October 22, 2010 | | Comments 29

Bao Chau Spring Roll Specialty House on E Hastings and Slocan, Vancouver

On most Fridays when Suanne and I have our date night, she would take transit and meet me at my office in Burnaby. It works better for me that way because if I get home, I just can’t go out again. Moreover, from Burnaby as a staging point, getting to any part of Metro Vancouver is just a short drive.

I remember someone telling me that of all the cities in Metro Vancouver, Burnaby is the most central location. It sounded kind of right when he told me that Burnaby is at most just one bridge away from everywhere else. Yeah, sometimes people measure distances by the number of bridges you have to cross.

Since we started off from the Metrotown area, we decided to venture north. It is a part of the city that we don’t go to often because of the distance from home in Richmond.

East Hastings, there are a lot to discover along this street. We thought we go to where Luda is to take a couple of pictures to post on the blog. Remember we asked if anyone wanted to help us make up a table for dinner in this post? That’s me. Suanne thinks I am too much a perfectionist to drive all the way there to take a picture of the restaurant just so that I have pix for the blog post. *shrug*

So after taking the pictures, we decided to go have dinner in Bao Chau. We have heard a lot about this place before but have no expectations whatsoever about it. Some people likes it and what they like about here is their spring rolls more than anything else. And it sure seems to be the case because the words “Spring Roll Specialty House” is even more prominent that the words “Bao Chao” on the awning.

It is a big restaurant. I would say it is about double the size than most typical Vietnamese restaurants.

It is also popular from the number of customers they have. It was not full but most of the tables were taken. Looking around, their customers are mixed with a fair number of them non-Vietnamese. I am not surprised because Bao Chau is a well known restaurant who had established itself in the neighborhood over the years already.

There is a rare sight of a round table in Vietnamese restaurants. I don’t see many of these sort of tables in a Vietnamese restaurant for sure. They even have a lazy susan in the middle of the round tables … except that they use that for condiments, sauces and eating utensils, and not for dishes and food.

Service? I must point out that the waitress has a sour face which is really obvious. No, it did not bother us but I think some customers may take offence to that glum unhappy frown. I certainly don’t expect smiles and all but walking around with a sour face will not do any good to anyone.

The menu is nothing exceptionally exciting. The usual suspects are there along with a handful of dishes that we had never tried before.

Suanne pointed to me an interesting thing she saw on the menu. On the left menu above and right at the bottom where the front page/logo is, is the words that says “For Take Out, Add $0.50 Per Item”. Strange right? She thought this is directly opposite of what the other restaurants do … that they give discounts for take outs. Instead, in Bao Chau they charge extra for take outs. I was wondering what the justification is for the additional 50 cents.

My eyes were only scanning for those dishes that has spring rolls. So I decided on the Combo B ($10).

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this. This is a really large plate of meat and contained … grilled pork hash, tiger prawn wraps with ham and two very important deep fried spring roll. I opted for vermicelli over rice to go with this.

The deep fried spring rolls were very crispy. I like blistered skins like these which I understand is how it will look like if a spring roll is wrapped with rice paper. When I saw the color of the spring roll, I was thinking about what Buddha Girl/Boy was saying that if it looked too dark they might have used old oil to deep fry this. Well, they were saying this in the context of salt and pepper chicken nuggets in Taiwanese restaurants but I guess the principles is the same. [Educate us BG/BB!]

The spring roll has vermicelli in the fillings. I must say it is rather ho-hum. I can hardly taste any meat or pork in it.

Suanne makes better Cha Gio. Go check her blog entry for making the Cha Gio here. There is also a video embedded in that post where the ladies at the Community Kitchen demonstrated how it is made. That filling is much better looking that the one we had in Bao Chau.

No, the spring rolls is not awful or anything like that. The wrapping is really crispy and nice but overall, the home made ones trumps this version.

The tiger prawn wraps with ham was pretty good. I like it. When I saw the word Tiger Prawns I had in my mind prawns bigger than the ones we had in this. Just calling it prawns wrap in ham would be a more accurate description.

The grilled pork hash was nice and sweetish. I can’t add anymore than just that I enjoyed this one too.

