I was surprised that the boys did not kick up a fuss when I said that we are going across the bridge for dinner that night.
I did a good job telling them we are going for a feast of beef … seven course of beef and that it is in a Vietnamese restaurant. I did not give Arkensen more details because I knew he had other ideas of what seven courses of beef looked like. He thought it will include steak, sandwiches and pho. Nanzaro had tried the seven courses of beef before, not Arkensen.
7 Courses of Beef is known as Bo 7 Mon in the Vietnamese language. This is traditionally a special meal reserved for special occasions.
The first time we had Bo 7 Mon was at the Tamarind Tree in Seattle (see blog post). That was one of the most memorable meals we had and certainly the best Vietnamese cuisine we ever tried. It is sad that with such a large Vietnamese population and the wide acceptance of Vietnamese food in Vancouver, we still do not have a Vietnamese fine dining restaurant the likes of Tamarind Hill. OK, I guess there is … with the closest one being Chau on Robson which we did not consider anywhere near Tamarind Hill. Chau just serves normal Vietnamese food with a higher price (eg. $11 sping roll!).
The only other time we had Bo 7 Mon was closer home. It was at the Song Huong Restaurant on Nanaimo (see blog post).
We only know of two restaurants in Metro Vancouver that serve Bo 7 Mon. Besides Song Huong, there is the Thai Hang Restaurant.
The Thai Hang Restaurant is located on East Hastings at the intersection with Lakewood Drive. It is easy to locate. However, one thing that you will notice straight away is the sorry state of the awnings. Frankly, this restaurant does not give you the confidence that cleanliness is of their strongest points.
Walking into the restaurant, you will be greeted with the same. The restaurant does smell. Not foul smell … but heavy in pho and beef. Neatness is not one of the things you see here.
This does not deter us at all. I am just calling it out so that you know that Thai Hang is not one of the more well operated Vietnamese restaurants. As much as this did not deter us, it did not deter a lot of people at all.
The restaurant is big and they are very busy. This is one restaurant that is very Vietnamese. They do not tone down their Viet’ness to cater to the western or Chinese tastes. And yet we saw that their customers consists of a number of Caucasian families too. I don’t see a lot of such customer mix in Vietnamese restaurants. This speaks a lot to the popularity of Thai Hang.
Service is spotty. They are busy and you had to flag them down to get what you want. And they oblige although the service is rushed.
So in short, people come here for the food … not for the ambiance or the service.
I love their menu. It is certainly not one of the standard Vietnamese menu where it is dominated by umpteen combinations of Pho. We did not spend a lot of time on the main menu. There are a few pages but I did not bother taking the picture of them all.
We were here for the Bo 7 Mon and we could not find it on this menu. So, we asked them about it.
Unless you ask for it, they might not give you the menu for the 7-course of beef. The entire course is $30 and is meant for two people.
They told us that item #6 was not available that night and that they will double up item #2. So basically, this is a Bo 6 Mon and not Bo 7 Mon.
The Bo 7 Mon is available only from 3PM.
On the flip side of the yellow menu, they also have a few other specials which sounded so interesting.
- Hot & Sour Fish Soup for two ($26)
- Fish & Pork in Hot Pot for three ($32)
I was actually hoping that they have the fish version of the Bo 7 Mon (called Ca 7 Mon) which is also popular in Vietnam. Too bad they don’t have it.
We will definitely want to come back some day to try those some day. Anyway, to remind you … you can click on the pix above to show in larger images. I know it is kind of hard reading the menu.
Course #1 was a simple grilled beef slices, topped with crushed peanuts. As you can see, it was great. Arkensen and Nanzaro practically ate all of these leaving just a small piece each to Suanne and I.
Course #2 is the highlight of the Bo 7 Mon. This is where all the action and fun is.
The whole assembly consists of … a big plate of iceberg lettuce, cucumber slices, daikon and carrot pickles, basil and other herbs. All piled high.
I like how the Vietnamese eat so much herbs and greens. Vietnamese cuisine is definitely healthy, especially compared to most other Asian cuisine. They use a lot of herbs and greens and dislike the use of oil in their cooking.
They said that they will double up #2 for us. It doesn’t seem like they did give us double portion of the thinly sliced raw beef.
The rice paper, vermicelli and dipping sauce makes up the rest of the ingredients.
In the middle is the pot of clear water with fried shallots.
We had done this twice before and yet we are uncertain what to do. We asked a lady who looked like she is the boss’s wife. She did a demo for us. She was very busy and yet this time she took the time showing us how this is done. Maybe she noticed our camera.
Step one is to cook the beef in the shallot broth.
Then soak a piece of rice paper in the bowl of warm water and then fill with vermicelli, greens and herbs and meat and roll it up.
Here are some of our handiwork. It is not easy to roll but it is good fun. The bottom right method is the easiest … just ball it up and forget about trying to make it look like a nice spring roll.
Yeah, it is course #2 that people will remember most about the the Bo 7 Mon.
Courses #3, #4 and #5 came all at once. They all looked the same but they are not. We had no real way of knowing which is which. Oh I know … the darker pieces is the Beef with Herbal Wraps. That is the only ones that our boys doesn’t want to touch (they’re black).
This is a really nice dish. To think that the above is meant for two people, it is a lot.
Skipping course #6, the congee with beef balls rounded up the seventh course.
This congee is very unlike the Chinese version. Firstly, they use broken rice which makes it grainy. It is also served watery making it look more like soup. The fried shallots made it very fragrant. This is very nice.
Until now, I still do not know the significance of broken rice in Vietnamese cooking. I would like to know why do they use broken rice … how broken rice is made (do they deliberately break up the rice?) … and is broken rice more expensive or what.
Because the Bo 7 Mon dishes are meant for two people, we ordered a couple of additional dishes.
We had the House Special Beef Combination with Rice Noodle in Soup (Small $5.75 and Large $6.75). We had the big bowl.
Their pho is very good and we do find this one of the better ones we ever had. I like the way the beef is served raw and the broth is piping hot. What we like best is the flavour of the soup and that they gave us so much green onions too.
The Deep Fried Chicken Wings in Fish Sauce was also very good. It is $7.25 for five pieces.
I’ll let the picture do the talking.
As much as the Vietnamese is known for their Pho, people should recognize that they do awesome deep fried wings too.
Oh … did you notice what is missing from the bill? This was a nice surprise, not having to pay HST.
Thai Hang is a restaurant known best for serving Vietnamese food the way a Vietnamese would expect it to be. Service and ambiance is secondary. This is worth a try if you have never had Bo 7 Mon before.
If you ask me, I think the Bo 7 Mon in Song Huong is way better than Thai Hang. Just take a look at this post of Song Huong … compare and you will probably agree with me. Like Thai Hang, Song Huong is also about the food … service and ambiance is secondary.