November 26, 2009 | | Comments 29

Thien Kim Vietnamese Restaurant on Nanaimo and East Broadway, Vancouver

This is one restaurant that truly excites me and I have a feeling it will make you sit up and take note too.

I know. You might think what is the big deal about yet another Vietnamese restaurant. Well, besides that this is an authentic Vietnamese restaurant, they serve something we had never tried before and are very good. Something better than Pho!

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-11

The window has a neon light that says “Got Pho?” but that was not what we were excited over.

We went to the Thien Kim Vietnamese Restaurant (translated as Golden Heaven) last weekend. What we had was Vietnamese Noodle Soups … FOUR different types of noodle soup … and none of it is Pho. For those of you who are bored with pho, wanted a variety but crave Vietnamese style noodle soup, this is it.

Thien Kim is located on Nanaimo just south of Broadway in Vancouver. Their address is 2523 Nanaimo Street (Google Map).

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-40

Thien Kim is just a mid sized Vietnamese restaurant. There is nothing remarkable about it. Judging from the outside, I would never have chosen to eat here.

Inside, it is clean and a bit too spacious if you ask me. It seems like they just got some tables and just arranged it to fit the space they have. The reason I say this is because while the walkway is spacious, the tables were too small for pho. You know how much space a decent bowl of noodle soup takes up.

I tried looking for reviews on the internet of Thien Kim. I found none. Nothing on dinehere.ca. None too on Urbanspoon.

Thien-Kim-Menu-1Thien-Kim-Menu-2Thien-Kim-Menu-3

The waitress came very fast with the menu and a pot of tea. She was sweet and friendly. She also spoke in a strong Vietnamese accent. Which is a good thing because it tells us that they are authentic.

We just spent a couple of minutes looking over the menu and then put it aside. The menu was of no use to us. We already know what we wanted to order.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-81

We came armed with a list of recommendations!

Steven wrote to us for the first time last week. Suanne and I do get lots of recommendations from our readers. There are always a few every week.

But Steven’s recommendation is different. His email is FOUR pages long and that is just a note to us about his three favourite places with very detailed description on his favourite dishes. His email was written like a true foodie. [Thanks a lot, Steven!]

Our waitress was amused that we ordered our dishes with the printout of the email. She was a bit stumped over some of the Vietnamese spellings that Steven wrote but we finally sorted it out with the detailed description on the email.

So here we go. Between the four of us (Nanzaro, Arkensen, Suanne and I), we ordered two appetizers and four bowls of noodle soup … and one more time … none of them are phos.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-1

Steven recommended the Fried Shrimp Crackers. They call this Banh Tom in Vietnamese. This is not on the menu. They usually have this served as a side with the seafood or pork noodles but since we wanted to try this alone, she made a plate of four for us and charged us $5.

This is really good. The crackers are the hard crunchy type if you know what I mean. It takes a bit of a bite to break it. The prawns were so deep fried that you eat the prawns whole … shells and all.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-41

This one is new to us. It is called Banh Cong (Fried Shrimp Cake) and is also $5. We love this a lot.

It is shaped like a muffin. Suanne thinks that they make it with muffin pans, bake it and then deep fried it.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-42

It is best eaten with hands. Serious. There is nothing compared to breaking the muffin and dipping it in the fish sauce with hands, just like the way it is meant to be eaten. Even though this is deep fried, it is not greasy or oily. I think a pork version would be great too.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-2

Nothing to see here. Move along now. This is just bean sprouts and basils.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-3

Whoa, stop!

They also gave us another plate. Something different. Our waitress said that this is banana flower and mint.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-5

The banana flower and mint is for the anchovies soup as we were told. We were told (albeit too late) that we must dunk the banana flower as soon as it is served with the broth is still piping hot.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-4

Have you ever had anchovies soup before? I had never seen this before but I can tell you the soup is absolutely delicious. We love it.

On the menu, this is called Seafood Vermicelli with Pickle Fish Broth ($7.50).

