Nguyet Dang’s recollections of growing up in Nha Trang, a coastal city in southern Vietnam, always circle back to beautiful blooms and lush foliage.
The Vancouver restaurateur recalls her dad cultivating the family’s small garden and weekend trips to the countryside to visit her beloved grandmother, whose outdoor surroundings were a whole other world.
“Her super-size garden had plenty of tropical plants, guava trees, mango trees, and lime trees,” Dang tells the Straight. “We picked bright-red blossomed hibiscuses from the fences and fed cows with freshly cut grass.
“That serene, fresh air of the rice field rejuvenated my mind in preparation again for my exams back in the city,” she adds. “Nature and greenery were my best childhood memories.”
After finishing college, Dang moved to England before coming to Vancouver in 2008. Her lifelong dream was to re-create a beautiful garden where she could serve authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
She’s achieved that goal, with the June 16 opening of Bonjour Vietnam Bistro.
Located at 3944 Fraser Street, the restaurant she co-owns with chef Kien Hoang, who also hails from Nha Trang, is adorned with floral elements, palm plants, and bougainvillea-coloured accents.
Bonjour Vietnam Bistro is launching with a limited menu due to COVID-19.
It features chả giò (crispy spring rolls with chili-seasoned fish sauce), gỏi cuốn (salad rolls with peanut sauce), gỏi xoài (mango salad with roasted peanuts), and xiên nướng (skewers of chicken, prawn, beef in betel leaf, sugarcane shrimp, okra, mushrooms, or tofu). There are vermicelli bowls, wok-fried rice, and barbecued dishes.
Then there are various types of pho, including one with fragrant lemongrass beef. The traditional savoury soup stirs up more memories for Dang.
“In Vietnam, we would have pho for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” she says. “You can find pho in every corner of the street in Vietnam. All sellers have their own recipe for the broth and always keep it as a secret.”
Cocktails (like Glamour Girl with Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka, Chambord pineapple, passionfruit, lime, strawberry puree, and rose petals), colourful non-alcoholic drinks, wine (including four types of sparkling/Champagne), cider, and beer (from everywhere from Saigon to Squamish) make for an intriguing drinks list.
Dang has also developed a charitable program called Chopstick Drive: purchase a pair at at the bistro, and all proceeds will be donated to BC Children’s Hospital.
More info about Bonjour Vietnam Bistro is on its website.
In other news related to Vietnamese cuisine, the highly anticipated Lunch Lady is opening for dine-in service on Commercial Drive on July 1, with takeout starting sooner.