A new Vietnamese restaurant has opened up in the Kensington area. Viet Mama Cafe, specializing in Northern Vietnamese cuisine, emerged onto the dining scene about two weeks ago.
I was invited for a media tasting. Here’s a look at my experience.
Viet Mama Cafe Menu
At Viet Mama Cafe, the homestyle Northern Vietnamese menu aims to offer an authentic taste that you would find in any Northern Vietnamese household.
All the items are made from family recipes and do not use MSG.
For pho, they have three different types: pho dac biet (special beef noodle with beef brisket, rare beef, and beef balls); pho tai (rare beef noodle); and pho ga (free range chicken noodle). Pho entrees are between $12 – $13.
Some specialty entrees that they have include the bun rieu cua cha ca (crab meet noodle with fish cakes) as well as rice roll entrees (like the plain or meat rice rolls) served with fish sauce. Speciality entrees are around $13 – $15.
Rounding out the menu are appetizers which include salad rolls; spring rolls; papaya or mango salad; and clear dumpings. Entrees are around $7 – $12.
For drinks, they have coconut water, Vietnamese Ice Coffee, Vietnamese Hot Coffee, and fresh orange juice.
Viet Mama Interior
The interior of Viet Mama is modern and clean with a range of dining tables and banquette seating.
What I Tried
To start, I had their Vietnamese Ice Coffee which was refreshing and made to be not overly sweet.
Next up was the banh bot loc which were warm, translucent dumplings filled shrimp and pork and wrapped in a banana leaf. Made by the owner’s grand-ma in-house, these dumplings had a smooth elastic texture which was not too sticky. Super delicious and definitely worth ordering.
I tried the pho dac biet featuring beef brisket, rare beef and beef balls. The meat was tender and the MSG-free broth was light.
The bun rieu cua cha ca (crab meat noodle) is a unique offering and I really enjoyed all the components: real crab meat, fish cake, tofu and vegetables. Even heartier than the pho, this was definitely more up my alley with the fish cakes, tofu and water celery and bonus points for the crab meat. Great crab flavour.
The smooth banh cuon nhan or meat rice rolls were well-presented and organized onto stacks. They were filled with pork, shrimp, fried ham, pork meatballs, fried shallots, and vegetables served with fish sauce. I thought the filling to rice roll ratio was very reasonable and the fried shallots gave the dish a fun, textural contrast.
While pho is an obvious and popular choice, the non-pho options I tried (crab meat noodle and meat rice rolls) were more worthy of ordering in my opinion. Not to be missed are the clear dumplings which made for a great start to the meal.
Viet Mama Cafe
5118 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC