No, no … don’t get me wrong.
I am not sensationalizing this post but there is something special about this place that you should take note of.
Some of you do ask me why chowtimes comes up with these interesting restaurants and dishes so often. It is easy. It is the readers and friends of chowtimes who keeps sending us recommendations. That really helped us in going to restaurants that is interesting to write about.
We get so many recommendations that we often lose track of who recommended what. It was just a few weeks ago someone informed us about this place called Cafe Xu Hue. She recommended that we go and check out their Bun Bo Hue. Interestingly she added that we should ignore everything else because they only do Bun Bo Hue well.
To tell the truth, I was not convinced at all. Not initially. I passed by this restaurant on Kingsway between Nanaimo and Victoria many many times before. It is just a small unremarkable place. There are dozens of Vietnamese restaurants along Kingsway and this is not one that stands out. I noted this restaurant way down our to-try list.
A couple of weeks ago, I needed to get out of the office to decompress a bit and decided to drive away and go have lunch. I remembered this restaurant and thought … yeah, why not check this out. I had no expectations whatsoever.
What I saw surprised me. The restaurant is small but it was packed during lunch time. Almost everyone is chatting in Vietnamese … and almost everyone had a bowl of Bun Bo Hue. Of course I ordered Bun Bo Hue and it was good! This visit was unplanned and I did not have my camera with me. So I told myself that I will come back, bring my camera and see if it is just as busy on another day. I wanted to see if the crowd during that first visit was a fluke.
Well, today I went back … with camera in hand … and it was the same. I think some of you will need some convincing so I took out my Flip recorder just to show you want I mean.
[vimeo 15646390 w=601 h=338]
I was at Cafe Xu Hue today at 12:10 PM. The small restaurant was already full that I had to wait 10 minutes for a table. Yeah, I took the video above while standing at the entrance waiting for a table to free up.
They pass me their menu. He he he … I don’t think you will see a smaller menu than this in a Vietnamese restaurant. There are just 12 items including drinks.
I did not even bother to look at it. I just took a picture of the menu and then hand it back to the owner saying “Bun Bo Hue and an Vietnamese Coffee, please”.
Like I said … you don’t have to order anything else. Just get the Bun Bo Hue. Almost everyone had Bun Bo Hue here. I am not kidding … you gotta come here to see what I mean.
They serve banana flowers together with the more common bean sprouts and basil. I still don’t quite get the banana flower and did not touch that.
The Bun Bo Hue is $8 and the above is how it looked like.
A few days ago I mentioned about the Cafe Xu Hue’s Bun Bo Hue to fmed. I knew he would be an expert in Vietnamese cuisine. He had not been in this particular restaurant before but he knows which restaurant I was talking about. Something he told me was kind of interesting. He asked me if … the Bun Bo Hue has congealed pig blood in it. I told him I wasn’t sure (because I don’t eat them) and he said if it does not include congealed pig blood, it’s not good … it is not Bun Bo Hue.
So fmed, I am pleased to report that they do have cubes of congealed pig blood in this Bun Bo Hue. 🙂
What I enjoyed most is the soup and I think it is the soup that makes Cafe Xu Hue’s BBH stand apart from others. I drank every single drop of it.
The broth is clear and is flavourful. It was great especially when it is served hot and the heat from the soup and the chili gives me that burning sensation that is so addictive. It is not very spicy but just enough to make you break a sweat.
The meat ingredients are nothing spectacular really. The shrimp paste, sliced pork roll and beef shank are just … nice.
The pig knuckles in my bowl (the middle picture) was disappointing though — very tough.
I enjoy the raw onions & cilantro which does add a dimension to overall taste.
So, is this the best Bun Bo Hue? For me it definitely is one of the best I had ever tasted. I think I am not alone judging by all the Vietnamese customers here waiting for a table. There is another Vietnamese restaurant just a couple of doors away and it is not even 1/3 full.
Their coffee is $3.50. It is a small serving and served in a slender tall glass. Some places serves the Cafe Sua Da with a metal drip filter but here it is served in a glass.
Bitter and thick and icy cold. The only thing used to sweeten this is the condensed milk. No sugar added.
Give this place a chance and let me know what you think.
I really think that it is no fluke that Cafe Xu Hue is so full both times I am there.
And I know I am not alone when I say that their Bun Bo Hue is really good.
Now, if only the someone who recommended me this place could raise her hand up so that we can properly pin the blame for making the waiting time in this restaurant longer. Don’t blame me. I am just the messenger.
Update 08-Oct-2010: The culprit had owned up. It’s Christy. Apparently she has a blog too. Go check out her blog which she just wrote about Cafe Xu Hue yesterday.