Cafe Regalade made it’s transition into Linh Cafe last fall, turning it into a French/Vietnamese restaurant. I think we’ve had a pastry or two at Cafe Regalade, but nothing that memorable. I’ve been following Linh Cafe on Instagram, and have been enjoying the photos of their process. We finally had the chance to check them out for lunch last week and were quite pleased with their Northern Vietnamese flavours.
Linh Cafe on Broadway near Macdonald.
Le menu. Mix of classic French dishes like cassoulet and Vietnamese dishes like pho and bun cha. Speaking of cassoulet, I used to really enjoy the cassoulet at Le Mistral (which is now the new incarnation of Montri). Unfortunately chef Jean-Yves Benoit was in a horrible biking accident (details of which you can read here) and eventually had to close Le Mistral in 2012. Coincidentally, the chef/owner of Linh Cafe, Tai Nguyen, used to work for Benoit at Le Mistral! We were in the mood to try their Vietnamese dishes, but I’m tempted to try their cassoulet to see if it evokes memories of Le Mistral…
I chose the Pho Bo and added bone marrow yes yes please yes for $5. Prices are definitely westside as opposed for eastside as far as the Vietnamese dishes go, but if it tastes good and is executed well, I don’t mind.
Crispy Sweetbreads ($10.95) served with an intriguing sauerkraut that contained rau ram (aka laksa leaf)! The dipping sauce was a salty/sour/tangy/peppery concoction that contained salted lemon(!). It’s a taste that Wicca recognized from her childhood in Vietnam. A very sly Vietnamese element slipped into this dish. Great stuff.
Veal sweetbreads. Glandular goodness. Of course Serious Eats has some good reading on sweetbreads.
Pickled chilies and garlic to accompany the bun cha, below:
Bun Cha Muc ($9.50) – vermicelli noodle bowl with calamari cake, lettuce, herbs, fried shallots and roasted peanuts. The brothy fish sauce mixture is already in the bowl, so you just mix it up and eat. This is different than how bun cha is usually served (like at Mr. Red Cafe, Broken Rice, and others), where the elements are separated, and the meat is served in a bowl of fish sauce and you “build-a-bite” as you go along. Eating it this way is much more convenient though!
We loved the texture of the calamari cakes — bouncy and springy mouthfeel with just the right amount of seasoning, plus a bit of a chunky texture. I liked the fry on the outside too.
Cross section of the calamari cakes. They’re like fish cakes or fish balls except using calamari.
Pho Bo – Hanoi Breakfast ($11.99) – pho with braised beef flank. That lump of fatty white stuff is the bone marrow which I added for $5 more.
This is what that lump of bone marrow looks like. It’s not the bone marrow that I’m used to. This hunk had all sorts of fatty parts, meat-like parts, gelatinous parts, and tendony parts. You know those tumours that can contain disparate miscellaneous body parts? This reminded me of that, except this is very delicious, of course 😉
This is what the bone marrow looks like in its cold form:
The meat and noodles. Good cook on the noodles. I like how it wasn’t like a big clump of noodles that’s hard to separate.
The broth had perhaps a bit too much MSG than I’d prefer, but the flavour and clarity was good. This is one of the very few times I’ve had Hanoi or Northern style pho, and it seems to be less spice-heavy than the more typical Southern style pho. Main aromatic that I could detect was star anise. Otherwise a very good beef flavour.
We were given these complimentary palmiers. In fact, we saw the staff giving a few tables complimentary pastries. These would be Wicca’s last choice in a pâtissier, but she liked the butteriness and freshness. I believe they do all their baking as well.
Linh Cafe is a very solid westside Vietnamese option. I hope to try the French side of the menu next time!