There’s been a lot of excitement around a new Vietnamese restaurant tucked away in the Kingsway corridor, and for good reason.
Do Chay Saigon Vegetarian (1392 Kingsway) is not your regular neighbourhood pho joint: customers aren’t going to find 100-plus items listed out on laminate menus here, and they certainly won’t be choosing between beef-brisket noodle soups or grilled-lemongrass-chicken rice plates.
What this 1,200-square-foot eatery offers is much more veggie-forward, and doesn’t compromise on taste. Hungry patrons will come face-to-face with unique plant-based options whose flavour profiles will ring bells.
Chef and co-owner Patrick Do opened Do Chay with his partner Amanda Clark and mom Yen Do, and they’ve made it a point to stand out from the rest of the crowd by introducing something that hasn’t really been done in the city.
Some of its most popular picks include vegan XO potstickers (handwrapped with mushroom XO, cabbage, and carrot), vegetarian pan-fried daikon cakes (crispy rice flour, salted radish, and papaya slaw), vegan coconut rice cakes (cast iron-seared with cabbage and green onion), and vegan satay noodles (peanut and sesame spicy satay broth, broccoli, yuba, and tomato).
“Our main goal was to make food that tasted good, regardless if it was vegetarian or vegan,” Do explained to the Straight in an interview at his new restaurant. “It just so happened that most of our dishes were vegan.”
He recognizes that many people in the city are accustomed to the consistent food items they can find at traditional Vietnamese restaurants, but he wants to stray away from that comfort zone to create something different.
“The menu is something that is very much influenced by my personal upbringing, [with] recipes and dishes that I learned from my parents growing up in the kitchen, [and]my own experiences growing up in Canada,” said Do.
Keeping the menu small and seasonal was important for the young chef, and guests will get to taste dishes that are expertly made.
“We do our own potstickers and dumplings, and we hand make all the dough and wrap it individually,” added Do. “It’s very time consuming, but I think that in the end, you get something that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Some of the new items being introduced this month include the bird’s nest (egg tofu, choi sum, straw mushroom, quail eggs, and enoki mushrooms atop an egg noodle nest), sticky-rice squash blossom (with morel mushroom sticky rice stuffing, black mushroom soya sauce, and caramelized onion), and banana-leaf tapioca glass dumplings (filled with mung bean and carrot, crush peanut, and caramelized onion).
Besides tasty grub, a full beverage menu is also available at this licensed joint. Sip on house cocktails like Birds of Paradise (rum, tequila, pineapple-mango icy, coconut milk, turmeric, and coconut jellies) and Basil Elixir (gin, agave, basil seed, and jasmine tea). Non-alcoholic drinks such as activated charcoal lemonade, ginseng spritz, and virgin mojito are also served from the bar.
Don’t judge Do’s experience by his age, because he is no stranger to the restaurant industry. His family is behind Green Lemongrass down the street, as well as House Special in Yaletown. You could say making good Vietnamese food is in Do’s genetics.
Their collective effort paid off, because the dining establishment has proven to be a popular place amongst the Vancouver crowd. On any given night, expect all 35 seats to be filled as well as line-ups inside and outside the large, custom-built wooden door—all made from scratch by Do’s dad, Tom.
“My dad built it [the restaurant’s interior] with his bare hands, the whole thing,” said Do. “He’s just a very creative person. He gets these ideas in his head, and he laid out everything. The bird cages were all sitting in his garage.”
And in case you’re wondering, the restaurant’s name translates to “vegetarian stuff”.
For Do and Clark, the biggest compliment they can get from customers visiting their new plant-based restaurant is having meat lovers fall in love with their vegetarian and vegan Vietnamese fare.
“That’s the kind of feedback where we know we’re on the right track and doing something cool, and we’re making food that is going to stand up on its own,” said Do. “That’s our hope anyways.”