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-9

In the noodle, there are slices of mouth watering fatty pork belly …

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-43

… and fish fillets besides prawns. Not only is the soup great, they … gave good ingredients in each bowl. The prawns were big, the beef is cubic and the broth is awesome. Remember the name of this dish … it is Bun Mam.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-8

The Beef Stew with Flat Rice Noodles is $7. The beef stew which felt more like beef broth because it is not thick, is equally tasty.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-45

Steven told us of a method to eat the cubic beef. He said to get a small saucer and sprinkle it with salt, pepper and then squeeze a bit of lime or lemon to make …

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-84

… a dipping sauce for the cubic beef. It was actually very nice. The cubic beef is so good (firm and yet tender) even by itself but with this dipping sauce, it does bring the best out of it.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-6

We can’t quite figure out this one above. We did not care because it was the soup we were more interested in. This is supposed to be called Minced Noodle Soup ($7.50) but we cannot quite detect any crab in it.

We forgot of the instructions that Steven gave us. He said that the authentic way to eat this is to ask for a small scoop of Chinese Shrimp Paste if they don’t give it to us. We were to mix the shrimp paste in the soup and the squeeze a bit of lemon in there … and say “Oh Yummy” like the way they said it in the “Oh Henry” commercials. LOL!

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-44

Banana flowers again … it goes with this soup too. BTW, this soups had a tomato’ish flavour to it.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-7

The fourth and last noodle soup is the Spicy Bun Bo Hue. This $7 beef AND pork noodle soup is from central Vietnamese city of Hue. The noticeable difference we see in this soup is the amount of chopped lemon grass they put in the bowl. We love that taste.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-10

Sorry for this picture of half eaten noodles. Four different types of noodle soups … and none of it pho. It was great being able to taste each of the different types of soup in turn.

The weather is getting colder and what better food to eat than noodle soup to warm the body. Being someone who is sensitive to MSG, I do think they use MSG here and I am not surprised actually.

Thien-Kim-Vietnamese-46

It is quite cheap too. Just for the four of us it is just over $40 before tips.

What a recommendation, Steven!

Thien-Kim-Menu-1Thien-Kim-Menu-2

Thien Kim Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

2 people like this post. Click yellow thumbie on the left if you like this post too.

Categorized Under: VancouverVietnamese

Tagged Under:

RSSComments (29)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. GourmetBride says:

    Darn it, the secrets out! ;-)

  2. Kevin says:

    The best Bun Bo Hue in town is where you get your 7 course beef – Song Huong. Give it a try. Vietnamese food isn’t always about Spring rolls and Pho.

    My favourite Vietnamese soup noodles are (in order)
    Bun Bo Hue
    Bun Coun (not sure where you can get this in restaurants. I get mine from my mom :D)
    Pho (also from mom)
    Bun Rieu (#25 on your list. Again, not sure where to get this as I only eat it at home)

    • fmed says:

      I agree with Kevin – my favourite Bun Bo Hue is served at Song Huong. The broth is light and flavourful and they serve it completely authentically – cube of pork blood and a pig knuckle included.

      You can get a good Banh Cuon at Truong Thanh (Kingsway at Victoria-ish). Made on the spot instead of using Chinese rice roll. Also at Tranh Xuan (Kingsway at Nanaimo). Both of these places are run by Northern Vietnamese.

      My favourite Bun Rieu in town in also served at Tranh Xuan where it is not really “authentic” – they use pounded fresh salt-water crab and shrimp. They also use rau can (vietnamese celery) – which is a common topping in Vietnam. You have to ask for pig blood if you are not Vietnamese as they would leave this out so as not to scare you off ;-)

      If you want “authentic” Bun Rieu using the “proper” mud-crab paste, you can also get it at Truong Thanh – however, they use jarred mud-crab paste (you can’t get fresh mud crab here). The flavour is, well, more muddy…but that is the way it is supposed to be.

      Both those places automatically gave me the fermented fish/shrimp paste on the side. I didn’t need to ask for it.

