Sherman's Food Adventures: Com Vietnamese

Com Vietnamese

Trendy and Vietnamese was never used in the same sentence until recently.  With spots like Anh & Chi, Vietnamese cuisine has been elevated to a complete experience rather than solely for the food.  That means clean modern digs, cocktails and better service which in turn also leads to a higher price point.  For some, this is just too far of a departure from the traditional norm where we found Pho served in run-down restaurants at rock bottom prices.  Similar to the invasion of high-end Chinese restaurants, I do believe we need to readjust our expectations.  Recently, I visited the newly opened Com Vietnamese in Richmond where it embodies the "complete" restaurant experience.

Let's get right to it - the place is spacious, inviting and somewhat upscale.  Not typical Vietnamese and to top it off, the menu sports a selection of cocktails.  As for the food, we had the Papaya Salad with carrot, lemon, onion, mixed herbs, prawn, pork loin, peanuts and house-made dressing.  This was not devoid of ingredients where the pork was tender and nicely seared while the prawns showed a meaty snap.  Good crunch from the green papaya and veggies, all tossed in a tangy, slightly spicy dressing. However, for $16.50, it was pretty expensive.  A bit greasy, the Pork Spring Roll was texturally on point with a thin ricew paper wrapper crunch.  These were filled with pork, carrot, taro, wood ear and glass noodles.  Hence, there was a good amount of umami.  We ate it by wrapping them in the lettuce and dipping into the nước chấm.

Also pricey at $14.50, the Chicken Wings were tossed in a caramelized chili fish sauce, chilis and garlic.  I actually quite liked these as the skin was crispy and fairly rendered.  The meat itself was juicy and tender.  As for the flavouring, it was impactful enough that I could get the deep sweetness that went along with the savoury and umaminess of the fish sauce.  Of course, there was some spice to it too, but only mildly.  Sporting a beautiful sear, the 
Bánh Xèo was both good and bad at the same time.  Clearly, the good was the crispy thin crepe that was smoky and downright delicious.  However, the filling was mostly bean sprouts, which meant the crunch factor was high, yet it didn't feel fulfilling.  There was only a smattering of pork and prawns on the inside.  Considering this was $19.00... 

One of the more polarizing dishes was the Canh Chả Cá (Fish Cake Soup).  I personally didn't mind the intense sweetness of the soup because there was an accompanying tamarind tang to go with it.  However, everyone else thought it was far too sweet.  As for the rest of the flavours, there was a considerable amount of dill, fried garlic, chilis and green onion on top which added plenty of herbal essence (isn't that a shampoo?).  Rounding things out, there was tomato and plenty of squishy bouncy fish cake.  This was $22.50, I'll leave it at that.  Of course we had to try the Phở consisting of rare steak and beef brisket.  I found the broth to be clean with medium-depth.  There was a balanced amount of sweetness and saltiness.  It was mildly aromatic.  The noodles were al dente while the meats were tender and well-portioned.  At $14.00, this was actually the best deal of the dishes we had.  So this brings us to the biggest issue - the price.  Sure, the place is nice, service is top-notch and the variety of beverages all add to the cost.  The sticker shock might scare away potential diners.

The Good:
- Nicely prepared food
- Attentive service
- Nice decor

The Bad:
- Is this too upscale?
- Even with all the perks of a higher-end Vietnamese restaurant, the prices are too high


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