Restaurant: Broken Rice
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+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Vietnamese family owned/operated
- Co-owner also owns Green Lemongrass Restaurant
- Some Authentic Vietnamese dishes
- Some Modern Vietnamese dishes
- Neighbourhood favourite
- Family friendly
- Vegetarian options
- Lunch & dinner menu
- Open Daily: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
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.
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.
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:
- Around $4
- This was good, but it was just heavier with the milk so it was more like a milkshake, but there was no ice cream in it.
- It was a touch sweet for me, but it was still thick, creamy and a bit icy.
- I could taste the mango which could have been canned, but I just wanted more fresh mango.
- The drinks were a bit small and the menu said it was made with real fruit, but I still like the Phnom Penh ones better – see Mango Moo Shake.
Lychee Shake – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Around $4
- Again the menu said it was made with real fruit, but it was likely the canned lychee which can still be good.
- It was less sweet and more refreshing than the mango, so I preferred it to the mango even though I typically like mango drinks better.
- Phnom Penh also does a lychee version which is thick with fruit, icier and piled high- see here.
- Crispy cassava wedges seasoned with paprika; jalapeño garlic mayo $5 (Usually comes with 10-12)
- I’ve had casava fries before, but usually at Latin restaurants. I wasn’t expecting to see them here.
- I like them and will eat them, but I would not normally order them. These came recommended.
- I was surprised how much I liked them and I don’t think I’ve ever had cassava fries done this well before.
- Cassava is usually found in traditional Vietnamese desserts, so this was quite a modern appetizer.
- Cassava is a South American root vegetable that is more starchy and fibrous than a potato.
- They were light and crispy and steamed first before being dusted with rice flour and flash fried.
- The inside was fluffy and tender and they were not overcooked or too starchy and they almost tasted like Russet potatoes.
- The seasoning was sweet, savoury and slightly spicy and it tasted exactly like seasoning on BBQ chips. I loved it!
- The jalapeño garlic mayo tasted like spicy tangy Thousand Island sauce so I didn’t really care for it, but the fries were good on their own.
- Duck confit, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumbers, onions, cilantro, ginger hoisin sauce, steamed bao $6 (Usually comes with 3 sliders)
- Whoa! Roaming Dragon? Le Tigre? Momofuku? Banh Mi Boys? I didn’t expect to see these here. It was another modern Asian dish.
- When I tried them the steamed baos were being bought, but now they are making them in house. I tried the house made ones alone and they were quite good.
- I could have used more duck confit because I couldn’t taste much duck and it was more bun.
- The duck was made in house and it was moist and shredded and mixed with sweet and savoury Hoisin sauce.
- It was not fatty and there was not much or any skin in it and I could taste more Hoisin sauce than duck.
- It was a steamed bao (bun) meets a Peking duck wrap meets a banh mi with the pickled daikon, carrots, cucumber and cilantro.
- I wouldn’t mind the veggies a bit more finely shredded in the context of this delicate steamed bun, but it was still good.
- I wouldn’t necessarily have to order these again, but if there was more duck I would.
- Green mango julienne, shrimp, cucumber, carrot, daikon, jicama, Vietnamese coriander, mint, caramelized onion, crushed peanuts, citron vinaigrette. Also available with crispy tofu. $8 (Smaller portion in photo)
- I really like green mango salad and this was a very good Vietnamese mango salad.
- The ingredients were fresh and well marinated in a Vietnamese sweet, savoury and tangy fish sauce vinaigrette.
- It is a very aromatic salad and the Vietnamese coriander and mint were also very fresh.
- Green mango is tart so the dish is very acidic and crunchy, but I love all the different textures it has.
- The green mango in this came across as green papaya though and usually green mango is still yellow, but this was green.
- Another Vietnamese salad I recommend is the Pomelo Salad at BaoQi Eateri.
- Wings tossed in: Uncle Hing’s hot sauce, garlic butter, jalapeño basil, or fish sauce tamarind $6 (Smaller portion in photo)
- I was kind of getting a Phnom Penh feeling here with the menu, but the style was very different.
- I don’t think I would have ordered this if it wasn’t recommended because they didn’t stand out on the menu or sound very exciting, but they were awesome!
- Calling it a family recipe and putting “Uncle Hing” on the menu made it more appealing. Usually it means it is a tried, tested and true recipe.
