979 Hornby Street
While there are several spots near my workplace I still have to try, sometimes I want something familiar yet not a restaurant I have been previously. In this case, that something familiar was Vietnamese (no, not that I am Vietnamese; rather I was not in adventurous mode). However, in the West End, I have visited most of the Vietnamese spots in the West End (except for one place which shall remain nameless). Willing to walk/take transit to a farther place, I chose to go all the way to Hornby to One Saigon, which I have “heard” previously, specially about their daily specials.
Now, just as it has been in the last couple of weeks with rushed meals, I chose to have my order to go rather than eat in. I know it is not good for me to be in such a rush but that’s life sometimes… Of course, that meant no pho. Now, I could have ordered it to go; however, I wasn’t sure if they would have the appropriate containers. And, even if they had it, after bringing it back to work, the soup would be lukewarm, the noodles mushy and so on. So, instead, the specials it would be… (On that note, their specials, which is different everyday, are $7.50)
When I arrived on the Tuesday, it was suspiciously empty. From what I have “heard”, there is usually a line up for the specials or what not and the lack of a queue was suspicious (for the lack of a better word). Still, I was already there and was not in decision taking mode so I went ahead with the original plan. The special that day was spring rolls on a bed of rice or vermicelli. And that is exactly what I got:
I will admit that visual-wise, it was quite good. But that was about it. While I understand the spring rolls where not really crispy (due to the humidity factor of the noodles), the vermicelli noodles were… Bland. Sure, eating it with some of the cucumber/carrots gave some additional texture; however, there was no flavour – zero, nada, zilch. I even tried to salvage it by pouring some of the vinegar on it but, to no avail. I end up eating all the spring rolls and only part of the vermicelli (mostly because I was really hungry at that point). That made me ask myself. Was it a bad day? Ordered the wrong thing (the indication from the lack of a queue)? Normally, I would be so determined to find out. But, I was. So, on another day, I went there again, this time for the banh mi special.
They have 8 different banh mi, including a vegetarian option and, on Thursdays, I could choose two of them for $7.50. I could have gone for the “all-in” but, instead, went for the “nem nuong”, aka, grilled marinated pork and the grilled chicken. Whether these are actual options you would find in Vietnam, I simply don’t know. I wasn’t really up for authenticity at that moment, just feeding my curiosity (and stomach) of the “hype”. Before I continue, I must mention that, unlike Tuesday, there was an actual queue on Thursday – and it was not necessarily a short one. This time, they had to ask for my name and asked to sit at the window. Was this a sign things would be different?
“Nem nuong”, aka, grilled marinated pork.
I went for the grilled marinated pork first – hey, who doesn’t like pork? While their bread is not necessarily the absolute best I ever had, it did the job quite well. It gave enough resistance to the bite, crunchy enough but not too crunchy; the “crunchiness” was left to the vegetables inside. The pork was not up to par, it felt like pieces of a smoked ham – and, even then, I could taste any “saltiness”. However, the grilled chicken made up for the pork (which is a really odd statement if you ask me). In this case, it kept some of the grill smokiness taste. Two things I found oddly missing were the mayo-like spread I have found in other shops (also there was no paté but that is another story) and the vinegar-y taste of the vegetables (meaning they were lightly picked, if at all). Still, I can’t take away they were good sandwiches at the end of the day.
Does that mean I will come back? May be; if I do, most likely have to be Monday’s (where the special is banh mi and salad roll) or Thursday (the two banh mi special). Otherwise, well, I can’t say as I did not try other items in the menu.