  3. Adelaide says:

    Hey, we were there not too long ago. I also heard from someone that it was good. Mind you, we only had the standard Pho, which was good, but I’ve had better. But I never tried the stuff you did, which looks YUMMY! I’m not too familiar with Vietnamese cuisine, so I’ve never ordered anything outside of Pho or Lemongrass Chicken. LOL. That’s awesome that your freind was able to recommend things for you. I wouldn’t mind trying the anchovies soup. Something totally different.

    Oh, and I found out they only take cash prior to our meal coming. But the lady (owner?) was super-nice, and insisted that we eat first and worry about the money later. There’s a bank next door.

  4. fmed says:

    I too have been here a few times over the years – I live fairly close to it. I do like that they have a few unusual items (eg, Bun Mam). The Bun Rieu and the Bun Bo Hue are “OK” – not the best examples of either. The Bun Bo Hue (when I had it) was missing a couple of key items – the cube of pork blood and a pork knuckle. The Bun Riue was missing the minced crab paste (did you find any in yours? – I didn’t in mine).

    It is also the only place I know of here that serves “pho sate” (here is actually a “hu tieu sate bo” – which indicates that they use the cylindrical rice noodle rather than the flat pho noodle). It is much more common in Alberta and Quebec than here. You often encounter Edmontonians and Calgarians asking for where to find a true “pho sate” here.

    BTW, The plate of herbs and banana flowers for the Bun Mam were also mixed with “split” water convulvus – it is the greener curly item.

    All this talk is making me hungry!…

  5. Monkeysmile says:

    The food looks so scrumptious. So in your (Suanne and the gang) opinion, do you like these noodles better than pho noodles? What is the difference between the two? It seems like these noodles come with a lot more garnishing than do pho noodles.

  6. kiki says:

    I know you foodies have tried many Pho place in town but as a Vietnamese who grew up in Vietnam and someone always on the lookout for the best “real” pho place everywhere I go, I must say pho Lam Hoa Quan (I know! the name is kinda odd) on Victoria (between 34thth and 35th)is by far the best. Not only that most of the Pho we find outside of Vietnam is mostly cooked in the somewhat more Southern way (which isnt where Pho was originated from), Vietnamese restaurants here usually skip out on quite a few of ingredients, though small but does make a big difference if you’re as crazy about authenticity as much as I am.
    Maybe you should give that place a try some day and tell me what you think. Their chicken pho is worth a try, too though I gotta say they have one of the best beef pho in Vancouver.

    • fmed says:

      Lam Hoa Quan does have good beef pho – I haven’t tried their chicken pho (my fave in town is My Chau on Kingsway). That place also serves horse, right?

  7. kiki says:

    Yea I think Lam Hoa Quan does serve horse meat but I’ve never seen anyone order that so I was kinda curious,too.
    I would recommend you try their chicken pho next time you come by..thou it cant be compared with chicken pho in Vietnam but in my opinion, it tastes better and is more authentic than any chicken pho served here in Vancouver. My favourite is still their beef pho. Yummm…

  8. [...] We would not have known about it until Steven told us about it. Remember Steven? He was the foodie reader who wrote us a 4-page recommendation of Vietnamese Cuisine. He was the one who led us to discover Thien Kim, the pho place where we had “4 types of Vietnamese Noodle Soup, none of which is Pho“. [...]

  9. JoanneA says:

    my partner and i have been a big fan of your blog. so we normally check your page first before deciding on where to dine next. we visited Thien Kim not to long ago and tried two of the soups you had. the waitress asked us if we have tried the soups before and we replied that we were first timers and that a friend had told us about it. she came back with our soup and asked if the friends we know are named Ben and Suanne LOL LOL.. and we said YEAH!! that’s them! hahahahha!

