In recent years, vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Vancouver have been gaining prominence offering health conscious dishes without compromise in taste. One popular eatery is Chau Veggie Express located in the Kensington area at 5052 Victoria Drive. Serving savoury dishes with Vietnamese influences and tantalizing vegan desserts, Chau Veggie has been a hit with not only those with vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free diets. In fact, some carnivores have been pleasantly impressed by their delicious dishes and aren’t missing the meat at all. Chau Veggie Express has been on my list of restaurants to try for a while. So, when they noticed that I hadn’t been there before they invited me to try some of their items.
How It Began
The story of Chau Veggie Express is nothing short of inspiring. It began when Chau Thi Ho Huynh fled Vietnam in the 70’s and ran Cafe Chau, a coffee and congee hut, in an Indonesian refugee camp. After moving to Vancouver, she and her husband operated a few Vietnamese delis. Chau and her daughter, Maria, then opened Chau Kitchen and Bar on Robson. However, this dream was short-lived due to Chau’s cancer diagnosis and the family decided to close the business. When Chau’s condition improved, the family reignited their passion for the restaurant business but this time with a healthy twist. They opened Chau Veggie Express offering the healthiest possible food with Maria as the principle owner and operator. Fast forward a few years, Maria ran into her childhood friend, Andrew Han, who was working as a pastry chef. She brought Andrew on board to Chau Veggie Express where he has been crafting delicious vegan desserts ever since.
If you look behind the ordering counter, you’ll see a beautiful image of Maria’s mother at her cafe, Cafe Chau, in Indonesia from 1978.
Chau Veggie Express Menu
On the menu are a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes with gluten free options. You’ll find soups, rice noodle bowls, salad rolls, salads and more. Entrees are priced around $10-$12. As for desserts, Chau Veggie Express has a quite a mouthwatering selection of tarts, cheesecakes, cookies and more. Most notable is their selection of vegan ice cream with flavours like Thai Milk Tea and Caramelized Banana.
Spacious, comfortable interior
I would describe the interior of Chau Veggie Express as being industrial chic with a bit of rustic charm. There are some beautiful overhanging industrial lights while some of the tables and fixtures seem to be made of reclaimed wood. One side of the restaurant has the main ordering counter while the other is the pastry area and bar. There is a large communal table, counter by the window, bar seating and many 2-person tables.
What I Tried
Disclosure: All the food in this review were complimentary. Opinions are my own.
My tasting menu included the following:
- Vegan Vietnamese Hot Coffee with coconut cream
- #6 – Bai Sao Beach Chips ($6.75)
- #11 – The Tropical Rainstorm Bowl ($10)
- Coconut Pandan Leaf and Kale vegan ice cream
- Vegan biscotti with pistachio, black sesame and dark chocolate
To start, I had a rich and intensely flavourful Vietnamese Hot Coffee with coconut cream. It’s a strong brew that is sweetened with coconut cream; a good kickstart to the meal.
The Bai Sao Beach Chips are hand-cut taro chips served with a spiced paprika garlic organic tofu dip. I loved how the chips were wonderfully crispy. Combined with the thick, creamy tofu dip, these chips can quickly become addictive.
My main was the The Tropical Rainstorm Bowl which I found to have impressive portions for the price of $10. The noodles were thick, round rice noodles and other ingredients were shredded beancurd, spinach, kale, cucumber, mint, mung beans, fried shallots, pickled carrots/daikon, beansprouts, roasted peanuts.
Loaded with fresh vegetables and tender slices of tofu for protein, this bowl was simple and tasty. The creamy toasted coconut sauce and lemon vegan fish sauce enhanced the dish with rich flavours.
The Coconut Pandan Leaf and Kale vegan ice cream was a refreshing finish to the meal. I was intrigued by the idea of kale being incorporated into ice cream. The flavour was more on the coconut side but very satisfying. The vegan biscotti had an interesting combination of pistachio, black sesame and dark chocolate. In terms of texture, the biscotti was on the harder side. I felt it was better after being dipped into the Vietnamese coffee and getting softened.
Overall Impression of Chau Veggie Express
The dishes I tried were simple, yummy and all in all had a nice, clean taste. Chau Veggie Express is the kind of place that make carnivores forget the need for meat. Portions were also very reasonable for the pricing. I’m interested in revisiting them in the future particularly for their desserts. Rating: 4.5/5