression. He looked patient, but it was so practiced, like he was resigned to never eating a sandwich without a production. I felt bad for him and then I comforted myself knowing that this time, I paid for dinner.

The lemongrass chili beef was spicy and saucy. The tang of the lemony herb was dominant in the beef. L liked the texture that the crunchy peanuts added to the sub. I noticed Kim Anh doesn’t overload the sub with cilantro. If I had ordered the beef sub for myself, I would request pate because it just adds another dimension of flavour.

The cold cut combo was packed with meats and carrots. The pickled carrots were sweet and wet. The flavour of the pate was much subtle than Saigon Deli and Banh Mi Nhu Y. My friend Asian Persuasion doesn’t like it when the pate is too strong because she complains it taste metallic. If you are like Asian Persuasion, you’ll like Kim Anh’s milder pate. Compared to Kim Anh, Saigon Deli’s cold cut sub is heavier on the meats.

The jalapeños were so hot, they burned a little on my tongue. The cheese is the type that sticks to the roof of your mouth. The taste of the white cheese reminded me a little of Laughing Cow cheese. I like the cheese in the lemongrass beef chili sub but not as much in the cold cut. In the beef sub, the cheese blends in but with the cold cut, the cheese sticks out.

The subs at Kim Anh cost more than their competitors in Forest Lawn, but that’s justifiable because of the higher rent on 17th Ave. I noticed that the bread at Kim Anh is shorter in length and more crumbly than Saigon Deli and Banh Mi Nhu Y. I like how Kim Anh pickles their carrots and the extra pizzazz in their lemongrass subs. These subs are smaller but there is no shortage in flavour or ingredients.

For an inner-city banh mi, Kim Anh does it right. I’ve noticed when I used a third-party food delivery, the price is within 29 cents to the in-store menu, and the portions are the same for pick up. It’s also the only Vietnamese sandwich shop I know of that is open until 12 a.m., and even later on a Saturday. Hitting the Sauce gives Kim Anh two fat thumbs up.

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.

chicken sub full

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

Banh Mi · 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.

beef

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

Bakery · Banh Mi · 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 much 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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The bread 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