Restaurant: BaoQi Eateri
Last visited: January 3, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Yaletown/Downtown)
Address: 620 Davie Street
Phone: (778) 689-4221
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 4.5 (based on following items)
- Family owned/operated
- Authentic Vietnamese
- Modern presentation
- Neighbourhood favourite
- Family friendly
- Vegetarian friendly
- Vegan friendly
- Budget friendly/cheap eats
- Limited seating
- Eat in/Take out
- Tues-Fri: 11:30AM – 9:00PM
- Sat-Sun: 12:30PM-9:00PM
- Mon: Closed
**Recommendations: Pomelo Salad, Lotus Salad, Betel leaf wrapped beef, Banana leaf wrapped cake
What a way to kick off the new year! It’s been around for a couple years, but I never made it a priority to visit even though I knew about it when it opened. And why would I? It was just another Vietnamese restaurant right? No! Not at all. I think this is the first time I’ve given a Vietnamese restaurant a “3” for ambiance, which is “good”! Most of the time it’s a generous 2 which is “okay”, and that alone was refreshing!
It’s about time we break the stereotypes of Vietnamese restaurants in Metro Vancouver. Quite often they are dodgy hole in the walls with Christmas light decor and this was none of that. It was still a tiny restaurant, but it was actually quite modern and comfortable and nice for being a casual eatery. I’ve eaten at many hole in the wall restaurants and sometimes I just close my eyes walking past the kitchen, but it’s nice not having to do that. It wasn’t the clean ambiance that impressed me though, it was the food. The most important part.
Maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting much that I was so blown away, but even so I was impressed. It was Vietnamese food presented modernly, not to be confused with “modern Vietnamese food” or “fusion Vietnamese food”. The food was still more or less authentic and items traditional, but they were displayed nicely. They also feature a more unique menu by offering more than “#1 special pho” and a massive list of noodles with mix and match beef parts. There are only the few bowls that always get ordered anyway and the menu had good variety and went beyond standard dishes.
The veggies were also noticeably fresh and clean and you didn’t have to second guess whether or not they had been washed. They cared and there was passion behind the cooking. You could tell in the tea they served, how they cut their vegetables, the carefully thought out menu, sourcing of ingredients, and the type of plates they used. Some things might have been toned down for the multicultural clientele downtown, but it was not watered down and that’s a big difference.
BaoQi Eateri was an overall win and a big thumbs up for me! On both hands! It reminded me of a less extravagant Slanted Door in San Francisco and other very good modern Asian restaurants in North America, but without the fancy prices and hype. Everything was maybe $1-2 more than they would be at a hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant and it was more than justifiable. Very good value, excellent food, and fair portions… they did no wrong. For a small family run eatery for quick and casual weekday lunches, dinners and take-out, they exceeded expectations.
On the table:
- How I look at bread and butter at Western restaurants is how I look at tea at Asian restaurants.
- The complimentary tea can tell you a lot about a restaurant.
- This was no ordinary tea, it was home brewed herbal tea with gogi berries and various Vietnamese dried and fresh herbs.
**Betel leaf wrapped beef (Self Wrap & Roll) – 5/6 (Excellent)
- Side of rice papers, vermicelli, cucumbers, carrots, basil, grilled ground beef wrapped in betel leaf $9.95
- Vietnamese name: Bo La Lot
- Not many Vietnamese restaurants in Metro Vancouver offer this dish, so I don’t have much to compare to.
- You can purchase the grilled ground beef (Bo La Lot) frozen at Vietnamese specialty shops though. I did not ask if they made these fresh in house.
- Quite often Bo La Lot will be one of the dishes in “4-7 courses of Beef” dinners at Vietnamese restaurants.
- It is either an appetizer (served just like this), or the beef is used in spring rolls or served as a topping in a bowl of noodles.
- This is best shared or it gets repetitive, but it could easily be a meal for one.
- This is “Vietnamese fajitas”.
- It comes with 5 sticky rice paper crepes served on plastic blue steamers (photographed in the top left corner) which can be thought of as the “tortillas”.
- They give you more crepes upon request if you need.
You take the rice paper crepe and fill it with grilled lemon grass beef (Bo La Lot), bean sprouts, fresh lotus root, pickled carrots, pickled daikon, cucumbers, crushed peanuts, pan fried sheets of vermicelli, and Vietnamese basil.
- The grilled ground beef wrapped in betel leaf (Bo La Lot ) was on the dry side, but it wasn’t bad. It was just a bit lean for my liking and slightly overcooked.
- It was a ground beef sausage and it was very fragrant with lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chili flakes, and fish sauce in the mix.
- The betel leaf wrapped around it is a very peppery herb and the flavour penetrates into the beef and is supposed to keep it moist.
