Monday, June 3, 2013

Light Dinner at CHAU VeggiExpress

CHAU VeggiExpress on UrbanspoonA place like CHAU VeggieExpress is a great example of why I've been avoiding upscale downtown places this year. Location and ambiance costs you money, but it doesn't always add tastiness. Sometimes you do get awesome meals for your money, but not always. CHAU VeggiExpress is a clean, bright space that wouldn't look out of place in Yaletown or Coal Harbour, except you're not paying for them to be there.

The layout inside is a long-table and a long counter, almost cafeteria style community dining. Self-serve utensils and cold water (with slices of cucumber floating inside). You are also requested to help out a bit by taking your dishes to one of the tubs under the utensil station. You pay at the counter at the time of your order. Apparently no tipping is expected, so on top of not paying downtown prices for classy vegetarian food, you save about 15% from not being forced to tip.

This past Saturday my vegetarian friend dragged me to a "Vietnamese restaurant", and it turned out to be CHAU VeggiExpress. We were only looking for a light meal and we like sharing, so we ended up with two types of rolls from their helpful pictures-of-everything menu. The price is basically two rolls per order at $2 or less per roll. This sounds pretty expensive ($2 per spring roll?!), but at a Chinese restaurant, an oily spring roll could weigh in at $1.30-$1.60 each. Here you get something composed of more interesting ingredients and flavour for a bit more, so it's not too far off.

Non La ($4) Crispy spring rolls, egg, tofu, mung bean, taro, sesame, vegetable filling
  • The best part of this was the deep fried goodness. Not oily tasting or feeling, plus really crispy and fun to eat that way. On its own, it was a bit bland, so definitely get some sauce on this.
Namaste ($3.75) fresh rolls, steamed lemongrass tofu, green leaf lettuce, cucumber, quinoa, crispy wheat centre, rice paper
  • Interesting flavour of lemongrass jumping out at you here.
As far as vegetarian fare goes, this wasn't bad. The two plates together could have added up to a light to medium meal for one person -- and at under $10.
They weren't wow-super-tasty but good and interesting, especially for the price. Presentation was very good, with a sense of care and attention in the making of it. If you're sharing, I recommend grabbing a spoon so that you can spoon in more sauce as each portion is probably two bites and people can get pretty uptight about double-dipping. You could also flip your piece around to dip the other end, but there's the possibility of filling falling out.
Watch out for the watery sauces (such as the one for the Non La) going straight through your roll and dripping out the other end.

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