Another day, another food adventure! Yesterday Queenie and I had a craving for Viet subs. We were thinking of going to Ba Le on Kingsway but it just seemed too far of a drive (Queenie: Too far from UBC!). Instead, Queenie suggested I try Au Petit Cafe; apparently she and her friends used to always go there for lunch during her highschool days. (Queenie: back in Gr. 11 or 12, my friends and I would drive out to pick up these subs for lunch! Ah…back in the days….)
A block down from Main and 33rd, Au Petit Cafe is an authentic Vietnamese restaurant located right beside Long’s Noodle House. It’s pretty small so one might easily miss it when driving by. Walking by, however, it’s hard not to notice how busy it is inside; plenty of customers eating in and plenty of customers coming in and out for take-out.
Luckily it was a Friday and we arrived a little while after noon so we managed to get a table for two right when we arrived. (Queenie: This place is usually pack! Have to wait quite a bit during lunch hour from experience)
Au Petit Cafe actually has a pretty large selection of Vietnamese Cuisine; they have French Bread meals, Vietnamese Dishes (like salad rolls), Rice Dishes, Noodle (Pho) Dishes, some Extras (bread/plain rice), and Beverages. It was pretty hard to decide what to Try!
One thing that helped narrow down our choices was their business card. (Queenie: Just his since he was never there before!)
To put ‘French Bread’ and ‘French Coffee’ directly onto their business cards must mean that these two items are the star items of their menu; thus I had to try both!
Our first order that arrived was the French Bread sub with Home Made Ham, House Meat Ball, Vegetable and Hot Peppers [$4.75]. This was their most expensive sub on their menu.
The sub was big and the bread was very fresh! One of the best things in this store is definitely their baguettes; extremely crunch on the outside but so incredibly soft on the inside! Combine this with the typical Viet sub ingredients on the inside and you have a clear winner. The ingredients tasted fresh and the meatballs were awesome. This sub had both quality and value. (Queenie: Chris forgot to mention that Au Petit Cafe is known for their sub since they bake their own baguette daily! If they sold all their bread for that day, then your loss! They don’t make any excess baguette!)
Our second dish was Queenie’s selection. She wanted something warm since it was kind of chilly that day; she chose Raw Sliced Beef, Beef Balls and Rice Noodle in Soup (S) [$6.25].
Just looking at it had me salivating. The presentation of the dish was good and the raw beef slices weren’t cooked (some places leave them closer to the bottom and they end up cooked by the time they get there). The meatballs were also very big!
The soup broth was very good; it tasted like there was less MSG than some other places and it gave me a sense that it was “clear”, or having not too many ingredients and spices. This left the soup with a slightly blander flavour than other places but I felt that this was a good trade off. The noodles were good but did taste a little bit more on the chewier side; perhaps slightly overcooked.
Also, if you don’t like onions you should probably let them know ahead of time. There are plenty piled on top of the meat there! (Queenie: Good thing Chris likes them, I gave them all to him!)
I also liked that they didn’t skimp on the side dish; plenty of that vegetable was provided!
Before we started digging into either of those dishes, my Dark French Coffee Served with Condensed Milk [$3.25] had arrived and I was waiting for it to drip.
I like the setup Au Petit Cafe has for their French coffee; they provide a little thermos filled with hot water so you can brew more coffee when the little French Press thing runs dry.
After about 5 minutes or so, the French Press ran dry and we have the delicious cup of coffee looking really dark on the left. The condensed milk is at the bottom, so after some stirring it looked lighter.
This coffee was very very flavourful! Tasting the brew itself before mixing, I could taste a nice bold flavour that lacked the typical acidity of coffee that has been sitting around for a little while. There was some sweetness that, when mixed with the condensed milk, gave an excellent balance of sweetness, bitterness, and creaminess. This was by far one of the best French/Viet coffees I’ve had.
It’s too bad I couldn’t ask for more condensed milk to recreate that flavour when I added more coffee to the French Press after!
After we were relatively stuffed from the Pho and Sub, I decide that I would be ambitious and try one more dish. Because their bread was so good, I wanted another dish from their Fresh French Bread section: we had the Curry Chicken Served with French Bread [$7.75].
More of an Asian inspired curry, this dish doesn’t have the typical spiciness or kick expected and instead has more of an embodied sweetness. It reminds me a lot of the Portuguese Baked Chicken dishes I’ve had in the past but less creamy and without the coconut flavour. (Queenie: It actually reminds me more of Malaysian curry because of its sweetness isnetad of Portuguese)
Potatoes should definitely be cooked more often like the ones in this dish; appearing sturdy and firm when holding it but completely melts in your mouth like mashed potatoes when eating it. Simply superb!
The chicken was also VERY tender; the mean just slides right off the bone! They must also have been soaking in the curry for a while as the meat was very flavourful.
Finally, we dip the bread into the curry. This was absolutely the BEST part of this dish. The bread is so fluffy and soft on the inside that it just soaks up the curry like a sponge! It barely drips! By the time you’re done with the bread there’s practically no curry left. At that point I understood why they made the curry so watery.
All in all, another awesome meal. Au Petit Cafe is definitely a place I’ll revisit, if not for their actual dishes than just for their bread. They also have a website that showcases a lot of their dishes with great photos.
Queenie: just an interesting side note about the owner. The original owner is an elderly gentleman, he does come out to the store just to help out to pass time as his son runs the store. The older gentleman is super friendly and talkative. What’s more impressive is that he speaks 5 languages! He speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, a Chinese dialect (chiu chao wa) and French. However, the son only speaks Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese. I guess the family is Chinese and moved to Vietname.
Vietnam was colonized by the French in the 19th century and hence the French influence in the cuisine and even language.