Though I don’t claim to be an expert in Vietnamese food, I do love it. Pho, especially with lots of basil, rare beef, tripe and quail eggs, is the best cold remedy. Seriously. Having said that, I was quite happy to hear Mr. Red Cafe was opening a Kitsilano location. I have heard great things about the restaurant since it opened on Hastings in 2014, but have never had the fortune to go visit. Now that they have moved much closer to me, I went as soon as I could. Then brought reinforcement in the form of my family for a second visit.
Mr. Red Cafe 2 on West Broadway is quite small, with very cozy, homey decorations. Our server spoke Mandarin as well, which made ordering easy too.
Green mango salad with prawns, fish sauce and herbs. This was mouthwatering, an excellent appetizer. Though the prawns on top weren’t snapping fresh, the fresh green mangoes were fantastic. I especially love the fact that under the sliced green mangoes, there is a generous pile of herbs, which mixed together with the rest of the salad was just delicious.
Hanoi Turmeric Fish with fresh dill. Dill-lovers, rejoice. Dill-haters, you have been warned. While the batter coating the fish could be crispier, the fish was tender and delicious. This dish wins because of the generous amount of herbs. Not only is there dill in the pot, the waiter also told us to eat the fish with some of the herbs and rice vermicelli provided on the side. This just created a flavor explosion. I would order this again.
Special Sticky Rice with Pate and Chicken. This is probably one of the most Instagramm’d dish from Mr. Red Cafe. Naturally, I had to order it. The sticky rice seems to have been stir fried with some mung bean. It is dry, chewy and mixes well with the rest of the toppings. This is a fun dish to try, though I wish they were more generous with the pate. More foie, always.
Mung Bean Sticky Rice with Durian sauce. This is probably one of the best Durian desserts I have ever tried. When this beautiful plate came to our table, I could already smell the distinctive, sweet durian smell. Now, I think durian smells sweet and delicious because I like it. For people who have never tried it or hate durian, they may think it smells like a garbage can. For novice durian-eaters, this may be quite intense. Still, the mung bean sticky rice underneath the durian sauce is quite dry and chewy, but mixed with the creamy durian sauce…it’s like tasting heaven.
Grilled beef wrapped in Betel leaf. The beef here is more like minced beef, less tenderloin, but this dish is intensely flavored. Again, I loved eating the grilled beef with the herbs provided on the side, because it created layers of flavor. Even better, sprinkle a bit of the juice from the glass bottle on the side that has pickled garlic in it. Spicy.
Traditional Pork and Pate sandwich. I was curious about the bahn mi and I was not disappointed. The bread was toasted nice and crispy, the fillings were spicy and rich, and topped with the pickled veggies on top, very refreshing. This is definitely worth ordering, though next time I want to try Mr. Red Cafe’s crunchy and spicy bread. It looks quite promising.
Mr. Red Cafe Mung Bean Sticky Rice and Bone in Chicken with Ginger. Unlike the Sticky Rice with Pate and Chicken we got on the first visit, this one was not memorable. While the pot of chicken had strong, gingery flavors, the chicken and the sticky rice did not seem to mix well. While the two together did not taste bad, they just seemed weird together. Or maybe it’s because I was eating it wrong. If anyone knows, please explain in detail. I am very curious.
Crab Meat Spring Roll. While you will not see chunky pieces of crab meat in the fried spring roll, this was still quite tasty. This was also quite filling and paired well with the dipping sauce provided and the pickled garlic juice.
I would definitely recommend going to Mr. Red Cafe, and I am hoping to go for another round myself. There are still many dishes I wanted to try. One thing of note, between the hot and the iced Vietnamese coffee at Mr. Red, I would order the iced version. The hot version, while the caffeine was intense, the coffee was also insanely sweet. However, Mr. Red’s tea is comforting and fantastic.