105 Clarence St, Ottawa – (613) 241-6378
Date of Visit: July 11, 2013
I ate at this tiny restaurant with my wife around ten years ago although I didn’t recognize it until I had a peek inside and saw the same, shot-gun narrow little eatery divided into an upper and lower floor with just a few tables on each. I hadn’t especially planned on Vietnamese cuisine for supper on this particular occasion but after a quick perusal of the menu I decided to give the place a second try…
Ambience and Service
I arrived at about 5pm and there was only one other patron thus far. It was a nice evening and I sat on the little patio that seats about 10 and had a quick beer before ordering. The young man who served me was a little shy at first, but his service was quick and efficient and, after a while he became a little more chatty and even joked that the place probably hadn’t changed since my first visit.
The menu is actually quite impressive for such a tiny place. There are lots of Vietnamese classics but some are obviously homespun variations on the standard themes and a few items on the menu mention special Café Indochine versions of sauces such as satay and chili lemongrass curry.
Cha Gio – These Vietnamese take on spring rolls came stuffed with ground chicken, pork, vermicelli, carrot and onion. They were very nice and just the right size to make a perfect appetizers. The pork was more apparent than chicken, which was fine by me, and the seasoning was very delicate and balanced with just a slight hint of heat. Nuoc cham came on the side and, though I prefer more salty blends, the sweetness of this one complemented the crisp rolls. Very well. Rating: 4 out of 5
Scallop Xao Tuong – The menu described this as scallop, zucchini and eggplant sautéed in ginger and black bean sauce, but dish also came with snow pea, onion, and red and green peppers. Steamed rice was served alongside in a separate bowl. The dish was certainly fragrant with ginger but I found that the black beans were used a little too sparingly and that their characteristic taste only came thru in the odd mouthful. Basically the sauce was like a semi-sweet satay sauce and, while very tasty, I rather missed the umami saltiness of the fermented black bean flavor. Rating: 4 out of 5.
This is a very pleasant little place with good service and nicely prepared food. It will be worth returning to in order to sample some of the other dishes on the menu. Rating: 4 out of 5.