Tucked away behind the tax center and coffee shop was this unassuming Vietnamese restaurant. We saw the sign on the sidewalk and decided to come in. As we opened the door, this delicious smell of pho came rushing and I instantly started to drool haha. The place seemed adequqtely clean and cozy. We were seated almost right away. We saw this amazing looking plate with all kinds of rolls and grilled meat two tables down and decided to order the same thing to share. The plate was called the share plate and oh boy was it big, and delicious too. My friend decided to bring some home. I ordered a sate peanut soup for take out since that's what the server recommended. It was absolutely incredible! I don't know what's in it- but I assumed that it's peanut butter and beef broth. The portion was pretty big too. Definitely gonna order here again!
Vietnamese food is more than a passion with me, it is an addiction. I'm not looking for a fine dining experience, my ideal is food that tastes like your friend invited you home and his Vietnamese grandmother made dinner, but I'll settle for mall food-fair pho if it's decent. For some reason, with a few exceptions, Vietnamese places in the downtown core aren't much to write home about, but this one is exceptionally bad. I walked in on my lunch break, long after the rush was over, about 2:PM. There was a scattering of people in the restaurant, but nothing the staff shouldn't have been able to handle. I stepped up to the register and the server greeted me with a challenging "Yes?". Note: she was not an immigrant struggling with English, she was just plain old Asian-Canadian with no manners or customer-service skills. I said I wanted to place a take-out order and she wrinkled her nose at me and said "Can you wait a moment" like I was demanding something here and now. I don't care if she was preparing a bill for another customer, all she had to do was give the customer smile and an "i'll be with you in a minute", but no, not at this place.
She came back after ringing out the other customers, no smile, no nod, no thank you for waiting, just a "What would you like". I had to say "A menu, for a start", with a smile to show it was a joke. The smile was not returned, I did get a sigh as she went to a table and grabbed a menu and put it on the counter in front of me in silence. I had the distinct impression I was wasting her time and she had far better things to do. I ordered the #22, a basic brisket and Vietnamese ham pho, and some spring rolls, the most classicly generic thing you can get in a Vietnamese restaurant, two items that should be among their best sellers and testaments to their quality. "That will be about ten minutes, have a seat", she said, without a smile or eye contact, and walked away.
The restaurant has kind of a weird L-shape, all of the customers were sitting in the main branch, since I was just waiting for take-out I sat at the first table on the smaller branch, right next to the register and the front door. I took off my glasses and put them on the table while I was browsing on my phone. After a few minutes another server came over and started spraying and wiping down the tables in my area, including *MINE*. I had to snatch my glasses off the table to keep her from wiping them away onto the floor. WHY WOULD YOU CLEAN A TABLE A CUSTOMER IS SITTING AT? Even if it is the appointed time to clean the tables in the weird little part of the L, can't you just wait five more minutes for the guy to get his take-out and leave?
After about 10 minutes someone came out from teh kitchen with my food, she was very sweet and friendly and rewarded my patience with full eye contact, glowing smiles, and warmly said "Thank you for waiting". That's really all I ask for, some basics of customer service, and it did make me feel better about the whole experience *UNTIL* I got back to the office and opened up my food.
What greeted me were:
1) spring rolls that were sodden with grease, not particularly warm, yet also burnt. How you can burn cold food is a mystery to me, I can only assume they were the last ones left in some steam tray after the lunch rush and had time to soak up all the grease from the other ones as they cooled down. They were so soggy that it was difficult to even hold them with chopsticks, of the order of three, I only ate two.
2) The pho was equally greasy, with a strange harsh taste, and a distinct fishy taste and aroma. Pho is pretty much my favourite thing, and I will happily eat it from anywhere, mall food fairs, food trucks, cafeterias, even instant packets, but I could not eat this. The noodles were also the thick, heavy sort of udon type that I've never seen in pho before, and didn't care for. I just picked out the meat and called it a day. The brisket was tender, at least, but it had that dry, cottony feel that meat does when it's been hard-boiled instead of slowly simmered or braised. The Vietnamese ham at least was actually really good, but that's probably because they just but it from some marked and slice it up.
So yeah, I won't be going back, and encourage anyone around Burrard and Pender with a hankering for incredible Vietnamese food to instead keep on going to Howe Street and eat at Cafe Joyeaux instead, where even though they always seem to be busy the staff are friendly and nice and the food is amazingly good and ridiculously cheap for the huge portions.