Changing topic. Tell me more about fish sauce. This is so important to the Vietnamese cuisine but I had never thought much about it. It is like they use fish sauce in every dish and they must have it with every meal. I know this is big with the neighboring countries like Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.

Anyway, I couldn’t finish the whole plate and had some packed to go.

Suanne ordered the one thing we never had before. This is called the Banh Tam Bi ($6.75). It is described as fresh rice noodle topped with shredded pork & coconut milk.

It was a unique taste, one that we never had in a Vietnamese restaurant before. We cant really see traces of coconut milk except the sauce left behind is slightly milky colour. We can taste the coconut flavour though. It was a different kind of taste but not something we would fall in love with.

We were not too impressed with Bao Chau to tell the truth. It wasn’t bad but we can find much better ones … there are a number I can think of just blocks along East Hastings.

Bao Chau Vietnamese on Urbanspoon

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  1. hamsup says:

    Seems like I’ve been posting more and more on your blog =)

    I haven’t been back to Bao Chao in a long time. I am craving it just by reading your post. Their pho is on par with all other restaurants but their spring rolls are so good. The price, the taste, the portions, and the crispiness can’t be beat. Can you recommend us another restaurant that serves better spring rolls at around the same price?

    The only other restaurant that had similar rolls was at SP!CES on Cambie but they recently closed. :(

    Happy Friday !!

    • Ben says:

      Glad to see that you’re still using the hamsup name despite you saying it is time for a change. Oh yeah … we like Spices on Cambie. I thought they were doing pretty well and is a well established restaurant too. I heard that it’s the unreasonable rent rises that forces them out. It’s sad. I hope they reopen somewhere else.

  2. Mike says:

    hi ben
    I know the owners of bao chau they are a family friend lol
    but i know why they add $0.50 for take out most chinese restaruant do it also it cause we charge ppl extra for the container beacuse if u don’t some ppl will ask for alot and then u lose money. Everybody makes a differnt spring rooll as there is not “set” standard or recipe for it.
    Fish sauce is more of a condiment and flavouring in Vietnamese cuisine its similar to how in chinese cooking we use soy sauce for flavouring i hope that helps i really enjoy ur blog
    Mike

    • Ben says:

      Hi Mike: I like your analogy of the use of fish sauce in Vietnamese cooking to the use of soy sauce for Chinese cooking. That helps! Ben

  3. Doug says:

    I know most restaurant don’t charge $0.50 for containers. We don’t lose money from something that cost less then $0.10 for a couple of containers. Many restaurants even do free delivery and all the food is put into containers, and we still don’t lose money.

    If its $0.50 added per items for a take out container, it better be the world best Green House Friendly Containers in the world…

    • Edwina says:

      Actually Doug, you are very wrong. As someone who ordered i.e.”paid for” all the paper products in a fairly large sized corporate restaurant I can tell you that take out containers, along with paper towels, toilet paper, chemicals, are some of the highest costing extraneous items a restaurant can order.

      • Ben says:

        Hi Edwina: Now that you mentioned this, I am curious as to how much a food court stall spends on containers and eating utensils. As a percentage of the total operating and food costs, I think it would not be much. I think that stalls charges extra is to prevent wastages. I understand how Chinese are going after these sort of things just because it is free. Ben

        • As a percentage, it’s not insignificant.

          • My comment posted before I finished!

            As a percentage, the money spent on all these consummables is not insignificant, especially when you consider the margins — especially for food stalls where customers expect food to be cheap — are very thin.

            You wouldn’t believe how wasteful a lot of people can be, with napkins, disposable cups, disposable utensils, paper towels. . .For all the talk about being “environmentally-conscious,” I have yet to see a sea-change in people’s attitudes when it comes to these consummables.

            • TimeToChow says:

              from my experience, the pricing depends on the type of take out containers they use. some corporate chains may use take out containers that cost .50 cent per unit. they are made of better material. while the mom and pop stalls get theirs mostly Styrofoam in bulk for .10 cents per unit.

              regardless of the unit price, it really comes down to how the business wants to absorb the price of take out. like JS mention for bare bone places like RPM charging make sense as their food cost is high due to the inexpensive prices. also some folks(cheap) do take advantage and generally take more than they need. they prob have a kitchen drawer full of take out utensils etc. :-D

              for smarter chains that get ‘it’. they will value the potential income in home meal replacement(HMR), so getting practical take out containers is important. some are willing to absorb the more expensive cost in hope that they will continue to attract more people to order take out from their restaurants. depending on their corporate agenda of course.

              talking about cost. they frequency a restaurant changes their deep fryer oil is more cost related than anything else. each oil change cost money. :-P

  4. khang says:

    i’ve been eatting at bao chau for many years and and it’s a place that me and my friends would go for a quick and home feeling meal and the grill hash…. omg! so yummy!

