Thursday at noonish is evidently a good time to stop by as it was busy at Mr Red but we did not have to wait for a table. The restaurant is on East Hastings, not far from Nanaimo.
To get us started, it was hard to pass on the Bahn Gio, a pyramid-shaped dumpling steamed in a banana leaf.
When we broke into this tender almost pyramid, we were rewarded with a generous filling of pork and wood ear mushrooms. Taken with a little bit of hot sauce this was delicious. Savoury and spicy with the almost creamy rice envelope, I would order this again in a second.
One of their "must-try dishes", are the Nem Cua Be, deep-fried pork and real crab meat spring rolls.
These were truly amazing with the crab definitely distinguishable (sometimes the mild meat disappears into the mix of stronger flavours). They were crispy and hot and served with a generous amount of rice noodles, sprouts and greens. I think "must-try" is an appropriate label. Also, from what I did read, crab and pork in spring rolls is a typical northern cuisine combination.
Finally, and in line with my vegetarian/vegan quest, I tried the Nom du du Chay (again I apologize for lack of the appropriate Vietnamese punctuation), fried tofu and vegetarian green mango salad. Refreshing and sweet with a savoury crispy topping (and the tofu), I'm not sure what makes it green mango as it was very ripe. The Mr Red menu has a page dedicated to vegetarian dishes with 8 choices including appetizers to mains.
Not a huge place with seating for maybe 36 but definitely worth the wait or make a reservation. Comfortable enough and nicely decorated with a nod to Buddhist culture and some greenery that made me think jungle. Originally, I found Mr Red on the Scoutmagazine.ca's "Never Heard Of It" list but I believe they have long since graduated as there are now 3 restaurants in this family including a Mr Red in Kits and Hanoi Old Quarter on Victoria Drive. Put this place on your bucket list!
For what its worth, we give Mr Red 4 1/2 out of 5.