Broken Rice (Modern Vietnamese Restaurant) – Desserts

Restaurant: Broken Rice (Desserts)
Cuisine: Vietnamese (Modern)
Last visited: April 16, 2013
Location: Burnaby, BC (North Burnaby)
Address: 4088 Hastings Street
Phone: (604) 558-3838
Transit: WB Hastings St FS Gilmore Av
Price Range: $10-20+

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 4
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 3
Value: 3
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Vietnamese family owned/operated
  • Co-owner also owns Green Lemongrass Restaurant
  • Some Authentic Vietnamese dishes
  • Some Modern Vietnamese dishes
  • Clean/comfortable
  • Neighbourhood favourite
  • Family friendly
  • Vegetarian options
  • Affordable
  • Lunch & dinner menu
  • Wine/beer/cocktails
  • Open Daily: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

**Recommendations: Cassava FriesUncle Hing’s Garlic Butter Chicken WingsSalmon CevicheBeef Stew Noodles, Pork Belly and Anise, Curried Chicken Ballotine

Broken Rice (1)I posted on the appetizers I tried at Broken Rice – here, but that was only the beginning. More often than not I’m more intrigued by appetizers, but in this case the mains delivered as well.

I was invited to try out the restaurant and I was pleasantly surprised with their lunch menu and actually made plans to go back for dinner on my own. Co-owner Nancy kept emphasizing their dinner menu and how the experience would be different; and in fact, it was, and I’m glad I went back again although the lunch was no disappointment.

There are many factors influencing how you will enjoy, experience and appreciate Broken Rice. In the historic neighbourhood of Burnaby Heights, where age old mom-and-pop restaurants dominate the area, Broken Rice stands out.

The sign is new and appealing and it has an image suitable for downtown. On the other hand the stereotype of Vietnamese restaurants in Metro Vancouver is skewed – see here. Here, the common belief is the sketchier the Vietnamese restaurant the better and the more authentic it is, so I questioned if Broken Rice was going to be some horrid comeback of the “Asian fusion” food trend of the 90’s. Well, there was only one way to find out.

Broken Rice (28)When I walked in (from the back) it had no signs of a stereotypical Vietnamese restaurant which I wrote about here. I didn’t have to close my eyes walking past the kitchen and it seemed clean and comfortable – from the washrooms to the dining room. It was actually quite nice and almost too nice to the point where I thought “oh no, is this going to be watered down Westernized Vietnamese food?” Judging from their lunch and dinner clientele it was obvious it was popular with the Westerners, so I was a bit worried I had fallen for a “trap”.

Take a deep breathe and relax though, this was no trap, this was just Vietnamese done differently. No, it’s not quite fusion, but it is modern and more upscale for the area. Some dishes are catered more for Western tastes than others, but it is not watered down and they are not taking lack of familiarity with Vietnamese food to their advantage. There are no short cuts here. Their passion to do something different and creative may come across as “fusion” or “Western”, but there is a lot of thought and professional execution going into their recipes, quality of ingredients and end presentation.

If you grew up with Vietnamese food there is a good chance you might not like this because your _____can make a better one, but for an “outsider” this is something unique. It is not necessarily authentic, but it is something other than pho. Broken Rice offers a polished and modern interpretation of Vietnamese food we rarely get to see in Vancouver.

Broken Rice Dinner Menu (10)The owners are Nancy (on the left) and Chef Yen (on the right), who also owns Lemongrass Vietnamese restaurant. I almost did not want to mention that fact because it makes people draw comparisons and they can not be compared. They are apples and oranges and cater to two completely different crowds.

Broken Rice is where Yen exercises her creativity, and while some dishes were just okay, some were actually excellent and overall everything was good. Come with an open mind and don’t come seeking authenticity, although they don’t take you for an idiot. This is more French style Vietnamese food with modern Canadian flair. Vietnam was a French owned colony and her inspiration also comes from living in Canada for over thirty years. The style is different, so come with the right mind set.

At first glance the menu might seem pricey because in Metro Vancouver we are used to seeing Vietnamese menus with dishes all under $12. So when you see $17 as a main you get caught off guard especially for the area which is known for affordability. However before you judge the prices, just wait until you see what comes out and in fact the quality is there. If it was anything other than Vietnamese food or if this was located in downtown, or if the ambiance was more trendy and modern, you would think it was excellent value, at least I did.

