One of my favourite cuisines is Vietnamese food. Pre-COVID, I would host make-your-own salad rolls and hotpot-style dinners for my friends. However, after dining out at Rau Bistro, I realized my homestyle version sucks in comparison in terms of variety, quality and technique. For this post, let’s listen to “Hit That” by The Offspring.
L and I ordered the Wrap Two Combo ($20) and one Seven-Course Beef Set ($35). Next time, I would pick the beef set and not the Wrap Two, as the items in the wrap combo are also in the beef set. Instead, I will order the Shrimp and Yam Beignets ($12), Bun Man ($15), and Bun Bo Hue ($15), which I hear from trustworthy sources are stellar choices.
The beef congee was homey and oh so delicious. At Rau, the soup is more broth-like and not the thick and fluffy style you find at Chinese restaurants. I appreciated how the soup was served boiling hot, which allowed the flavours of the oils and meats to pop. I enjoyed the vibrancy of the herbs and the interesting texture of the various meats, like the tripe and chewy bits of what I thought were white fungus and tendon. I would order this again.
The cold, wet papaya salad with beef jerky was a wild explosion of sour and tart notes. The dressing on the strands of bean sprouts, papaya and carrots were refreshing. The lime-marinated medium-rare beef salad offered lively bites from the crunchy slices of onion, balanced by the mellowness of the chopped tomatoes. I also enjoyed snacking on the shrimp crackers, which were light, crispy and melted in my mouth.
I’m a fan of the steamed giant meatball, which was like a more subtle, juicier version of a Chinese dim sum dish, sui mai. The meat was soaked in a peanutty sauce, soft and warm, cupped in a dumpling wrap. This was so tasty, that I ate most of it, as L preferred the skewers.
All the meats in the wrap combo and beef set are winners. The grilled la la beef and satay beef each tasted different, garnished with sauteed green onions or garlic. The meat cooked in the fondue was lovely, soft and tender. I found the shrimp paste plumper and fresher than Rau’s competitors.
I appreciated the generous amount of basil, mint, pineapple, lettuce, cucumber and pickled carrots in both dishes. Unfortunately, our wraps have no pictures because L and I haven’t mastered our wrapping technique. I had to throw away two rice wrappers because I didn’t soak the crepe long enough in the warm water, resulting in a sticky, congealed mess.
There’s so much thought and care that goes into every dish. I noticed even the sauces were prepared in such a way to offer a completely different flavour profile. For example, the spicy tamarind sauce was topped with peanuts and chillis. The fish sauce was light, sprinkled with heady garlic notes and sweet pieces of carrots. I found the anchovy sauce intense with pungent, savoury, salty notes.
Rau is different from the norm – there isn’t anything generic about the flavours here. L noted that even though the portions were so generous, he didn’t feel gross or overstuffed. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend visiting Rau Bistro. This is a restaurant worth hitting up. Hitting the Sauce gives this gem two phat thumbs up.