    • Ben says:

      Hi JoanneA:
      *Gasp* We did not even tell Thien Kim our names or even directly that we are bloggers. I guess they figured that out by now. Oh about the question on 12B, we are finalizing the arrangements already. Give me a couple of days to get the final confirmations and if there is a space, I will let you know.
      Ben

    • LotusRapper says:

      Cool, so Ben and Suanne are now known celebrities.

  10. [...] cross checking our to-try list, we decided to go to Spices on Cambie. Ever since Thien Kim (where we tried 4 different soup noodles and none of them are phos) and Song Huong (7 courses of [...]

  11. mitz says:

    I love Thien Kim!

    Best spring rolls of any vietnamese restaurant..
    best spring roll dipping sauce of any vietnamese restaurant…
    everyone HAS to try #18 curry beef pho…the broth will burn all the impurities out of you in a heat-but-sweet way…amazing!!
    We always order #18, lemongrass porkchop, and 2 orders of spring rolls…droooooling now!

  12. [...] reading the review on Chow Times, I couldn’t wait to try out this restaurant!  They have a great selection of noodle soups [...]

  13. Karl says:

    Hi Ben, that is exactly the type of post I hunt around for all the time…secret, hidden spots with the unique and unusual fare!

    Last year I did posts on these types of places: Su Su Coffee, Café Xứ Huế & Café Trường Thành.

    Thanks for the tip!

  14. timetochow says:

    i didn’t see some of this items on the menu when i was there. maybe not looking close enough.

    guess i didn’t have a four page print out with me.

    had the bun bo hue and regular pho. it was good enough to warrant another visit. they got matching shirts that say ‘got pho’ .

    just adding, place looked clean and had a TV .
    i mention ’cause sometimes i like to fine places that have TV so i can catch a period of the canucks game while i dine. :-)

  15. [...] we wrote about our visit to Thien Kim (where we had FOUR different types of Vietnamese noodles soups, none of which are Pho), there was a [...]

  16. [...] favourite Vietnamese restaurants are places that serves different types of noodle soup. We like Thien Kim on Nanaimo , a place where we had four different types of soup noodles and none of it is Pho. We also like the [...]

  17. grayelf says:

    Catching up on old posts and noticed you enjoyed the shrimp cake here. If you haven’t tried it there already, I thought the version at Cuu Cong (or Long, not sure) at Kingsway and Knight was pretty good.

    • Ben says:

      Hi Grayelf:
      LOL! You see, I am trying to learn a few Vietnamese phrases so that I can manage my way around Vietnamese restaurants better. So, out of curiosity, I tried to Google-Translate Cuu Cong and guess what I came up with? See http://translate.google.com/#vi|en|cuu%20cong%0A
      Ben

      • grayelf says:

        That is pretty funny — I think I’ll go with Cuu Long (“boom”) since I can’t ascertain whether it is a C or an L beginning the second word. Apparently I’m not alone as it is referred to both ways around the web. At any rate, nice place, nice staff, nice food (especially the grilled minced pork, mmmm) so who cares what it is called, right?

  18. [...] different types of noodle soups! You must check this page out. Late last year when we went to Thien Kim and discovered that they had FOUR types of (non-Pho) noodles soup, that post was a hit and brought a lot of new customers to Thien Kim. I can just imagine how having [...]

  19. This is awesome! I can’t wait to try it. I love how none of them are pho… although I do see spicy Bun Bo Hue come with pho quite often. Thanks for this write up… although it’s an older post, I hope it’s still available.

  20. sorry, by being served with “pho” i meant that I see Bun Bo Hue being served with noodles…. but I see that yours was also served with noodles.. so never mind :) (I’m having trouble with the language as well)

    • Ben says:

      Hi Mijune: If Thien Kim is something that you like, there is also another equally interesting Vietnamese restaurant which I think you might be interested in checking out. It is called Mui Ngo Gai and the link is here. Ben

  21. [...] in November of 2009, Ben from Chowtimes wrote about a phở joint in East Van. Not your normal phở joint, mind you. This is one that serves up [...]

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

You may also subscribe to receive comments via email without commenting.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin