Our intention was to arrive for opening at 11 on Sunday but somehow we arrived at 20 minutes before. That was a good thing as there were already a dozen people in line and eventually another dozen behind us. Planned as a 50 seat restaurant, COVID has curtailed that somewhat but with careful planning and clever use of plexiglass, they are still seating at least 3 dozen. We were quickly seated in an orderly socially distant manner after the doors opened.
The manager Jean ended up making recommendations and taking our order which worked out well for us! I get the impression that most tables are cared for as a group effort as there were frequently staff members checking on our needs. Very nice! We started with the Crispy Prawn Fritter. These were crispy as advertised and even the prawn itself with munchable and tasty without needing to be peeled. The hot sauce on the side (Sriracha straight up? or with a small twist?) was a perfect accompaniment. The fritters were maybe just a bit on the oily side but I'm not convinced that was a bad thing.
The Bahn Mi Op La arrived on 2 plates which made it a little messier than the usual bahn mi but it was kind of fun! The bread was the ultimate bahn mi bread, crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. I saw it arriving as we were in line outside but the supplier is a closely guarded secret! So take a piece of bread and dip it in soft egg yolk with a bit of house-made delicious pate or house-cured pork belly or Vietnamese ham. Some sauteed onions and Laughing Cow cheese were also available on the side. This was great!
Finally came the soup of the day (a la the original Lunch Lady), Mi Vit Tiem. The slow-braised duck was ridiculous. I took a knife to share the meat with my partner but it fell to pieces. I have never had duck that was so tender and tasty and I know that it can be a challenging item to cook. It was amazing. The broth was likewise the work of a dialled-in chef. Perfect with just a hint of 5 spice! Complete with my favourite kind of noodles and some greens, we were so impressed!
I have already commented in this space that diners should not rush but neither should we linger. The viability of restaurants is based on asses in seats and selling soup. At limited capacity, they need to move people through. Certainly, no one rushed us but we feel like we can linger in the nearby park or window shopping.
Food 5 out of 5 (worth the wait and hype)
Service 5 out of 5 (thanks to Jean and everyone)
Comfort 4 out of 5 (what do we expect sitting next to a necessary plexiglass divider?)