I have wondered why several of the best plant-based menus in Metro Vancouver (now the 7th most popular city in the world for vegans according to 'Chef's Pencil') were Vietnamese or Vietnamese leaning. Take Do Chay, Chi Vegan and Chau Veggie Express, for example. All are vegan restaurants. It's not like the French influence in Vietnamese cuisine has led to this. Maybe the opposite would be true as while French cooking treats vegetables with respect, it is still quite meat and dairy-centric. What I have learned is that the influence of Vietnamese Buddhism seems to have led to the availability of eating 'chay' (Sorry. I'm probably using that word in the wrong way) or plant-based food. So while Chau Veggie Express sounds a little like a salad bar, it actually has a fairly sophisticated but reasonably priced vegan menu.
Chau Veggie Express - Veganuary
Located on Victoria Drive near 33rd, this place gets quite busy around noon (at least on Saturday). Order at the counter, find a seat and you will be brought your food as it is prepared.
We started with Bai Sao Beach Chips (hand-cut taro chips) with a paprika garlic tofu dip. These were very good. It is the first sign that CVE has a deep fryer which is an absolute must for a plant-based restaurant. The dip was also very good and very close in texture to a mayo-based dip. Crispy but not greasy, make sure you try these.
Refusing to give up despite my previous meh experiences with tempeh, we tried the Fresh Tempeh Roll. Given the green pea tempeh option, we went with that and we were not sorry. Classic Vietnamese in nature, these were refreshing and tasty with a nice crunch. The tempeh contributed to the veggie and noodle roll as did the orange coconut sauce.
The menu features a variety of bowls and soups which were perfect for a rainy day including the pho like Red Sand Dunes Soup. The peanut sate broth provided a rich base for noodles, tofu (including tofu skins), and veggies. With basil and sprouts on the side, we loved this.
We also chose a Tropical Rainstorm Bowl. Vermicelli noodles were served with a toasted coconut sauce, veggies, peanuts, coconut flakes and a vegan fish sauce. Another winner in our books. We felt very good about all of this meal including the leftovers which served for lunch the next day!
There is seating for maybe 16 inside and a few tables outside (weather permitting). With social distancing protocols in effect, friendly service and a nice vibe, we felt pretty comfortable and enjoyed our visit. You won't miss your steak!
Food 4 out of 5
Comfort 4 out of 5
Service 4 out of 5
Value 4 1/2 out of 5
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