Sherman's Food Adventures: Broken Rice

Broken Rice

As mentioned in previous posts, I am always on the lookout for new restaurants. So much so, I often do a double-take whilst driving if I spot something interesting. Yes, some men almost get whiplash from checking out chicks while I get that from drooling over new signage and awnings. So many months ago, I did spot a new Vietnamese joint out Hastings in North Burnaby. It had an attractive stone exterior with a "higher end" looking neon signage. There was a big "coming soon" banner on the outside which seemed to adorn the place for an eternity. Then it suddenly opened in early August which meant I was chomping at the bit to give it a go. I was thinking of bringing the family, but with a more "deluxe" fusion menu (which doesn't include a traditional Pho), it appeared that I needed a different group of diners.

Never fear, I just had to give the call out to the people who never fail me - my hockey team. Originally, we were supposed to head to Indochine (ironically somewhat similar), but when Polka King proclaimed he could join us for eats, we did everything in our power to accommodate him, including Eastward for food. This was the perfect storm of events which led us to the Broken Rice. As mentioned, the food offered here is not your typical Kingsway Pho joint. They do have one Pho, but it is a deconstructed version which does not even come close to resembling a traditional one. Ironically, we started with the pretty standard Spring Rolls. These were mostly crunchy (nice that they used rice flour wrappers) and had a meaty, oniony filling. These were not out of the ordinary, however, when we added some of the fresh mint into the bite, it brought some brightness.

Next up was Uncle Hing's Chicken Wings with butter and garlic. These were very flavourful with big hits of fresh chopped garlic, butter and some spice from the jalapenos. The wings were moist and juicy. They were no longer crispy due to the amount of "sauce". We also got a order of the Cassava Fries with house aioli. These reminded me of the ones from Vij's except slightly less crispy. Due to the nature of the cassava root, the fries were starchy and dense. With a dusting of seasoned salt combined with the aioli, this was not bad. Gadget Girl decided to go for the spring rolls as well (all to herself) and a Broken Rice Chicken Salad as well. It was a concoction of shredded chicken tossed with diced white and red cabbage, carrots, pickled daikon, herbs, crushed peanuts and ginger vinaigrette on a palette of crispy sticky rice. For $9.00, this was a pretty small salad, yet it was interesting and plated nicely.

For myself, I had the Pork Belly which was neatly served in a little pot along with rice, marinated boiled egg and fried mashed cassava. This was pretty good as the pork belly was uniform in shape (which indicates a slow and low braising method) and moist. The fat melted in my mouth and the belly itself had a good meat-to-fat ratio. The braising liquid had a good balance of flavours and exhibited plenty of depth. Both Polka King and Bear had the traditional Clay Pot Rice. Reminiscent of the one found at the former Saigon Restaurant (now long gone), this version was more neatly constructed. There was a good amount of tender chicken (dark meat), julienned carrots, ginger, bamboo shoots, cilantro and caramelized onions on top of the chewy, nutty broken rice. There was the requisite rice crust at the bottom as well. The flavours were good with a hit of sweetness, the aromatics of lemongrass and fish sauce.

As if this wasn't enough food, Polka King also ordered the Tamarind Duck. At first, I thought he was either pulling a Mijune or making up for lost time. In actuality, he was taking home some food for Polka Dot. I guess he would get a smack down otherwise... For me, this was the best dish at the table. On the menu, it stated that it was crispy duck finished with a red wine tamarind reduction. The duck skin wasn't exactly crispy, but it was nicely prepared where it didn't require a whole lot of chewing. The duck itself was tender with only the slightest amount of chew at the edges. The tamarind sauce was sweet, tart and syrupy good. The beans were crunchy with a nice mix of sweet and salty while the black rice was a touch soft.

Milhouse went for another Vietnamese classic in the Bo Luc Lac (or Shaken Beef). Each morsel of beef was tender and moist. There was a good caramelization from the wok toss (hence the name shaking/shaken beef). The usual flavours were there in the soy, fish sauce and sweetness from sugar. The menu said it would be served with tomato rice, but alas, it was just plain white rice. Lastly, Emilicious had the Steamed Fish, which was Snapper, topped with a sweet ginger glaze and scallions served on a bed of cellophane noodles, wood ear mushrooms and lily blossoms. I found the fish to be slightly past done. However, the combination of ingredients made up for it. I liked the crunch of the woodear and the gingery and syrupy sauce on top. As you can clearly see, most of the food at the Broken Rice is not what you'd expect from a Vietnamese restaurant. In general, we enjoyed it, but were concerned that the price point might scare off some customers. Their prices creep incredibly close to many of the near-fine dining bistros in town and it remains to be seen what the paying public will think of it.

The Good:
- Generally on point food execution
- Great service
- Interesting combination of classic and modern Vietnamese food

The Bad:
- It might seem pricey to some
- Food expedition is uneven and slow

Broken Rice on Urbanspoon


wronskian said...

i live in the area and i was starting to think the "opening soon" sign would be there forever. not exaggerating when i say i'm sure it was up for a solid year. i haven't gone there yet, but i'm not so sure how i feel about the upscale direction it appears they're going with. given the location, i think their best bet would have been to go with more of a casual style and lower prices with just really solid, fresh food. i'm actually a little disppointed because i had assumed it was just going to be a "regular" vietnamese place and i was looking forward to that. it doesn't look like the kind of place where i'd go to have a quick meal by myself or to get take out (like thai cafe, chad thai, triple coconut leaf- other restaurants along that little strip of hastings).

Sherman Chan said...

@wronskian Well, they do have Pho at lunch, but then again, they are not really a "Pho" joint. Time will tell if this formula will work...