- Betel leaves come fresh and frozen and I’m not sure which one this was, but it was aromatic, peppery and slightly bitter.
- The clean and well cut veggies didn’t come unnoticed. The veggies were julienne professionally to fit into the tiny rolls.
- The paper thin rice paper crepe is very sticky so it easily adheres to itself and stays together. It is also quite stretchy so it is hard to tear.
- It was almost like a Vietnamese Salad Roll.
- The fresh rice roll was chewy and the Vietnamese pickles were crunchy and it had excellent texture.
- It was very aromatic from the lemon grass beef, raw Vietnamese basil and crushed roasted peanuts.
- It was fragrant, savory, sweet, tangy, and a bit spicy.
- Bo La Lot could very well get better than this, but I enjoyed this version and I would order it again.
This is their house made fish sauce or nuoc mam cham dipping sauce. You dip the rolls in here before eating. It is made with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and hot peppers or chili. It is savoury, sweet, tangy and a bit spicy and if you want “umami” then this is umami.
**Banana leaf wrapped cake (5 Wraps) – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
- Steamed tapioca with shrimp and scallions wrapped in banana leaf $6.50 (15-20 minute wait)
- Vietnamese name: Bánh Bột Lọc
- This is another house favourite which was highly recommended.
- I don’t see this traditional Vietnamese appetizer offered at many Vietnamese restaurants in Metro Vancouver so I was pleased to see it here.
- It was something different and that made it worth ordering alone.
- They are almost like “Vietnamese ravioli” or Vietnamese dumplings.
- I would say this is more acquired for a Western palate because it has a gelatinous texture, but for an Asian palate it reminded me of Chinese dim sum and comfort food.
- It was chewy, warm and gelatinous rolls of sticky, slimy and slippery tapioca rolls. I know it sounds unappetizing, but I loved it.
- It reminded me of Chinese rice noodle rolls meets Chinese sticky rice (both served at dim sum).
- Tapioca is almost like jello and when it is steamed the texture gets slimy.
- It is often used in dessert, but the flavour is neutral and in this case it was made into a savoury appetizer.
- The tapioca rolls were stuffed with a little savoury ground pork, scallions and a piece of shrimp for crunch.
- The outside is slippery, gummy and chewy and the inside is moist and the shrimp did not overcook.
- It was a bit heavy with the tapioca skin wrap and I could have used more filling, but they were very good.
- They are quite bland without the dipping sauce and they are meant to be eaten with their house made Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam cham).
- In Metro Vancouver there is not much option for this, so unless you are lucky enough to have it home made by a Vietnamese family, this could be your only choice and it is not a bad one.
**Pomelo salad (Seasonal) – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)
- Pomelo, pickled daikon & carrot, shrimp, pork, peanut, rau ram $9
- Vietnamese name: Gỏi bưởi
- Omg. I freaking LOVED this! I almost ordered two and I never do that unless I’m dining with a lot of people.
- I rarely order salads because I think they are too easy to make at home, but I am a sucker for South East Asian salads. They are packed with flavour!
- I love Papaya Salads which are more easily found at South East Asian restaurants in Metro Vancouver, but pomelo salad is a bit more rare although similar.
- Pomelo Salads exist in different parts of South East Asia and they are popular in Northern Vietnam during the autumn.
- Pomelo is a giant Asian grapefruit and it is sweeter and more fragrant than a grapefruit.
- A fantastic salad is dependent on fresh good quality veggies and ingredients and this one stayed committed.
- It was big juicy chunks of ripe red pomelo which is better and sweeter than the yellow flesh pomelo variety.
- Traditionally this should be made with the red pomelo anyway.
- It was served with their house made Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam cham) dressing which comes off as a sweet, savoury, mildly spicy and citrus vinaigrette.
- This was a super crunchy salad and I love texture so I loved this.
- It was sweet juicy bursts of pomelo, crunchy pickled vegetables, sliced raw shallots, pieces of plain cocktail shrimp (which was the only part I didn’t care for), savoury, sweet and spicy vinaigrette, lots of crunchy nutty roasted crushed peanuts, and aromatic “rau ram” (lemony Vietnamese cilantro) and fresh mint.
- There was also some crunchy white Vietnamese seaweed which was neutral in flavour and almost unnoticeable. It gave the salad extra crunch.
- Usually it is served with shredded chicken and I couldn’t see or taste much pork, but I didn’t care. It was delicious as is.
- It was a very flavourful and fragrant salad and I would actually crave this.
- It didn’t even need the dressing, but the dressing just lifted the flavours and brightened up the ingredients. It was better with it.
- Traditionally in Northern Vietnam the dressing can be made with fresh coconut juice and the Pomelo salad is usually served with shrimp crackers.
