One good thing about working in Vancouver Downtown is that, after work, you have access to a lot of restaurants within walking distance. Whether it is a pub to have drinks to wind down, burgers for something “familiar”, bistros for something different, etc., you can find almost anything. One night after work, I was doing exactly that, walking around checking possible new spots. However, when hunger strikes at the beginning of the stroll, well, you just go to the first one that catch your attention, won’t you? I happened to be near H-Mart (where Matoi Sushi and Wang Ga Ma are located) when I noticed a new Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall – Viet Sub Vietnamese Cuisine.
This picture was taken on another day during lunch time, not on my first visit!
That location used to be a Japanese restaurant that move to the former location of Prima Taste and rebranded themselves as Junsei River. I haven’t been there previously but was aware it was a really small place. When I walked in, I realised how small it is: the whole area might be under 25 square metres, most of it occupied by the cooking area, with only four stools facing outwards. Conclusion: it would be mostly take out place – as seen in the picture above during lunch, people even line up outside!
However, in my first visit, it was already past any rush so I was able to order, eat and take pictures without bothering any other customer. And, on the topic of ordering, the menu is really simple: 7 rolls (most of them between $2.50 to $3), 7 vietnamese subs/bánh mì (most of them $3.25, one at $3.75 and one at $4.25) and 6 soups (around $7). Not necessarily the cheapest but, then again, this is Spar… Oh, wait, this is Vancouver Downtown!
I started with a pork salad roll, think of your usual salad roll but filled with pieces of pork rather than poached shrimp. In a way, it was pretty average; the dipping sauce and cilantro helped but, other than that, it was OK. Since it was a bit cold on those days, rather than going for the subs, I decided to go for pho. In this case, the “all-inclusive” with rare beef, beef ball and well-done beef:
Given the size of the shop, I would expect some tradeoffs – in this case, almost everything came in disposable containers. Anyway, the portion of the bean sprouts was small but it served its purpose. As for the pho itself, for the price, again, you will find larger servings at the same price but this is Downtown. But the question is rather the food itself. Unless I took a bit too long to take the pictures, there were no rare beef. I don’t think I would have mind that much given the time of the day but, if this is the offering during the lunch rush, I would be disappointed. The rice noodles were a bit too soft/overcooked. But the broth was actually quite decent. Not too salty yet enough umami/savoury taste. At this point, normally, I would have just said this place is “average” at best. However, I did come back for lunch the following day. Why? In their menu printouts, it says “The only VIETNAMESE SUB in town”. Can I make a judgment of such restaurant without trying the dish they brag about?
On my way back to work, with two banh mi in my camera bag.
I ordered two subs, their special sub (Vietnamese Ham/Cold Cut/Meat/Meat Ball) and their BBQ Sub (Pork/Beef/Chicken/Meat Ball). One disappointing note: Unless I completely overlooked it, I don’t remember seeing any “meat balls”, not even something resembling a ground beef sauce. This couldn’t be a fluke, as both subs have meat ball listed as part of the sandwich. But, putting that aside… I will have to say I quite enjoy both of them. In the first case, there was some smoky-ness, savoury-ness and sweetness (from the pickled vegetables) which really balanced things. In the second case, there were some banana peppers which gave some “kick” to the sub. And, yes, it still maintained that “balance” in the sandwich. Best of all, the bread was slightly toasted before it was prepared and maintained that crisp texture while I went back to my office (a 15 minute walk, mind you!).
Overall, while say it is the *only* Vietnamese sub might be overkill, at least, they do have some bragging rights about their subs: They are quite good. I guess the other dishes are there because people have associated Vietnamese cuisine with pho and salad rolls. But, the star here is the Vietnamese sub. If it wasn’t because it takes me a little bit of time to go there from my workplace, it might be quite a good option but, alas… Otherwise, recommended.