Eating on a whim is how I tend to roll. If you haven’t gleaned this about me yet, I’m not the type to plan things methodically in advance; I’d rather much prefer the rush of adrenaline one gets from an unplanned event. If this means some amount of time spent lost and/or worried over trying to make a decision that will probably end up coming off as rushed and rash, then so be it. Oftentimes, I find that these occasions lend themselves toward a good experience that I may not have otherwise had, whether or not it was anywhere in the neighbourhood of my desires. On one such day, I was at a loss for what to eat after volunteering at the Canadian Cancer Society (tanning is out, y’all!). After a quick glance at my UrbanSpoon wish list and a little round of hokey-pokey in my mind, I wound up in East Vancouver at Hoi An Cafe. If you miss the place the first time, I wouldn’t blame you.
I walked in and requested a table for one. #foreveralone, although I find anything Asian and/or with noodles is more socially comfortable for solo dining. The iced tea given was a nice touch, as it was quite the warm day outside.
In continuing in some kind of iced beverage motif, I ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee. I’ll have to admit, I had ordered this out of curiosity after seeing images of it plastered on the internet, which may not always be the safest basis for purchasing an item. As such, this was my first time having it, and I was a little perplexed as to what to do. How the little set-up above works is the coffee is brewed in the small filter into a cup of condensed milk, and you are given the coffee as it is brewing.
You then pour the hot drink over ice, and the transfer of heat from the hot liquid to the solid causes a phase change that, through expending energy in the endothermic process of breaking the bonds in the crystalline solid form of water, cools the coffee! In any case, the condensed milk lent a hint of sweetness to the bold coffee, making the drink refreshing and enjoyable without going overboard on the sugar.
In addition, I ordered a large bowl of Bon Bo Tai Quang Nam, which included marinated sliced rare beef, pork balls, and pork feet in a spicy broth. I enjoy getting the one with the largest variety of items in it, since you can feel like you’re getting a bang for your already minimal buck at a Vietnamese restaurant. When it came, I was pleased to see that the beef floating at the surface was genuinely raw, allowing the hot soup to finish cooking it to optimize the tenderness of the meat. This purpose was definitely fulfilled, as the meat was delightfully chewy. The noodles, hidden away somewhere in the bowl above, were relatively standard; not too hard or soft. As for the broth itself, it had the distinctive, fresh lemongrass taste that wasn’t too salty and had a bit of a kick.
And of course, the customary plate of bean sprouts and such accompanied it. The vegetables looked and tasted fresher than other pho places, witha greater variety.
In the end, I enjoyed this bowl of pho. It didn’t blast me with a load of sodium, and everything was clean and fresh. The servers were also young, friendly and perfectly fluent in English, which is always a plus. On the flip side, an awkward ending to the lunch: I didn’t notice the whole “CASH ONLY” sign until sometime in the middle of slurping my way through the noodles. Alas, I had failed to heed the warnings that UrbanSpoon had actually laid out for me. You see, another tidbit about me is that I hardly ever have cash, since it actually makes me feel like I’m spending money and thus induces guilt into me. I’m also paranoid I’ll get mugged someday during my shady dining excavations, and I’d like to think that there’d be a greater delay in them cracking plastic than stealing bills from my wallet. In any case, I was forced to dash to the gas station across the street and withdraw a twenty from the ancient ATM inside, giving the waitress my driver’s license as collateral. The moral of this story, perhaps, is to either carry cash with you or dine with friends who do, since the cash-only Vietnamese restaurants will definitely be worth that extra effort.
Conclusion: Andy ate a lot.
Hoi An Cafe
5002 Victoria Drive