- These garlic butter chicken wings were addicting!
- They had a light and crispy batter just like Phnom Penh Chicken Wings, but I wish they had crispy fried garlic or even just the fried minced garlic on them.
- They were very lightly seasoned and not as salty as Phnom Penh’s.
- There was no obvious sugar or use of MSG, but they were still delicious!
- They were still very garlicky and I think marinated in garlic juice or garlic paste because the garlic flavour was infused into the meat.
- They were so flavourful and juicy, but also a bit greasy (as expected).
- I wanted way more garlic butter and it was kind of drizzled over the wings so I only got it in that bite.
- It would be great to make the garlic butter as a dipping sauce, although it was oily enough already, but it does need to be better distributed.
- The whole dish reminded me of garlic butter escargot, but with chicken wings.
- I wished the jalapeños were cut up smaller too and the tomatoes were a bit random, but I think those were just for presentation.
- These did not taste like Phnom Penh Chicken Wings and I liked that they did not try to copy them and made these their own.
- Citrus marinated salmon, sawtooth herb, basil, cilantro, cucumber, capers, pickled onion, pickled ginger, crispy shallots, crispy taro ribbon, jalapeño mayo, shrimp chips $9 (Dinner menu only)
- When this came out I felt like I was at Hapa Izakaya or even Minami. This was straight out of downtown and the flavours delivered. I would order this again.
- I know! Ceviche at a Vietnamese restaurant?! I would never think to order this, but again it came recommended.
- Ceviche is not traditionally Vietnamese, but in Southern Vietnam there is a small region where Vietnamese ceviche does exist.
- In Southern Vietnam the ceviche will be made with white catfish, but here they put a Vancouver twist to it and used salmon instead.
- I loved the textures of this dish and it was crispy, crunchy, juicy, aromatic with basil and just well marinated and flavourful.
- The salmon was sashimi quality, but it was farmed and wild would have been better. However $9 for this portion and presentation I thought was fair.
- Usually ceviche does not require high quality seafood since it gets marinated anyway, but this was actually a good quality farmed salmon and it was buttery in flavour.
- It was lightly marinated in citrus and I could still taste the salmon and not just lemon. They didn’t skimp on the salmon either.
- I liked that the salmon was cut in big cubes instead of diced or minced like tartar. It was almost like a salad more so than ceviche.
- The cucumbers were cut to the same size with the seeds removed so they were not watery and very crunchy.
- The pickled onions and capers made me think of a smoked salmon salad, but it was good.
- I couldn’t taste much pickled ginger and it was a hybrid of Canadian, Latin, Japanese and Vietnamese.
- The sauce was the jalapeño mayo which was brushed on the plate.
- It tasted like the same sauce served with the Cassava fries and it was almost like a tangy and slightly spicy Thousand Island dressing.
- It came with 6 prawn crackers and it was just enough ceviche to load up the prawn crackers with.
- The portion and plating was great and worth it.
- Stir fried beef tenderloin wok tossed with red wine and soy sauce, tomato rice, watercress salad ($9 for lunch – smaller portion shown in photo and $17 for dinner for larger portion).
- Luc Lac beef is a traditional Vietnamese dish known as “Shaking Beef” in English.
- This was actually quite traditional although they upgraded the quality of beef from what most Vietnamese restaurants would serve.
- It sounds a bit of a waste to cut up a tenderloin like this, but I won’t argue with better quality.
- On the other hand some of the beef was buttery and tender while a few pieces very chewy.
- I prefer the beef cooked medium rare and this one was sautéed until medium-well, but luckily being tenderloin it didn’t suffer too much.
- The beef had a very subtle soy based marinade with fish sauce and perhaps a bit of sugar.
- The shallots and garlic were minced so fine and blended into the marinade that I couldn’t see them, but taste them.
- The flavour of the beef was quite common and not necessarily memorable, but it was authentic to the flavours of Luc Lac.
- The pickled onions on top is also traditional and besides adding crunch and acidity to the plate, it is believed to help digest the beef.
- There are many ways to serve the dish and it can be with white rice, tomato rice, or just with salad.
- They served it with a fresh watercress salad and fried tomato rice which was a bit Ketchupy (Ketchup is used in Asian cuisines).
- It is also common for it to be served with a lemon pepper dipping sauce, but this had no condiments.
- The dipping sauce would be the one Phnom Penh serves with their chicken wings – see here.
