Comment of the week #1

February 23rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

Eat Vancouver has been receiving a wealth of user comments lately, ones that are both useful and very well thought out. In order to highlight these comments, we will be awarding a comment of the week, each week. Since we have a bit of a backlog, this week will feature two comments.

The first is from reader Vangroover on the differences between Northern and Southern Vietnamese pho:

Vancouver is very unique among Vietnamese diaspora in that it is rather geographically mixed and this influences the pho flavors you get here. In America, most pho joints and Vietnamese enclaves will be dominated by Southern Vietnamese refugees. In France and some other European destinations, Northern Vietnamese dominate. Vancouver is a mixed bag.

The difference between the pho made in the North and the South are as different as chicken noodle soup and Tom Yum Goong. I’ve had friends from Hanoi who eat pho in the U.S. and tell me they can’t recognize it as pho. And when I ate pho in Hanoi, I thought to myself, oh my god how bland!

The pho joints I’ve tasted in Vancouver fall along similar lines. What’s tasty and delicious to one faction is heresy to another. Add in the ethnic Chinese/Vietnamese element and you get an absolute cornucopia of pho. Oftentimes, that’s a bad thing.

As a Southern VNese who grew up in America, what I look for in my pho are: 1) complexity of the broth (i.e., Can you detect the hints of anise and bone marrow?), 2) variety of condiments (Northerners don’t put basil, ngo gai herbs, and bean sprouts into their pho, Southerners have to have it), and 3) variety of meats (How do the flank, raw beef, and tripe mingle with the tendon?)

This is not to say Southern pho is better their Northern brethren. I grew to appreciate the subtle simplicity of a bowl of Hanoi pho. But my bet is that most of the winners of your phodown will be from the South. Co Do’s cook, for example, is from Hue, technically a Southern city. The worst pho in Vancouver are those where you can taste the Cantonese influence. Try any pho join near Chinatown and you know what I mean.

And in the second, Robert Csar of JJ Bean – Yaletown, sets us straight on the history and organization of JJ Bean.

Whoa, hold on a second folks! JJ Bean is an independent coffeehouse locally owned by John Neate (JJ). Fresh roasted coffee every day is brought in from the Powell Street roaster and is served up by very talented and skilled baristi.
Comparison to a ‘fast food’ chain is a little harsh! All of the muffins, cookies, pastries, and sandwiches are made fresh every day in each location!

And, just to make things clear, JJ Bean didn’t just move into the neighborhood; Neates Coffee (as it was called 50 years ago) was originally located only a block away when Yaletown was an industrial warehouse district.
KC, the previous tenants left for whatever reason on their own accord and an amazing space became available. JJ Bean gladly jumped on the opportunity to become part of the neighborhood… and Yaletown is a great neighborhood! The modern design of the cafe is meant to compliment the vibe in Yaletown – gorilla vinyl seating, recovered timber, bamboo finish, bright white paint and windows, poured oyster granite bar, and a condiment stand that I sanded down myself. We (the staff of JJ Bean) did all of our own building – no contractors etc.

Come down and check us out – please don’t write us off as simply a ‘chain’ we’re fiercely local, we’re proud, we love coffee. Introduce yourself and I’ll make you a traditional cappuccino that will change your life.

Robert Csar
JJ Bean – Yaletown

Tags: News

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Simeontp // Mar 18, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    well done, bro