Restaurant: CHAU Kitchen & Bar
Last visited: January 25, 2010
Area: Vancouver, BC (Robson Street/West End/Downtown)
Address: 1500 Robson Street
Price range: $20-30
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Vietnamese Fusion tapas
- Contemporary/casual fine dining
- The Vietnamese version of Hapa Izakaya
- Vietnamese owned
- Vietnamese chefs
- Attracts Westerners/locals primarily 30-40+
- Quite healthy
- Moderately priced
- Lunch plates $10-13 until 5pm daily
- Lunch and dinner
- Open 7 days
- Serves alcohol/cocktails/wine
- Mon-Sat 11am-10pm
- Sunday 11:30-9:30pm
- Charge for tea
- Free parking at rear
Recommendation: Artichoke Tea (I don’t feel like I tried their best dishes so I feel like there could be better stuff on the menu that I haven’t tried)
CHAU Kitchen & Bar serves Vietnamese fusion tapas and is pretty much the only expensive Vietnamese restaurant in Vancouver. It’s not fine dining, but it is casual fine dining. The menu offers about 20 Vietnamese tapas with a contemporary twist and although it seems like “white people making Vietnamese food” it isn’t. The chefs and owners are actually Vietnamese so the quality and style of the food is quite good although I prefer Kingyo (Japanese Izakaya) to this. They are different, but I find that I get more value at Japanese Izakaya. It’s hard justifying expensive Vietnamese food because it’s known for “cheap eats” and there are so many in Vancouver.
I came here after dinner #1 at Sushi Garden so I can’t say I was too hungry to eat again…but obviously I still did. I was with my Vietnamese friend and it’s even hard for her to justify pricey Vietnamese food. While the food was good (ambiance and service are better) the tapas are pretty basic and not creative enough to justify the price. I just didn’t see value with some of the dishes. Oh and as a side note, CHAU is pronounced “Cho” almost like “Joe”, and not “Chow” like many people think it is.
On the table
Artichoke Tea – 5/6
- Steeped from dried artichokes, sweetened with sugarcane and topped with gogi berries. Caffeine free. $3
- They charge $1 for regular Jasmine tea, but I decided to get the Artichoke tea.
- I really liked this! It’s very natural and naturally sweetened and as sweet as Chamomile is.
- In addition to the sugar cane there’s dragon’s eye (fruit) and gogi berries which enhances the delicate sweetness and leaves a honey and floral flavour.
- Artichoke tea is also very good for you and helps cleans e your liver too.
Buddha Bowl – 3.5/6
- In a mushroom, lychee and date stock served with tofu, rice noodles and seasonal vegetables $7/$11
- We ordered the bigger size because the server said it’s almost triple everything more worth it. It was a pretty decent portion and definitely big for a tapa.
- This was basically a vegetarian version of pho. It seemed like a recipe from Martha Stewart. It was quite westernized and very healthy looking and tasting. The noodles are fresh and not dried which is great.
- There was a mound of fresh veggies like raw shredded cabbage, green onions, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, vegetarian ham, eggplant, lotus root, mushrooms, deep fried tofu, dried tofu skins, snow peas, and honey dates.
- There was no lychee in it; they actually meant “longan” which is dragon’s eye fruit. It has a florally sweet flavour and is quite refreshing.
- The veggies were all blanched in the soup before being served so they were all quite bland on their own. They didn’t absorb any flavours and could have been tenderer, but I guess they assume it will cook in the hot soup anyways.
- The broth didn’t taste vegetarian to me. It tastes like a sweetened chicken broth with a light onion and garlic flavour. It probably is vegetarian but tastes like it’s from a can, that’s partly why I though ti was chicken. It’s more sweet than savoury and there’s a pink tint which is probably from the ingredients.
- There is very minimal fish sauce but it comes through when you squeeze the lime into the soup. I like my broth more savoury and it’s the most important part of pho so I wish they did a better job with it…by the way doesn’t fish sauce make it non-vegetarian?!
- I appreciate the variety of ingredients, but it was also something I could easily make at home. The honey dates and longan/Dragon’s Eye are actually more Chinese and they come dried in packages at the Chinese supermarket. (The Dragon’s Eye could have been frozen/fresh.)
Rice Paper Rolls – 3/6
- Green leaf lettuce, cucumber, vermicelli, herbs and a crispy egg noodle centre. Choice of chicken, prawn, pork and mint, tofu, or vegetarian ham $6.50
- We ordered it with prawns and they really spread them out so I couldn’t taste them. They used too much lettuce and not enough other ingredients and they were just really tiny in general.
- This was the “fancy” version of Vietnamese salad rolls. It wasn’t even fancy as much as it was a cute idea.
- They were pretty small and I actually like the regular Vietnamese ones better.
- The “fusion” part was adding the crispy egg noodle centre which is actually just a crispy layered wafer that looks like a Pocky stick. It wasn’t sweet, but more neutral like a cracker. It added a nice crunch, and was good, but the concept was a bit junior for a restaurant lik e this.
- They serve it with a sauce that tastes like a mix of sweet and sour plum sauce, fish sauce, and that orange Vietnamese vinaigrette that’s usually served with deep fried spring rolls. I which it was nuttier tasting.
Crispy Pork and Prawn Wontons – 2.5/6
- These were just your standard deep fried wontons, except I couldn’t taste or see any prawns. I would have appreciated a bit more stuffing.
- They were deep fried well though, very crispy and golden on the outside and the pork meat was still juicy. Again it wasn’t that impressive for a gourmet Vietnamese tapas place, but I didn’t really expect them to be either.
- The pork was well marinated though and I could taste garli c and onions.
- They serve them with sweet Thai chili sauce but it’s more sweet than spicy.
- I don’t think it’s worth the price because there were only 4 and it’s the easiest thing an Asian restaurant can make and serve.
Deep Fried Banana – 5/6
- Served with lychee ice cream (I’m not sure of the price, but I’m guessing $6-8)
- The banana was served in a doughnut like batter. It wa s covered with sugar, and then covered with syrup before serving. It was a bit too sweet since the banana is already sweet. I also wish the batter stayed attac hed to the banana but I guess it was too heavy.
- The banana was warm and creamy and I liked how they garnished it with chopped mint because it brightens up this rather heavy dessert.
- The lychee ice cream was the best part. There are actually pieces of real lychee in it and it went so well with the banana fritter and mint. All the flavours went together so well.
Vietnamese Pancake – 3/6
- A fried Vietnamese pancake served with caramel and lychee ice cream (I’m not sure of the price, but I’m guessing $6-8)
- It was one fried pancake made out of Vietnamese flour – seemed like potato or rice flour to me. It’s thin and crispy and glutinous in texture.
- It was swimming in a caramel sauce that was much too sweet and they put too much on.
- Again the ice cream was the best! It has the real lychee bits in it and with the pancake it gave it a nice florally flavour.