  5. Maxmillan says:

    I’ve recently moved back to this neighbourhood and decided on Bao Chau as my regular Vietnamese haunts. I’ve tried neighbouring Vietnamese restaurants within this vicinity in Vancouver but found Bao Chau is the tastiest and gives you the best bang for your buck.

    My family said their noodle is one of their better fares and I agree. I don’t feel the MSG kick as I do in other restaurants. I agree that the Spring Roll is good but Phnom Penh is better.

    As to the woman with the sour face, I thought the same as you but when she smiled at my nephew her face just lit up. I don’t think her sour face really reflects her friendly interior. I’d give her another chance and chat up a friendly conversation with her the next time you dine here.

    Another good item is the lemongrass chicken. It’s very aromatic and has a great depth of flavour whether it be on a rice or vermicelli dish or in a noodle dish. The chicken is moist, tender and has a good lemongrass flavour, unlike many other restaurants in which I cannot taste any lemongrass.

    I feel this restaurant is on par with my last usual Vietnamese restaurant on the corner of Main and 18th (sorry, forget the name.) The best part is that it’s easier on the pocket book. The unfortunate part is their earlier closing time on weekdays. However, on one visit, they opted to stay open an extra hour longer because it was busier than usual from the PNE crowd.

    Thanks for giving us your review. It’s always interesting to see your reviews on places I’ve dined in.

    • LotusRapper says:

      MaxM: @ Main and 18th is Pho Hoang.

      Gosh it’s been too many years since I’ve been to Bao Chau. I used to buy the spring rolls and bring home for entertaining, or to potlucks. They *used* to be $1/each !

    • Ben says:

      Hi Maxmillan (and Khang): I see that there is another Vietnamese restaurant near Bao Chau called La Petit Saigon. From the outside, it looks like it is very popular. Have you guys tried it before? Anyway, you mentioned that “It’s always interesting to see your reviews on places I’ve dined in” … I want to let you know that, to me, it is interesting reading all the feedback of the places we had dined in. Thanks a lot for taking time to share your opinions. It is what makes chowtimes richer in content and people get a lot out of it. Certainly for me it does! Ben

  6. I’ve never tried the noodles with shredded pork either. “fesh rice noodle”- you mean “fresh rice noodle” right?

    Ha, there’s also an interesting thing with hot/cold drinks too. In my area the HKSC charges extra for cold drinks while in the boba tea places they charge more for hot drinks… weird.

  7. vangrl says:

    ohh I lovee bao chau! I find that their prices is pretty cheap for the portions they give.

    and just to add they don’t actually charge 50 cents for take out. I asked them about this but John (owner) said he has never done that and he’s been meaning to take it out! :)

  8. Buddha Boy says:

    Ben,
    When my family ran a fast food joint, we considered charging for take out containers. We would plate food for the customer, but if they did not finish, we’d have to give them a styro box to pack the rest. This does add up. Styro plates, the cheapest types were $0.03 a decade ago, and the boxes were about $0.18

    From your pictures, I can’t really tell if the oil is old. It doesn’t look too bad. Au Petite had really fresh oil the last time we were there because we could see how white the rolls were while still being crispy.

    What happens when oil hasn’t been changed too often is that flour and crumbs will settle at the bottom of a deep fryer, these keep on ‘cooking’ and tends to darken the oil. If they don’t filter the oil regularly, this just gets worse. The oil will get darker, and when frying something, the darkness will get picked up. When I worked at White Spot, we filtered daily.

    Sometimes, when you drive by a chinese restaurant, you can have that nauseas feeling from the odour, that could be the smell of bad oil.

  9. grayelf says:

    Reusing old oil is also a known carcinogen, no?

  10. km says:

    what is wrong with you, bau chau is the BEST!

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