- Instead of the dipping sauce they served it with white and black pepper dusted lemon wedges on the side.
- You squeezed the seasoned lemons over the beef before eating.
- Phnom Penh also has a version, but it is more restaurant style and Chinese influenced – see Filet Beef Luc Lac on Rice.
- Chicken, ginger, black mushroom, and lily blossoms over broken rice in clay pot $13 (Offered at lunch and dinner)
- This is another traditional Vietnamese dish, but it comes across as Chinese in terms of flavour and style.
- I’m not sure the history, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was adapted from Chinese cuisine.
- From a Chinese perspective it tasted like Chicken Clay Pot Rice served at dim sum, but made by Westerners for Westerners.
- The vegetables were a bit crunchy and not quite tender and I would prefer the cilantro to be chopped up a bit more and used for more than just a garnish.
- The diced chicken thigh and breast were just sautéed in soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and the flavours were quite expected.
- The chicken was sweet and salty and gingery in flavour, but not quite spicy.
- The ginger was very forward and I could taste it in many ingredients since it was cut julienne and in rather large strips.
- The dish was quite bland so it really needed the dipping sauce served on the side.
- The sauce on the side was home made and it tasted like a hybrid of sweet soy sauce and nuoc cham sauce (Vietnamese fish sauce vinaigrette).
- The rice was Vietnamese short grain rice or “broken rice” which is rice that is damaged during the milling.
- Broken rice is traditionally used in Southern Vietnam and often it is served with grilled meats, pickled vegetables and a bowl of soup on the side.
- The best part for me is the very bottom of the clay pot where all the rice gets all crispy from the heat, but this one had no crispy rice.
- Apparently most of their customers are unfamiliar with the dish and do not like the “burnt rice” on the bottom, which is unfortunate and I wish they just stuck to tradition.
- The dish didn’t seem like it was cooked in the clay pot, however upon confirmation it turns out it was. Too bad it didn’t translate without the crispy bottom.
- Slow simmered beef noodle stew with slow braised carrots, onions, and cilantro $10
- This is a Southern style of Vietnamese pho.
- It is a sweeter style of beef pho and it is actually a stew.
- This is not Bún bò Huế or Bún bò, but if you enjoy that spicy beef noodle pho from Central Vietnam than you will possibly like this too.
- Bún bò Huế or Bún bò is more fragrant with lemongrass, salty, sweet, sour and spicy, but this is more sweet with warm spices, savoury and spicy (you can request spicier).
- Traditionally this is served with a French baguette, but this version was not.
- The flavours of this committed to how Vietnamese mothers would make the dish at home which is always ideal.
- There was a good amount of beef brisket and it was cut into cubes with a lot of the fat/membranes removed.
- The brisket was still very tender and moist though and I enjoyed it.
- The beef was “cleaned up” and cut into nice cubes and presented for Western tastes, but the flavours of the broth were legit.
- The broth is made from beef broth and carrots and the spices are mild but there is a bit of chili oil for heat.
- I could taste flavours of anise and perhaps cinnamon or cloves and that’s what aids to the sweetness and aromatics.
- It was more broth than stew and it was rich in flavour. It had depth without being too oily, greasy or salty.
- The baby carrots were not traditional and the broth was likely made with larger Chinese stewing carrots, but they didn’t serve them in the final presentation.
- The noodles got a bit too soft, but otherwise the soup packed a ton of flavour and the condiments were fresh and clean. I would order this again.
- Pan seared duck breast, wild rice, carrot, brussel sprout, drizzled in a red wine tamarind reduction $17
- This is not a traditional Vietnamese dish, but there are Vietnamese influences.
- The duck was sous vide and the fat was decently rendered, but I wouldn’t mind it a bit more.
- Yes, duck is supposed to have fat and that is where the flavour is, but this was still a bit thick and I think it could be softer and a bit less chewy.
- The skin was crisped up and it was served with a tamarind red wine sauce that was sweet and tangy.
- I thought the sauce was cranberry or sour cherry sauce, but the tamarind was the Vietnamese inspiration.
- The rice was a chewy red and brown rice with anise so it was sweet with a bit of a liquorice flavour.
- Traditionally red rice would be used for desserts since it is naturally a sweeter rice, so it was unusual to serve it as a starch for a savoury course.