**Lotus salad – 5.5/6 (Excellent!)
- Lotus stem, shrimp, sautéed pork, hoonglou-ee mint, house garlic chili sauce and roasted peanuts & roasted shallots $9
- Vietnamese name: Gỏi Ngó Sen
- I wanted another Pomelo Salad, but also wanted to try something new so I ordered the Lotus Salad.
- The Lotus Salad is almost the same as the Pomelo Salad so it’s not necessary to order both.
- I did like the Pomelo one better, but they were both excellent.
- The Lotus salad was even crunchier than the Pomelo Salad and it was more fragrant with a celery forward flavour.
- The veggies were all fresh, clean and good quality.
- The celery is Chinese celery which has thinner stalks and is stronger and more fragrant than traditional celery.
- There is a lot of Chinese celery which is cut rather whole, so you have to like celery a lot to like this salad.
- The lotus root was fresh lotus root stems which are rather neutral and very mild and delicate in flavour.
- It is milder than water chestnuts, but similar and they have a refreshing crunch to them.
- Lotus root stems are also quite fiberous so when you bite into them and pull away they have very fine cotton candy like strands of fibre. That is their nature.
- It was very crunchy with lots of pickled and raw vegetables, raw red pepper and even slices of Vietnamese ham.
- I guess the sautéed pork was the Vietnamese ham.
- The shrimp was just the standard cocktail shrimp and there weren’t many of them, but I didn’t care and it was probably even better without them.
- Just like the Pomelo Salad there were crunchy white Vietnamese seaweed which is again very neutral in flavour and almost undetectable.
- It was loaded with crunchy nutty roasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots and fragrant hoonglou-ee mint, so the salad was very aromatic and flavourful.
- It was served with house made garlic chili sauce which tasted similar to the Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam cham) dressing served with the Pomelo Salad, but with more chili flakes and garlic. It comes off as a sweet, savoury, spicy and citrus vinaigrette.
- This salad didn’t even need the dressing and it was flavourful enough on its own.
Spicy beef noodle soup – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Mildly spicy garlic lemongrass broth with beef shanks, beef brisket and rare beef, garlic pepper pork sausages, rice vermicelli, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and basil $8.50
- Vietnamese name: Bún bò Huế or Bún bò
- This is a very typical pho that is offered at many Vietnamese restaurants, but the style was suited for Western tastes here.
- I still liked it, but there are so many Vietnamese restaurants offering Bún Bò Huế or Bún Bò that it could and does get better than this, however it depends what you’re looking for.
- It is a very aggressive and strong flavoured sweet and spicy Vietnamese noodle soup.
- It is traditionally served with shrimp paste (mom ruoc) on the side as a dipping sauce.
- The vermicelli noodles are the round ones (called Bun) which are traditionally used for Bún Bò Huế.
- The noodles are much chewier and also thicker and they are similar to Chinese rice noodles.
- The broth was barely spicy (for my standards, which is a bit higher than average, but not authentic Thai HOT spicy).
- They really toned it down here with the chili which was likely for the clientele. I would request it spicier next time.
- The broth was too sweet for me and sweeter than most Bún Bò Huế, but it was very flavourful.
- I could taste the lemongrass, but the sweetness was dominant.
- It is a bit oily, but it is almost always on the oilier side due to the added chili oil.
- I couldn’t taste much of the slow cooked beef broth and beefy flavour until it had come down to room temperature completely.
- They could be using the same stock used in their regular pho bo as a starting base, but Bún Bò Huế is spiced very differently.
- It was a very rich and oily beef stock infused with lemongrass and it made me curious to try their standard pho.
- This should have also used shrimp paste in the soup, but I couldn’t taste that either and it was just served on the side.
- The meats in this version were very untraditional for Bún Bò Huế.
- Authentically it should be pig’s feet/knuckle, pork’s blood and beef shank, and a couple other meats, but this version was less adventurous (likely for clientele).
- The rare beef was a bit too cooked by the time it came to the table and I like it bright pink, but they likely did this to accommodate the clientele.
- The beef shanks, beef brisket and rare beef were all very tender and sliced very nicely and well presented.
- The beef parts were a bit less fatty too and all this was likely for their clientele, but it was still good.
- I enjoyed this and it was good, but on the sweet side and not authentic to the original recipe.
- I do enjoy the authentic version with the pig’s knuckle, but this is healthier and caters to its market.
- My favourite Vietnamese pho is still at Pho Tam, but I haven’t tried their Bún Bò Huế which is different from pho.
- Choice of beef, chicken, vegetarian or seafood additional $1.50 Mildly spicy, saucy coconut, peanut satay sauce and bean sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, basil $8.50
- Vietnamese name: n/a
- I’ve never tried this before so I think it could have been a house specialty. It came recommended.
