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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nothing to see here. Move along now. This is just bean sprouts and basils.
They also gave us another plate. Something different. Our waitress said that this is banana flower and mint.
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.
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).
In the noodle, there are slices of mouth watering fatty pork belly …
… 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.
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.
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 …
… 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.
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!
Banana flowers again … it goes with this soup too. BTW, this soups had a tomato’ish flavour to it.
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.
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.
It is quite cheap too. Just for the four of us it is just over $40 before tips.
What a recommendation, Steven!