Neighbourhood: West End
Address: 534 Sargent Ave
Anthony Bourdain declared Vietnam his first love and its food one of his greatest pleasures of life; a place that “grabs you and never lets you go.”
The country has a food culture with few culinary inhibitions. Traditional dishes influenced by neighbours China, Laos and Cambodia—as well as traces of French colonialism like crusty baguettes—offer flavour mash ups of sweet and salty, fresh and fermented, spice and cooling.
Vietnamese cuisine in Winnipeg had a start in the usual way: a family arriving from another place with recipes and food to share. Such is the case with Thanh Huong, a food pioneer that has shared these intoxicating flavours for 30 years.
After three decades of experience, exquisitely painted vases, beautiful floral art and sparkling chandeliers reveal pride of ownership has never waned, and hint at attention to detail present in the dishes to come.
Here, signatures of Vietnamese cuisine are presented beautifully. Noodles are of the rice variety and appear in many widths. Pho, the ubiquitous and beloved beef noodle soup, can be ordered spicy and the kick of heat offers an addictive jolt to every slurp. The flavour is robust, undoubtedly tracing back to a pot of broth that has simmered for hours.
Vermicelli bowls overflow with virtually any mixture of meat and spring rolls, topped with julienned cucumbers, carrots, lettuce and bean sprouts over thin long noodles. Opt for the chicken lemon grass for a tangy treat. Add accompanying vinegary fish sauce for even more punch. Alternatively, the same ingredients can be wrapped up as salad rolls, using rice paper crepes to “build your own” wraps at the table.
Eating Vietnamese style generally promotes sharing, but entrees that begin with cooking meat—on a griddle or by dunking into simmering vinegar broth—are particularly friendly. An accompanying plate piled with vermicelli noodles, lettuce, mint and basil ensures the ratio of greens is high.
Banh Mi sandwiches are bountiful bargains at $5. Sweet barbequed pork is balanced with a veggie medley, finished with notes of cilantro.
Dessert can often be missed after feasting, but go for the banana egg rolls and ice cream for a lasting impression: hot and cold, crunchy and creamy mastery.