Review: Chau Kitchen & Bar

by gigi on April 8, 2009

Jenkins and I met up with Ben and Suanne of chowtimes.com fame one evening for dinner. It was our first time meeting up and my first time meeting anyone from cyberspace and I must confess that it was almost like a blind date! :p We ended up having a great time with Ben and Suanne though and kept up a steady stream of conversation on a variety of topics throughout the evening.

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We settled on meeting at Chau Kitchen and Bar because Ben had been on the hunt for a more upscale Vietnamese restaurant in the Lower Mainland area. I had heard of Chau opening up in late 2008 and thought that it might an interesting place to try out.

While we were perusing the menu, our server brought us some cucumber-infused water. I am a huge fan of cucumber water because I always find it so cooling and refreshing. I especially liked the cucumber water here at Chau because the cucumber taste came through quite strongly. What can I say, I am easily pleased. :)

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In hindsight, I think the dishes at Chau are best eaten tapas style and shared by the entire group but when we went, each person decided to order his/her own dish to eat. Jenkins decided on the grilled pork salad rolls, which had come highly recommended by Victoria. The presentation was certainly fancier than what we were accustomed to at most Vietnamese restaurants. I was used to the more traditional salad rolls that had shrimp so I actually liked the variation with the pork instead. I also liked the dipping sauce combo of an apple-based vinaigrette and the more traditional hoisin sauce. I only wish that they had provided more of the apple sauce for dipping because I felt that it complemented the pork flavour more than the hoisin.

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I was trying to be healthy that day so I settled on the grilled eggplant with a light chili sauce. At $8 for this dish, I certainly expected it to be more substantial than just a few pieces of eggplant. The sauce was more of a sweet soy sauce and I could not taste the chili at all. Although the taste was not bad, I think it would have been much tastier if there was more of a chili kick to it.

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To bulk up my meagre dinner choice, I also added a bowl of rice. The rice went well with the eggplant and did a good job of soaking up the eggplant sauce.

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Ben could not resist the highly acclaimed (according to the menu) spring rolls. There was a choice of the signature chicken with taro or vegetarian. Ben chose the chicken version and was nice enough to give me a small piece to try. The skin was very light and crispy and not oil at all. Although the chicken taste came through (obviously), I could not taste the taro. Ben’s opinion was that the spring rolls were good but definitely not worth the $11 price tag. As for Jenkins and me, call us uncultured but we actually thought the spring rolls at Vina’s in the food court was of equal taste and quality. :) Ben – perhaps you should try the spring rolls at Vina’s and let me know what you think! :) The prices at Vina’s are definitely cheaper, that’s for sure.

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Suanne chose the white basa fish with caramel sauce. She was nice enough to let me have a taste as well and I actually found the sauce to be somewhat similar to my eggplant sauce. The caramel flavour was not very strong and it tasted like another soy sauce-based sauce. Suanne also ordered rice to go with this dish.

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All of our entree choices were quite small so we all decided to order dessert. Jenkins and I chose a creme caramel with an espresso granita on top. The icy espresso granita was a good pairing with the creamy and eggy creme caramel but on its own, the granita was very bland. I found the icy granules to be on the big side so all the espresso flavouring just flowed into the creme caramel itself so it was necessary to eat all the components together. Otherwise, you’d just be eating ice granules if you just stuck to eating the granita.

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Ben and Suanne’s was the fried banana with coconut ice cream. Instead of frying the banana in a batter, it was wrapped in a spring roll wrapping and then fried. Although Ben remarked that it was different from the fried banana available in Malaysia, he still thought it was tasty and well done.

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I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with Chau. I went in looking for something different from what I was used to but I found most of the items fairly regular tasting and much too expensive for what we got. Although none of the items we ordered tasted bad, the value just wasn’t there and with the exception of Jenkins’ salad rolls, none of the other items seemed very unique.

In any case, it was great to meet up with Ben & Suanne. I wonder when we’ll meet again and what our next culinary adventure will be! :)

Go here if you’re interested in Ben & Suanne’s review of Chau.

Details:
1500 Robson Street, Vancouver
Tel: 604-682-8020

Summary:
Food: [rating:2.5]
Service: [rating:3]
Price: $$

Chau Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

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