- The red rice was supposed to be the Vietnamese fusion/creative part, but I didn’t find it really went with the duck.
- I would have preferred a different starch overall and I think it could get more creative than just fried red rice.
- The carrots weren’t quite tender yet and overall the dish wasn’t as imaginative, but it tasted good.
- It kind of came across as Vietnamese food you might find at a modern hotel and it wasn’t something I’d have to order again here.
- Sous-vide pork belly and harboiled egg simmered in coconut juice and fish sauce, served with broken rice, fennel salad, and crispy taro ribbons $15
- This is a traditional Vietnamese dish and it is often served during Vietnamese New Years and meant to be eaten for the first 3 days of it.
- It looks like a Chinese dish, but apparently it originated in South Vietnam.
- I question if it has Chinese influences because there is a Chinese dish that looks almost the same.
- The dish is “braised pork in a light sauce” and usually the presentation is family style and not as nice as this, but the flavours and ingredients were authentic to the original recipe.
- The only thing they left out were the bamboo shoots which may or may not be used in the original recipe. The dish can vary slightly.
The pork can be pork butt, pork shoulder or belly and in this case it was belly.
It is marinated overnight in some combination of traditionally coconut juice (they use fresh here), fish sauce, sugar, garlic, shallots, star anise and pepper.
- The belly was sous vide and incredibly tender without the fat breaking off.
- The skin was still slightly chewy, but almost melt in your mouth tender.
- The meat was infused with flavour, very tender, juicy and moist though and overall it was a very good pork belly.
- The cut of pork belly was quite fatty and I prefer a bit more meat to fat ratio, but traditionally Asian style pork bellies have more fat to meat ratio.
- The sauce is sweet and savoury and it tasted like a very natural pork broth with excellent umami.
- It was a fragrant sauce and the start anise was not over powering or very liquorice-forward, but subtle.
- The coconut juice is not obvious, but once you know it is in there you can taste it and it gives it a floral sweetness.
- The hard boiled eggs are a must in the recipe, but these were a bit overcooked with a grey rim around the yolk.
- The sauce goes great with rice which is served complimentary with the dish.
- It is a very homestyle dish that is considered Vietnamese comfort food, but this presentation was upscale and I liked it.
The pork belly is served with a side of pickled salad made with shaved radish, fennel and cucumber. The dressing is a mustard vinaigrette that is a bit sweet and tangy. It is supposed to balance the richness of the pork belly and sauce. Traditionally the dish is not served with this salad, but I liked the modern twist.
- Chicken dark meat stuffed with minced curried chicken, curry, onion, panko broken rice balls, lotus root chips, crispy taro ribbons, chili oil and side of steamed rice $17
- This is a modern interpretation of traditional Vietnamese curry chicken and I loved it. It was heavily influenced by French cooking.
- It was something you might come across at a fancy hotel in Vietnam, but it was still very good and I thought worth the price.
- The chicken was boneless, made into a roulade, and sous vide.
- It was dark meat chicken (leg and thigh) stuffed with white meat chicken to cater to both Vietnamese and Western tastes. (Asians prefer dark meat).
- The skin was seared crispy and the chicken was moist and tender and well flavoured.
- I wouldn’t mind less chicken skin in the dark meat wrapping though and it was a bit much, but still okay.
- The coconut curry sauce was equally as impressive and it was house made with no short cuts and the curry paste was made from scratch.
- It was a rich, thick and creamy curry sauce with great umami.
- It was reminiscent of Indian and Thai yellow curries, but it was Vietnamese.
- It was almost like a stew and I could taste ginger, garlic, lemongrass, coriander, cloves and fish sauce to give it savoury flavour.
- It almost tasted like a sweet potato or carrot curry and it was more orange in colour than normal. Usually it is yellow.
- The spices were finely ground, but it was aromatic and drizzled with chili oil (you can request more for spicier).
- Typically the dish can be served with cashews, water chestnuts, carrots or potatoes, but this was served with textures of lotus root.
- I loved the crispy taro root chips to give texture to the dish which is not traditional, but appreciated.
- It was also served with crispy deep fried panko rice balls made with plain short grain Vietnamese rice.
- You break up the rice balls and enjoy it with the curry and chicken. It was more exciting than the plain bowl of rice served on the side.
- Again, the panko rice balls were not traditional, but a fun and modern take to the dish that I enjoyed. I would order this again.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.