It is certainly nicer than an average middle of the run Vietnamese restaurant, but the prices for dinner are slightly higher to be enjoyed by most on a daily basis. It’s just a bit fancier than what would satisfy an every day craving as to why it doesn’t necessarily call out to the neighbourhood locals. However it is not a fancy place with a contemporary atmosphere either so it might not draw a downtown crowd it wishes to attract. So if you live in the neighbourhood you may not feel like you’re really going for a night out if you came here. The food is better than the ambiance and room, but it is clean and polished. They are working with a tricky formula but I am rooting for them and it is a pleasant addition to Vancouver’s dining scene.

Note: If you came here in the first few months or even half a year it opened, then I recommend coming again because the menu has changed. They started with growing pains and it took a while for them to figure out their audience and what kind of restaurant they wanted to be (and to be honest, they’re still kind of working on it), but it is worth a re-try.

I came for lunch and dinner and I recommend coming for dinner unless you are conveniently nearby for lunch. Dinner is more of a dining experience and the menu offers more creativity. If you’re making an effort to come out then come for dinner.

On the table:

See my post on Broken Rice Drinks & Appetizers

See my post on Broken Rice Mains Menu – Part 1/2

See my post on Broken Rice Mains Menu – Part 2/2

Broken Rice Dinner Menu (12)Passionfruit Sorbet3/6 (Good)

  • House made passionfruit sorbet. (About $5?)
  • This was a standard passionfruit sorbet, but she does make all her ice creams and sorbets in house which I appreciate.
  • It was tart, not sour and not too sweet, but it wasn’t as rich and dense with passion fruit puree texture and flavour.
  • I could taste the passion fruit, but I just like it a bit stronger.
  • I would be curious to try the home made Vietnamese coffee ice cream and avocado ice cream though.

Broken Rice (27)Black Eyed Peas (Che Dau Trang) 3/6 (Good)

  • Classic Vietnamese rice pudding with black eyed peas, topped with coconut sauce. $5
  • This is acquired and it is not something I would normally order although it is a very traditional Vietnamese dessert.
  • Someone who likes this dessert would say this is a good version of it, but I found it just okay.
  • It is made with white beans (black eyed peas), sticky sweet rice and coconut syrup or sauce.
  • Some beans were firm while others soft, so I found it a bit inconsistent, but at least I know they didn’t come from a can.
  • It is a very dense, chewy, sticky, mushy, glutinous, and starchy dessert, so the texture is a bit acquired.
  • It wasn’t too sweet and the flavours are okay and the coconut sauce gives it more sweetness.
  • The creamy coconut sauce was salty and sweet which is how it traditionally is.
  • The added salt in the sauce is supposed to bring out the sweetness of the coconut.
  • It would be saltier than what Western palates prefer, but it is how South East Asians prefer their coconut desserts.
  • If you’ve never tried it, this would be a good place to try it because it was a good version, but just not my favourite dessert.

Broken Rice (26)Deep Fried Banana in Coconut Tapioca – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Deep fried bananas wrapped in sweet sticky rice and served with coconut tapioca. (About $8?)
  • I liked this more than the traditional Vietnamese rice pudding, but this is a modern Vietnamese dessert and not traditional.
  • Deep fried bananas served with ice cream are commonly found at Vietnamese restaurants, but this was another version.
  • I love ice cream so I would love this with vanilla ice cream, and it would give a good temperature contrast.
  • The bananas are plantains so they are not as sweet and overall the dessert was not very sweet at all.
  • Asians do not really like sweet desserts so all their desserts tend to be very lightly sweetened.
  • The bananas were wrapped with sticky and chewy sweet rice and fried until crispy so I loved the textural contrast and nutty flavour.
  • In between the banana and rice there was some hard and crunchy real coconut meat and I wish it was the softer flesh of the coconut.
  • The pieces of banana were placed on top of creamy warm coconut tapioca pudding which was sweet and salty.
  • Again, the added salt in the coconut pudding is supposed to bring out the sweetness of the coconut.
  • It would be saltier than what Western palates prefer, but it is how South East Asians prefer their coconut desserts.
  • There were a lot of textures in the dessert and it was quite heavy.
  • It almost felt like I was eating two separate desserts – the bananas being one thing and the tapioca being another.
  • The glutinous rice around the banana and the tapioca in the pudding made it seem like two desserts at once.
  • I would either want just the coconut sauce with no tapioca, or just vanilla ice cream.
  • I wouldn’t mind if the sesame seeds were crushed peanuts too, which upon request they will serve this dessert with.
  • I would recommend trying this dessert because it is different and original, but I’m not sure if it is something I would have to order again.

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