You mix it all up before eating.
- This seemed very Chinese to me because it used the thicker chewy Chinese rice noodles.
- The noodles seemed steamed instead of fried and they were swimming in a rich peanut and coconut milk sauce.
- The sauce was almost like a thick Vietnamese peanut and chicken satay stew or Thai coconut sauce.
- It was more sweet than savoury and I didn’t find this spicy at all either.
- It tasted more like peanut sauce than satay sauce and I could have used some dried shrimp paste fried into the sauce to give it depth and make it more savoury.
- It was almost a salad meets a stew so it was hearty, but still somewhat light from all the crunchy fresh vegetables and herbs mixed in.
- It was loaded with peanuts and I loved the crunch of crushed peanuts contrasting the slimier sauce and slippery noodles, but it was a bit one dimensional.
- The flavours of the peanut sauce/stew fell a bit flat so it got a bit repetitive and I wouldn’t want a whole plate to myself.
- I would have liked it more savoury, but the moist pieces of dark meat chicken were good.
- Another version of Vietnamese Satay I really enjoyed was at Pho Tan – see their Pho Bo Satay.
Deluxe banh mi – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
- Pork roll, Vietnamese chorizo, Vietnamese Jambon and pork meatball $5 (8′ French baguette)
- This is another item that is found at many Vietnamese restaurants and usually they are $3-4.
- Most banh mi fans already know where to get their favourite, but in the context of downtown Vancouver there are only a handful of options.
- This was a fancier banh mi and it was very well presented.
- It was very well stuffed with finely cut Vietnamese deli meats and julienne pickled vegetables (daikon, carrots, cucumber).
- The baguette was warm and toasty with a crisp exterior and soft and fluffy chewy inside that wasn’t dry. It was not a house made baguette, but it was okay.
- It was well stuffed with ingredients and the meat wasn’t just slabbed on like it usually is.
- Vietnamese deli meats can look unappetizing, fatty, gelatinous and chewy, but they sliced them up into strips here.
- I could taste more vegetables than meat in this and the meat didn’t necessarily stand out, but it didn’t come across as fatty or chewy which is good.
- I couldn’t taste the individual meats unless I picked them out and tried them alone.
- There was also some pork pâté, but all the textures and flavours of the meat blended in due to how they were executed.
- The pork meatball was my favourite meat in it and next time I would just order their pork meatball banh mi to try.
- The pork meatball was very tender, soft and moist and it was in a sweet and sour tomato based sauce with possibly a bit of Ketchup (which is actually quite typical of the recipe).
- It was very authentic in flavours and style and I’ve had homemade versions of Vietnamese pork meatballs and this was promising.
- I prefer banh mi to have lots of pickled vegetables for good crunch and they did that here.
- There wasn’t anything necessarily special about this banh mi compared to other banh mi, but I enjoyed it very much and would still order it again.
- Personally I don’t mind my banh mi from sketchy hole in the wall places.
- There is also another banh mi shop that is rather new to downtown that I haven’t tried yet called DD Mau (also in Yaletown).
Deep Fried Banana with Ice Cream – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Even the standard Vietnamese dessert was no ordinary battered and fried banana with ice cream. This was fancy!
- It was served with a regular banana (sweeter) and then a plantain banana (less sweet and starchier).
- The smaller regular banana was creamier, softer, and expectedly sweeter with a crunchy spring roll wrapping as batter.
- The larger plantain banana was starchier and wrapped with the same crunchy spring roll wrapper.
- They were well made, but for some reason they just didn’t taste as good as the good old deep fried bananas at most hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurants.
- I like the old fashioned whole banana fried with a flour based batter.
- The oil was fresh here and it was sprinkled with cinnamon and it wasn’t bad, but just not my favourite version of the dessert.
- The ice cream was actually coconut ice cream with vanilla bean seeds and I was impressed.
- I was expecting very average grocery store vanilla ice cream, but this was good quality.
- The coconut ice cream was still bought, but it was good and tasty.
- It was icier, harder and thicker in texture and they sprinkled it with crushed peanuts.
- Toasted coconut would have been great, but this was already more than I was expecting.
- I could tell they cared about their food and again they made an effort with presentation and execution. I appreciated it.
mmmm everything looks so fresh and tasty here! i know a lot of vietnamese restaurants are opening up here and there and they’re all starting to revamps classic dishes… have you been to broken rice yet? my friend told me the dissected pho dish is great and the beef tastes like butter beef! 🙂
the satay seems like a weird dish and i’m not surrpised there’s no vietnamese name for it lol i’ve been looking for a good bo la lot and this place looks like it has some good ones!! !:)