Mr. Red Café doesn’t sound like your typical Asian restaurant but don’t let that fool you. They specialize in Northern Vietnamese dishes, which I haven’t come across before unless you count my time traveling in Vietnam itself. Lucky for me, I found out about this place through some research and Dennis, who is the coolest guy I know through cyberspace. You can check out his review here. He’s got a wackload more pictures, the menu and greater in-depth than I will ever go into.
Everything is prepared fresh and prices are very, very reasonable. We went on a Saturday for lunch and we were seated right away, but by the time we left, the place was packed. It’s small and compact inside but doesn’t feel crowded. Love how the glass completely steams up once they start cooking in the kitchen. Make sure you try the condiments on the table, especially the pickled raw garlic slices with hot peppers. Those were insanely delicious – spicy, tangy, I could use a jar like this at home.
Prawn salad roll (#1) ($5.00)
These salad rolls were stuffed to the point of breaking, just look how plump they are. Two prawns, lettuce, vermicelli noodles and some herbs. The peanut dipping sauce it came with was tasty. Simple but executed well. It’s nothing you haven’t had before but it was a good way to share and start our meal off.
Steamed pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings (#5) ($7.00)
Six pieces of tapioca dumplings wrapped in banana leaf. I think this was the first time that I’ve tried tapioca dumplings. They were very sticky and glutinous – I think that’s the perfect way to describe them. Not sure if I would order these again but it was worth a try.
Banh mi pate – traditional style (#20) ($4.50)
They have a couple of banh mi options to choose from but we went with the original/traditional style. The traditional is made up of ham, meat floss, cucumbers, shredded carrots and cilantro. Totally worth the price tag and stomach space. One of the best banh mi’s I’ve had in awhile – crunchy, flavourful and well balanced. It even had a nice kick to it.
Special sticky rice with pate and chicken (#23) ($7.00)
Another new dish that I’ve never had before. Special sticky rice served with a side of daikon and pickled carrots. The presentation is stunning, although it is a tad on the small size, portion-wise. Worth trying and sharing though. The fried shallots really gave this dish a dose of flavour. The rice had a nice consistency to it – soft, chewy and sticky and mixed with all the other elements placed on top, it was gooood.
Deep fried crab meat rolls (#19) ($11.50)
Deep fried crab meat rolls served with vermicelli, mixed herbs and a sweet and sour fish sauce. We weren’t sure how to eat this at first but we figured it out eventually. The rolls were interesting – the taste of crab wasn’t too prominent but it was fried to that point where it wasn’t greasy at all. Beauty. The rest of the dish you just mix together and eat – I’d definitely add a few of the pickled raw garlic and peppers to give it some kick.
Chicken with flat noodles in soup. We ordered two chicken pho’s – my parents shared one and I had one all for myself. How is this only $8.00!?! Unreal. Broth was delicious with a lot of depth and flavour. The noodles were perfect. Even the chicken pieces were tender (every time I’ve ordered chicken pho, the chicken is dry and bland, but not in Mr. Red Cafe’s one). I’ve read some other reviews complaining about the bowl size but I thought it was the perfect amount. Although that might have been because we ordered so many order things to try so take that with a grain of salt.
If you’re looking for something different and unique, Mr. Red Café is one of a kind Northern Vietnamese goodness. The food is fantastic, freshly made and the quality is top notch. Just reminiscing is making me want to go back and visit Vancouver. I’ll have to soon so that I can try the rest of their menu!
Mr. Red Café
2234 E Hastings Street