Let me introduce you to a common occurrence here in Vancouver:
Person: “Chloe, where is a good vegan spot to eat in Vancouver?”
Chloe: “Oh, Chau Veggie of course!”
Person: “What is that?”
Chloe: “What? Ahhh… people need to know about this place!”
Person: “Tell me about it…”
Chloe: “Ok, here we go”:
So, Chau Veggie Express. Introducing, Vancouver’s best vegan vietnamese. Also, in my opinion, one of Vancouver’s best vegan spots. Also, Vancouver’s best modern Vietnamese restaurant. Are you intruiged?
The first time I went to Chau was when my buddy Mel Emlyn had told me about the ‘Golden Temple Noodle Soup’. I had to know more. So I as I do, I dragged my lovely husband, Faris, to Chau one night to check it out. The rest, as they say, is history. I fell in love.
So what is Chau Veggie Express?
When you ask Andrew and Erin, head pastry chef and community/restaurant manager- the answer is ‘modern Vietnamese food’. It turns out, I got it right. After a few of my own personal visits (and quite a few take away visits to the Granville Island market location) there were a few sequence of events, of which I understood as the universe saying, ‘Chloe, go do a restaurant review there’. This message was solidified when I brought my friend Jacqueline Parker (another person I introduced to Chau) to devour a golden temple noodle soup after a photoshoot one Saturday afternoon. After taking down a bowl each, plus a Vietnamese coffee and glass of wine, Andrew, the head pastry chef, spotted me and very generously offered us a scoop of his epic ice cream on the house. Sold.
A few weeks later and I found myself walking into Chau, this time, finally armed with my canon. It was time. Andrew and Erin sat down with me to share the Chau story with the community.
One of my favourite parts of Chau is that it is a family business. Maria (restaurant owner) was basically born into restaurants. This is something you can tell from the moment you walk in. There is something very cozy and welcoming about Chau. That, and the food is clearly secret-family-recipe style. Co Chau (Maria’s mother) is the head chef and has created all of the recipes (aside from the fantastic desserts by chef Andrew, of course).
So when did Chau begin?
It turns out that Chau is actually the name of Maria mother, Co Chau. Starting her restaurant career in Vietnam, she ran a popular street cart in Saigon. After emigrating to Vancouver with her husband, and the successful ownership of another restaurant on Robson, Co Chau was diagnosed with a brain tumor which really began a shift in her own approach to food. It was this experience that started her on the journey to balance and wellness, through plant-based food. Chau Veggie Express was born in 2011. Combining her traditional knowledge and experience in Vietnamese cuisine, with her new found knowledge about plant-based food and an alkaline diet, a restaurant was created that truly embodies delicious and nourishing food. When it comes to taste and satisfaction, there are no cut-corners at Chau.
What about the desserts?
This is one of my favourite parts. Maria and Andrew go way back. So far back, that they were actually childhood friends from kindergarten. As with many childhood friendships, they grew apart, only to re-connect 20 years later- because of Chau. Andrew is a traditionally trained pastry chef (he attended North West Culinary Academy of Vancouver) and working at Chau was his first serious experience with creating vegan and plant-based desserts. Let me tell you something, you would not be able to guess this. In my humble opinion, Andrew’s desserts are some of (if not the) best vegan desserts in Vancouver. In fact, they are probably some of my favourite vegan desserts ever. There is something so creative, passionate and innovative about his style- and I am always left with wanting more. One more bite. One more piece. One more scoop. One more spoonful.
When I asked Andrew about his inspiration, his humble answer, “I’m a total science guy” painted a clear picture of his attention to detail. There is no doubt that perfectionism runs in his art. However, what really caught my attention was when he began talking about his childhood memories and how he draws inspiration from those moments of joy that he recalls. “I loved coconut gelato as a child” he answered, when I asked him about the amazing ice cream. He shared that when he started at Chau Maria bought him a 1 litre ice cream machine to experiment. “We have a much larger machine now” he joked.
What are some behind-the-scenes stories?
Common to many of my favourite plant-based establishments, Chau Veggie’s team have a deep passion for environmental responsibility and this is transferred through their dedication to quality, complete taste satisfaction and sustainable restaurant practices. It is their hope that eating delicious plant-based food will inspire the customers to be more mindful and conscious towards the world and the surrounding environment. Chau also focuses their attention to featuring local ingredients and local businesses on their menu such as Standard Kombucha, to help support the Vancouver community.
Also, funny story- while I was eating the abundance of food that Erin and Andrew planned for me, a lady came to visit me and share a story. She had seen my camera and heard that I was a restaurant reviewer. So, she was eager to share her perspective. She is a dedicated customer of Chau and has been visiting the establishment since they opened regularly. She also works in film and mentioned that they regularly get large orders of the desserts and food for the set crew and cast. She might have name dropped Dakota Fanning and said that she was in love with the praline bars. Pretty cool hey? Just saying.
So what is to come?
Well, let’s just say that there are many things in the pipeline. Although I cannot say for sure, I will mention that I wouldn’t be surprised to find a more accessible Chau opening sometime soon in Vancouver (closer to the downtown/mount pleasant area than Victoria and 33rd) and that things like delivery and retail products online could be offered soon. Again, no guarantees here guys- let’s just cross our fingers. Also, stay tuned for a fun review and interview with pastry chef Andrew himself, to highlight the amazing desserts and talk more about some fun plans for the future! In the meantime, you can buy many of the items to-go from their Victoria location and granville island including: the ice cream, broth, taro chips, desserts to go, and more.
The Golden Temple Noodle Soup (duh): (light turmeric coconut curry soup, organic tofu, beancurd, mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, yam, taro, kale, herbs. paired with a choice of: quinoa, wild rice or rice noodles)
Rice Fields Bowl (pictured): (flat rice noodle bowl, dark soy mushroom garlic sauce, seasonal vegetables, organic tofu, kale, pineapple, beansprouts, herbs, lemon & side cup of savoury lychee-date broth)
Namaste Rolls (pictured): (fresh rice paper roll w/ quinoa, mung beans, crispy shallots, steamed lemongrass tofu, cucumbers, carrots, thai basil, green leaf lettuce, crispy wheat centre, thin rice vermicelli noodles. paired with roasted organic peanut sauce)
Bai Sao Beach Chips (pictured): (hand-cut taro chips & spiced paprika garlic organic tofu dip)
The Chocolate Hazelnut Praline Bar
Vietnamese Coffee (made with coconut milk)
ps. It is all vegan, gluten-free friendly and…. epically delicious.
What are you waiting for, go get some Chau!