Never Heard Of It is a series of stories exploring Vancouver’s many informal hole-in-the-wall eateries. These are the places that don’t get much in the way of traditional media play as they tend to avoid the typical paths of PR, seldom fiddling over tweets, posting imagery to Instagram, or playing the Facebook game. Browse the Never Heard Of It archive here.
The first thing you’ll catch when sitting down at Cafe Xu Hue is the cup of cold tea being poured for you. The second thing you’ll notice – as you wonder why your tea is chilled – is that you aren’t reading a typical Vietnamese restaurant menu — that heavy, often baffling tome of far too many options. At Cafe Xu Hue, the menu is a tidy one pager, sensibly laminated (it has met more spilled tea than I could possibly imagine). In dishing out a pared down menu, this place exudes a confidence and faith that it can thrive on just a handful of dishes, most markedly, their bún bò hu? dac biet — fully loaded, fire-red Cadillac bowls of Vietnamese soup noodles.
Here, bowls of bún – chewy, flavour-soaked rice noodles acting like the string section of an orchestra that only ever plays one enchanting song – are loaded with slices of beef shank, pork hock, Vietnamese ham and cubes of pork blood. All of it swims in a fish sauce-amped, umami-loaded, spice-speckled, lime-licked soup that glows in a forbidding, sexy way. It both beckons and warns, radiating heat in such as way to reveal – after the first few bites – why the tea is served cold! Originating as the pride and joy of Hu, an ancient city in central Vietnam, bún bò hu isn’t uncommon in Vancouver, but at Cafe Xu Hue it’s just a little more special. With so few distractions on the menu, the clarity of the kitchen’s narrow focus is so sharp you can taste it.
Cafe Xu Hue | 2226 Kingsway | Open daily from 10AM to 7PM | Cash Only